Books by Graham Greene

A WORLD OF MY OWN by Graham Greene
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

Though not in a league with those of Coleridge or Joyce, Greene's dreams compose an alternate autobiography of his private self in matter-of-factly unreal vignettes. Culled from the thick journals of his dreams that Greene (The Last Word, 1991, etc.) obsessively kept in his vigorous old age, and posthumously published in accordance with his expressed wish, this slim volume catalogs his adventures and escapades in what he called "My Own World," as opposed the shared reality of "The Common World." In these dreams, his encounters with the famous — Khrushchev, Edward Heath, Queen Elizabeth — often seem dull and ordinary; his travels possess only recycled verisimilitude compared to the Haiti, Vietnam, and Cuba we see in his novels; and his literary reveries betray an innocent craving for approval from the likes of Cocteau, D.H. Lawrence, and Sartre. The most curious and intriguing dreams magnify Greene's fantastic side and combine it with an uncharacteristically carefree humor. Those in which he is a criminal or a spy (in one, assigned to assassinate Goebbels with poisoned second-hand cigarette smoke) seem to parody his own semi-parodic thrillers. Some of the more surreal literary vignettes — a trip on a South American riverboat with Henry James; a guerrilla campaign with Evelyn Waugh against W.H. Auden — are hilarious pulp belles lettres. Larger issues of religion and imagination, however, are less amplified here than in his waking corpus and are typically reduced to altercations with sloppy priests or comments about the neurotic drudgery of producing books. The few brief examples of dream-inspiration and theophany are unsatisfactorily developed and give no real clue to his creative process or religious life. A uniquely candid self-portrait, but Greene's inner world only adumbrates his real-world exploits and the world he consciously created in his fiction. Read full book review >
YOURS, ETC. by Christopher Hawtree
Released: May 1, 1990

Greene's letters to editors, unlike those of Evelyn Waugh or Bernard Shaw, seldom trade on the author's public figure—but are most fun when they do, as when Greene wins prizes for his pseudonymous entries in newspaper contests based on parodies of Graham Greene. (He later cannibalized two of the parodies for his own work.) Greene was a former sub-editor of The Times and when ending his four-year stint there was told that, if he stayed and were patient, he might well become correspondence editor. Greene later said that if he had stayed, "my whole life would have been changed disastrously for the better." For American readers, though, he will be most readable here when defending his cuts in Shaw for Otto Preminger's film St. Joan, and when standing up for rights of British audiences to see Pygmalion when a ten-year ban on the play was put in force to keep My Fair Lady on the boards. Other lively moments arise when he takes on journalists who misquote or falsify his words during interviews (but does anyone really remember the Penelope Gilliatt brouhaha in The New Yorker?). He is most sharp-tongued about US foreign policy in Central America and the Far East. Also of interest are his bouts with censors, especially the BBC, which wanted nine cuts in his play The Complaisant Lovers. Greene took this as censorship, but the BBC said it was to bring the play in at 90 minutes broadcast time. He also often defends himself against unfair statements about his Catholicism. Many of his political letters, however, will be of small interest to American readers of his fiction. Less waspish than Waugh, less brilliant than Shaw. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1988

This truly odd and strangely affecting love story by the modern master begins as a quirky narrative of life in the English demimonde and ends pure Greene—a tale of modern espionage, marked by unclear alliances and shadowy double-dealing. The 22-year-old narrator of all but the final few pages here came into the world as Victor Baxter—a "mistake," his long-absent father tells him later in life. Well after his mother's death, Victor finds himself in the custody of a peculiar pair of lovers. The Captain (a.k.a. Colonel Claridge, Carver, Cardigan, Mr. Smith, J. Victor) appears unannounced at Victor's boarding school, claiming to have won the boy in a game of backgammon with his father. An outcast at school, and never much thrilled by his own name, Victor gratefully changes to Jim and becomes the Captain's ward, seen after by Liza, a woman half the Captain's age who can't have children of her own due to a botched abortion (that child was also sired by Victor/Jim's biological father, himself a nasty piece of work). Despite the Captain's best intentions of his beloved Liza, he's seldom around. And Jim's endless questioning only makes the old faker dissemble all the more, though he learns that the source of the checks to Liza is the Captain's bounty as a thief. An enigma to the boy-turned-journalist, the charming liar fancies himself a character from Kipling; and, after Liza's death, Jim heads to Panama as part of "getting to know the Captain," which could easily be the title of this intriguing little novel. As Jim figures out, the Captain has been running guns to revolutionaries in Central America, with the covert approval of the Panamanian government. A suspicious Mr. Quigly, clearly a spook for the US, slithers around Jim's hotel, pretending to be a journalist, and most likely causes the Captain's failed heroic death. A coda to the novel, until this point a found manuscript by Jim, details his own mysterious death in pursuit of his own wild dream. Expert and fluent prose flawlessly evokes a world of British eccentricity and international political madness. Read full book review >
THE TENTH MAN by Graham Greene
Released: March 29, 1985

