Ghosts on the Roof: SelectednJournalism of WhittakernChambers, 1931-1959nBldited by Terry TeachoutnChicago and Washington: RegnerynGateway; 361 pp., $24.95nTwo ironies attend the life andncareer of Whittaker Chambers.nThe first is that the one-time Communistnspy, foreign editor of Time, andnwitness against Soviet espionage becamennotable during his life and afterwardsnonly because of the Hiss Case,nwhich brought him such notoriety thatnhis career as a professional journalistncame to a quick end. The second isnthat his legacy as a thinker and writer tona world he believed was dying issuednfrom the Hiss Case itself and fromnwhat he had to tell that world about thenmeaning of the case. Unable to continuenthe profession he followed afternleaving the Soviet underground,nChambers evolved into a propheticnfigure, an almost Dostoyevskian character,nwhose brooding vision of a decadentnWest engaged in a desperatendeath struggle with communism andnwith its own poisons has haunted thosenfew Westerners who have perceivednthe unfulfilled greatness of the man.nTerry Teachout’s collection ofnChambers’s miscellaneous writings,nfrom the Marxist fiction of his earlyndays to his last mordant syllables innNational Review, is in part intended toncorrect the view we have had of Chambersnas either (on the left) a “messianicnanticommunist” or (to much of thenright) a bottomless pit of often lachrymosenhorror stories about the god thatnSamuel Francis is deputy editorialnpage editor of The WashingtonnTimes.nOPINIONSnRouge on a Corpse’s Lipsnby Samuel Francisn”The history of the world is the judge of the world.”n— Hermann Ullmannnfailed and its worshipers. It is no faultnof Mr. Teachout’s that his anthologyndoes not entirely succeed in this eflbrt.nWhat Chambers wrote for Time andnLife during the period he called innWitness “The Tranquil Years” conspicuouslynlacks the power that Witnessnitself, the posthumous Cold Friday,nand his letters to William F.nBuckley, Jr. possess. That is not entirelynChambers’s fault either; the piecesnfor Time and Life contain most of thenflaws those magazines have inflicted onnthe reading public throughout theirnhistory. Usually, when Chambers’snown glimpses of some of the majornminds of his era — Einstein, Toynbee,nNiebuhr, Joyce — were allowed to benseen, they were quickly dimmed byneditorially necessary trivia about personalitiesnand the glib oversimplificationsnin which American mass journalismnlikes to swaddle itselfnNor, probably, was Chambers yetnnn-Ifncapable of that power. Only when thenordeal of the Hiss Case had broughtnhim to that “last path of the earth, innthe Scythian country, in the untroddennsolitude” of which he wrote in ColdnFriday, when his mind had beennstripped and concentrated on thenmeaning of his life and its meaning fornthe West, did he become privy to hisncountry’s fate and able to foretell andnanalyze it in his final testimony.nYet the glimpses are there, and tonthose who recognize in WhittakernChambers not only a man who alterednthe course of history but also one of thenmost compelling American writers ofnthis century, Mr. Teachout’s anthologynIS indispensable. It includes four shortnstories Chambers wrote for The NewnMasses while he was still a fledglingnapparatchik. It continues with all thenmajor essays and reviews he wrote fornTime and Life in the 1940’s, when hisnmind had been cleared of Marxismnand was beginning to see more clearlynthe lines his age was etching in the dustnof history, down through his contributionsnto The American Mercury andnNational Review, when he had becomenthe prophet for a cause. But evennin the early short stories, despite theirnrigid adherence to the party line, thenembryo of the mature Chambers isnpresent.nThe major value of Mr. Teachout’sncollection consists not so much in thenintrinsic worth of what Chambers wasnwriting in his early post-communistnperiod as in what these pieces shownabout the development of Chambers’snmind and world view. By examiningnwhat he had to say in the TranquilnYears, before the Hiss Case forced himnfor the rest of his life to defend his ownnintegrity and to play a role that merelyndistracted him and his readers from hisnessential message, we now can seenAPRIL 1990/27n