That Dame Muriel Spark was an agent of MI6, spreading “a tangled mixture of damaging lies, flattering and plausible truths” to bamboozle the Axis forces during the Second World War, is one of those stories which sounds almost too good to be true. The havok wrought by the creator of such a wonderful character as Edinburgh teacher Jean Brodie can only be imagined.
Spare a thought for any German intelligence officers attempting to pick through the web of fiction she would have doutbless created. But then again, they may have read stories that no one else will ever enjoy. Could some of her propaganda have been of literary significance? It is likely we will never know, but it would be interesting to read her work with her little-known career in the secret service in mind. She may be most famous for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but other books such as The Mandelbaum Gate are thought to have been influenced by her time in MI6.
Agent Spark’s wartime role adds another strand to her legend and is further reason, if it were needed, to celebrate one of Scotland’s greatest writers.