By his own admission (in a brief introduction here), Greene had "completely forgotten" the existence of an unpublished story called The Tenth Man—sold in 1944 to MGM, which dug it out of the archives in 1983. And, if that seems like an unpromising omen, so does the fact that Greene fills out the first half of this slight volume with "two more ideas for films"—both of them thin, shorthand-style scenarios. It's a pleasant surprise, then, to find that The Tenth Man itself is a more-than-respectable novella—far from a major addition to the Greene oeuvre, but a curious, intense, ironic tale reminiscent of Georges Simenon's better exercises in darkly psychological suspense. The setting is Nazi-occupied France during WW II; the Germans have filled a prison with innocent Frenchmen—to use as hostages in case of anti-German activities by the French townfolk. So, after two German soldiers in the town are murdered, the "orders are that one man in every ten shall be shot in this camp." And when a single, middle-aged Paris lawyer named Chavel draws one of the fatal lots, he offers all his wealth—cash, country house—to anyone who'll take his place before the firing squad: a young fellow nicknamed "Janvier" agrees, making sure that his new fortune will be passed on to his mother and sister. Jump, then, to postwar France—where the shamed lawyer, now calling himself Chariot, can find no work, is near starvation. . . and pathetically arrives at his old country-house, now inhabited (gypsy-style) by Janvier's old mother and young sister Therese. But, though Therese is obsessed with hatred for the cowardly lawyer who enticed her brother to his death, she never suspects that "Chariot" is this very man: she lets him stay on as handyman; he slowly falls hopelessly in love with her, unable to share his dark, guilty secret. And when a thoroughgoing villain—a con-man/actor who falsely claims to be the real Chavel—later arrives at the house, anti-hero Chariot becomes something of a true hero, redeeming his previous cowardice. Less than fully satisfying, with characters who remain only sketches—but full of sharp Greene touches (including a button-down priest) amid the slightly murky Simenon-esque landscape. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 30, 1984

The general is Omar Torrijos, leader of Panama from 1968, when he took over in a coup, until his death in a plane crash in 1981. Enmeshed in the difficult negotiations with the US that finally resulted in the 1977 Panama Canal Treaty, Torrijos summoned Greene to Panama in 1976 so that the British novelist could get to know the country and its leader, and help put across the Panamanian viewpoint to others. Greene, long a sympathizer of left-wing causes, set out in part to realize his own, buccaneer fantasies of Central America—but came, as he says, to love Torrijos as a friend. He made other friends, the foremost being his guide, bodyguard, and companion, a former Marxist professor of mathematics who went by the name of Chuchu; and it looks for a while as if this will be more a book about Chuchu's sexual exploits, about rum punches and bad meals, than about General Torrijos. (A subtheme is Greene's European habit of drinking all the time, versus the Panamanian habit of drinking on Sunday; Greene seems to convert just about everyone to the European mode.) But what emerges, subtly, is a portrait of Torrijos as much drawn from the mirror of his Panama as from Greene's encounters and travels with him. Torrijos dreamed of an independent, social democratic Central America; his Panama was home to political refugees from Chile and Argentina, and to guerrillas from E1 Salvador and Nicaragua (Chuchu is constantly engaged in small-scale gun running and semi-clandestine meetings). Greene became friendly with many of these people and they take on a very human form here. (In travels on behalf of Torrijos, Greene met Nicaraguan Sandinista leaders Daniel Ortega and Thomas Borge, and E1 Salvadoran Communist leader Salvador Cayetano, who later committed suicide. He also met, in Panama, Eden Pastora, the former and now anti-Sandinista commander, whom Greene calls a tragic figure and considers a sell-out to his celebrity status.) Greene revels in the constantly shifting travel plans, in Torrijos' way with a crowd, in the antiseptic lawns and golf courses of the Canal Zone. He went back to Panama each year, thereafter; in 1977, along with fellow-novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, he was a member of the Panamanian delegation to the signing of the treaty. (There, Greene depicts Chilean dictator Pinochet as dominating the room like Boris Karloff—and making it all the more difficult for Americans to distinguish one Latin general from another.) His appreciation of Torrijos, who chose the difficult path of patience over the easier one of romantic violence, is heartfelt and touching without being either soppy or mythmaking. Greene's skill at presenting people he likes, foibles and all, is put to good use here. An engaging combination of memoir, travel writing, and social and political analysis from a man who doesn't worry about being used. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 27, 1982

