Rees was born in Aberystwyth, where his father was minister of the Tabernacle Calvinistic Methodist Church. The family later moved to Roath, Cardiff, and Goronwy was educated at Cardiff High School and later at New College, Oxford.
He was during the 1930s a Marxist intellectual, and in contact with the Cambridge Five spy ring through Guy Burgess. Right at the end of his life he admitted spying for the USSR for a short time, and accused MI5 man Guy Liddell also of being a spy. He also sat on the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, and for approximately the last decade of his life wrote a column (signed simply 'R') on current political affairs for the magazine Encounter.
His son, Thomas Rees, adds that his father did not admit to being a Communist spy when he was dying in hospital in 1979. He did, however, tell Andrew Boyle, author of The Climate of Treason, his reflections on conversations held at All Souls College with Guy Burgess, his great friend. He told Boyle that he had ridiculed Guy Burgess's claim to be a spy. He also told Boyle that Anthony Blunt was the man to follow. Boyle's revelations in The Daily Mail led to Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister, announcing to the House of Commons in 1979 that the security services had long known that Blunt was a spy, due to Goronwy Rees's warnings to the security services the weekend that Burgess and MacLean fled to Russia. Nevertheless, Blunt had been knighted.
- The Summer Flood (1932)
- Where No Wounds Were (1950)
- A Bundle of Sensations: Sketches in Autobiography (1961)
- Multimillionaires: Six Studies In Wealth (1961)
- The Rhine (1967)
- St Michael: A History of Marks & Spencer (1969)
- The Great Slump: Capitalism in Crisis 1929–1933 (1970)
- Conversations with Kafka by Gustav Janouch (1970) translator
- A Chapter of Accidents (1972)
- Brief Encounters (1974)
- Jenny Rees (1994). Looking for Mr. Nobody. The Secret Life of Goronwy Rees
Ifor Leslie Evans
|Principal of the University College of Wales Aberystwyth
Sir Thomas Parry