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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ex-Spy: A Wolf in Chef's Clothing

BERLIN -- So, "The Man Without a Face'' turns out to be quite a genial chap after all, not a shadowy super-spook with a rain-flecked trench coat and an exploding briefcase, but a jolly bon vivant with the usual component of eyes, nose and mouth -- and a few well-informed ideas about Russian cooking.

According to Markus Wolf, culinary success "depends, above all, on one's ability to communicate with other people, to let one's self be inspired by other people, or to pull them under one's spell,'' -- or so he writes in the introduction to his new cookbook, "The Secrets of Russian Cooking."

Markus Wolf. Wasn't he ...?

Yes. In one of the most ironic postscripts to the Cold War era, the most ruthless spymaster for the former East Germany has just published a cookbook, one that claims that the art of cooking has much in common with the art of espionage.

"Ordinary spying can be compared with the bread and potatoes of an everyday from Berlin to Bucharest.

Wolf -- who handled only external intelligence and denies involvement in the hated internal secret police apparatus that plagued East Germans -- is presumed by many to be the real-life model for the mysterious Karla in several of John Le Carre's espionage novels, the archenemy of the fictional British intelligence chief George Smiley. It was Wolf's well-placed mole who provoked the 1974 resignation of West Germany's popular chancellor, Nobel peace laureate Willy Brandt.

For years, Wolf was known as "The Man Without a Face'' because he avoided being photographed by his Western adversaries. He retired in 1987.

Alas for Wolf, his early departure from the HVA was not enough to save him from the wrath of reunited Germans after the Berlin Wall fell. In 1990, Wolf became an international fugitive, hiding for a time in Austria.

But by 1991, Wolf had tired of life on the run and returned to Germany, where he turned himself in. He was put on trial, convicted of bribery and treason, then freed on bail. But in May this year, his sentence was effectively voided when Germany's high Constitutional Court ruled in a separate case that East Germans could not be convicted of treason against West Germany.

Today, Wolf walks the streets of downtown Berlin a free man, more or less. He is still forbidden to leave his gritty city-center neighborhood without obtaining permission from the court that granted him bail.

Wolf's "The Secrets of Russian Cooking" is anything but a how-to guide for making borshch and blini, although he has certainly included recipes for such dishes. His new book is, once again, a memoir first and foremost, one that sometimes bitterly, sometimes wistfully and often humorously recounts a life in the service of what former President Ronald Reagan called the Evil Empire.

Wolf's father, noted German playwright and doctor Friedrich Wolf -- himself the author of a cookbook, a collection of health-food recipes -- was both a Communist and a secular Jew. As such, he was doubly endangered when Adolf Hitler began his brutal repression of German civil liberties in March 1933. The elder Wolf packed up his family and decamped for Moscow.

And so it happened that Markus Wolf spent his formative years in the then-Soviet capital. He came to speak Russian more routinely than he did his native German and formed Russian friendships that have lasted a lifetime.

After the war, Wolf returned to Berlin and was made a chief commentator for Berlin Radio before receiving a senior posting at the new East German Embassy in Moscow. From there, he was sent to the newly created "Institute of Economic Research'' -- a cover name for the Democratic Republic's fledgling spying service. kitchen," the 73-year-old Wolf writes.

"But then, man doesn't live by bread alone," adds Wolf.

Cold Warriors and thriller devotees will recall Wolf as the longtime head of East Germany's Main Intelligence Administration, usually known by its German initials, HVA, and considered the most effective foreign spying agency from Berlin to Bucharest.

Wolf -- who handled only external intelligence and denies involvement in the hated internal