The theological shade of Greene—in a wispy, undramatic, but charming modern-day fable, loosely paralleling the Cervantes classic. Quixote here is Father Quixote, a Spanish village-priest and a supposed descendant of the original Don. But while Don Q. defiantly stayed true to the Old Chivalry, Father Q. clings to the Old Theology—"just having faith." And, after rather accidentally becoming a Monsignor, aging Father Quixote is virtually forced out of his beloved El Toboso parish by the cruel Bishop—so he sets off on some travels in his beloved, senile Fiat (called "Rocinante," of course), with the Communist ex-Mayor of El Toboso as his Sancho Panza. Much of this small book, then, consists of the witty yet weighty theological/political dialogues between Catholic and Communist: sipping wine, they compare the relative evils of Stalin and Torquemada; they contrast faith in God with faith in Marx; Monsignor Q. reads the Manifesto, finding some unlikely spirituality in it; matters of doctrine (e.g., birth control) are debated; and they'll eventually agree that Quixote is a "Catholic in spite of the Curia" while the Mayor is a "Communist. . . in spite of the Politburo." But meanwhile, on their raggedy travels to Madrid and the countryside, this ideologically pure duo attracts repressive attention from the State and the Church. They are harassed by the post-Franco Guardia. The utterly innocent priest's wayward behavior en route—allowing the Mayor to try on his collar, mistakenly going to a dirty movie (even worse, chuckling at it!)—leads to his Bishop-ordered abduction, virtual house arrest, and clerical suspension. And finally, after the Mayor rescues the Monsignor, there'll be a final journey—to a literal confrontation with the Church's commerciality (Quixote is furious over a money-covered statue of Our Lady) and a final, fatal runin with the State. An unsubtle parable? Indeed—especially when compared with the fuller version of similar themes (and the far richer central characterization) in The Power and the Glory. But Greene mixes village-comedy with philosophical repartee in a unique, grave-yet-sparkling fashion—and, while his usual fiction audience may find this even less satisfying than Dr. Fischer of Geneva, theologically-oriented readers (not to mention Comp. Lit. aficionados) will be quite steadily, amusingly engaged. Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1980

Bizarre, minor, mini-Greene—an unsatisfying novella redeemed nonetheless by a master's storytelling expertise and by a dozen or more absolutely splendid coloring touches. The essential story: our narrator, middle-aged widower Alfred Jones, meets and loves and marries Anna-Luise, the beautiful daughter of Geneva's Dr. Fischer, a notorious millionaire who gives parties to humiliate and test the infinite greed of a circle of rich, toadying acquaintances; and eventually, after pregnant Anna-Luise has died in a skiing accident, Jones attends Dr. F.'s final greed party—a sort of Russian Roulette with bombs—and tries to ruin it with his own suicide but fails. . . while Dr. F. himself does self-destruct. As parable, the tale hardly works at all: cold, sadistic Dr. F. is frequently equated with God, who is ""greedy for our humiliation. . . he twists the endless screw""—but Greene's familiar pessimism doesn't quite translate into symbolic black comedy; and the cartoon-ish rich dupes here (who eat gross gruel or risk death-by-bomb in order to get expensive prizes) aren't persuasive on metaphorical or any other terms. But trust Greene the storyteller: he uses human, just-slightly-surreal colors to shade his parable toward reality, and they are perfectly balanced, invariably poignant: Jones lost a hand in the London blitz and works as a translator at a Swiss chocolate factory; Dr. Fischer made his fortune by inventing Dentophil Bouquet toothpaste; Dr. F. tortures one of his toadies, horribly bent-over Monsieur Kips, by causing a marvelous children's-book series to be written about him, deformity and all; and most of Dr. F.'s lifetime rage stems from the fact that his dead wife surreptitiously, platonically, listened to Mozart with a humble clerk. Resonant details like these crop up on every other page, projecting Greene's smiling sadness in a way that the central premise never does. And the austerely understated love between Jones and Anna-Luise somehow lingers in the mind longer than the vividly concocted humiliation parties. A few readers may be happy to seize on Greene's cynical and macabre leanings here, happy to construct webs of theme (Catholic and otherwise) around the Dr. F. deity; but most will merely tolerate all that while savoring the by-the-way Greene pleasures that are all the more apparent, and impressive in such a tiny, relaxed book. Read full book review >
WAYS OF ESCAPE by Graham Greene
Released: Jan. 1, 1980

