‘Agent’ confesses

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Stuart Kelly’s excellent review of old friend John Calder’s new book, The Garden of Eros (Books, 4 May) mentions that old canard that I have been a CIA agent. I will try to explain once and for all how this came about.

I served my American military duty from 1956-1959 in the Air Force at Kirknewton in Balerno, just outside Edinburgh, where a listening base kept an ear open on the Russians.

I freely mentioned this fact to friends and somehow this was blown up to mean I was a CIA agent.

After my service was completed I arranged to be demobbed in Scotland to continue my studies at the University of Edinburgh. I owned a Volkswagen, purchased via teenage jobs in the oil fields of Venezuela. Selling this car produced capital to establish The Paperback Bookshop & 
Gallery.

Inspired by the Festival, the bookshop became a fringe theatre in 1960 and this led directly to the creation of the Traverse theatre. Jennie Lee invited me to direct a theatre in London and for a year I attempted to live a two-city life.

In 1969 I was invited to be a professor at the newly created University of Paris VIII where I continued to teach until I retired in 1999. Like Tom Paine, I have always claimed world citizenship. I have attended every Edinburgh Festival since my first in 1957 and have every intention of continuing. This August I will again be in Edinburgh and will be co-producing two shows on the Fringe: The Surrender by Toni Bentley and Broadway Enchanté.

My principal income continues to be my retirement cheque from the Ministry of Education in France. I sure could use 
further funds from the American government.

Maybe the CIA should pay me something for being “an agent” all these years.

Jim Haynes

Rue de la Tombe Issoire

Paris