In no sense an autobiography—"Those parts of a life most beloved of columnists remain outside the scope of this book"—this is a suavely arranged, roughly chronological group of personal essays, most of them previously published: the introductions to the British collected edition of Greene's oeuvre; reportage from international trouble spots (Greene has sought peril as one "way of escape" from a vaguely defined angst); salutes to two or three friends; plus a few anecdotes and reflections. A book, then, largely for longtime, passionate readers of Greene's novels—who will learn here how he now rates each book, what real-life circumstances did (or didn't) lie behind the fiction, how Greene differs with his critics, which books came easy and which were all torture. (The Confidential Agent was written in six weeks on Benzedrine, "as though I were ghosting for another man.") He is often self-deprecating, especially about the early novels: "Here are examples of my style in those days and my terrible misuse of simile and metaphor." He tells how, in the mid-1930s, his writing changed with his "desire to be a spectator of history" (specifically, then, the theo-political crises in Spain and Mexico). He bridles at the critics' characterization of all Greene locales as "Greeneland": "'This is Indochina,' I want to exclaim, 'this is Mexico, this is Sierra Leone carefully and accurately described.'" He wearyingly shakes off the label of "Catholic writer" ("detestable term!"), having found himself "used and exhausted by the victims of religion" who looked to him for spiritual guidance: "I was like a man without medical knowledge in a village struck with plague." (A moving, convincing appreciation of Evelyn Waugh centers on devout EW's pain over Greene's openness to doubt and sympathy for atheism: we "inhabited different wastelands.") And, along with the often-eloquent record of each novel's evolution, there are brief comments on short stories, playwrighting, screenwriting (a mini-sketch of chum Alexander Korda, whose work Greene didn't admire), touchstones (Ford's The Good Soldier), and fame ("A reputation is like a death mask"). But, while all of this hangs together nicely enough as a purely writer's-eye view of a life's work, the pieces which take Greene abroad and sometimes into action—in Malaya, 1950s Vietnam (the French war), Kenya, Haiti—are less satisfying: fragmentary, digressive, politically opinionated, these vignettes often tease without then delivering (a mere passing reference to tea with Ho Chi Minh); and Greene himself pops up in personal situations (smoking opium, frequenting brothels) that hardly jibe with the self-concealing tenor of most of the book. Overall, in fact, the problem here is that this is a consideration of "ways of escape" with no real sense of what is being escaped from—just the tip of an intriguing, elusive iceberg. Still—the Greene prose is as deceptively clean-cut and subtly ironic as ever; and his own commentaries on the fiction are of course an invaluable complement to the widely divergent opinions of the Marxists, Catholics, and others. So: not the memoir some might hope for—even less a sort of life than A Sort of Life (1971)—but, on its own terms, sufficiently alluring. Read full book review >
THE HUMAN FACTOR by Graham Greene
Released: March 1, 1978

A man in love walks through the world like an anarchist, carrying a time bomb." "As long as we are alive we'll come together again. Somehow. Somewhere." Only Graham Greene could get. away with lines like that—by creating the gentlest, most civilly persecuted of all his men-on-the-run, a bicycle-riding, dog-walking commuter whose heroics are so understated that images of passion and violence take on fresh, half-ironic validity. This "man in love" is Castle, a veteran agent-turned-deskman (African division) for British Intelligence. A quietly ardent husband to black wife Sarah. A quietly doting father to black son Sam (although, or because, he's not Sam's real father). A kind, aging fellow. And—as we learn only after Greene has made us at home with Castle—a spy. Grateful to the Communist agent who helped Sarah and Sam escape from South Africa and himself a scarred enemy of apartheid, Castle has been leaking information, via coded Tolstoy and Trollope, to Moscow, piddling stuff mostly. But now, just as his superiors start to suspect him (they've "eliminated" Castle's young colleague by mistake), the "Uncle Remus" operation passes across Castle's desk—an Anglo-American-German plan to ensure the stability of South Africa's white regime. Should Castle risk this one last leak even as his former friends at "the firm" obliquely, inevitably close in on him? Greene, of course, builds suspense, cinematically, like nobody else in the business, but that is only a fringe benefit when the world's most gracefully gifted and practiced storyteller is operating at full power. Scene after scene—a stiflingly chic Chelsea wedding party, an attempt at nightlife camaraderie among fellow spies, a priest's refusal to hear non-Catholic Castle's confession—snakes by with acerbic energy; character after character darts up with surprise pockets of vulnerability. But this book is ultimately all Castle's, for Greene has returned, in part, to his earliest style, has pared down his moral patterns to the barest essential, has abandoned his penchants for exotica and skirmishes. What remains is a story as apparently plain as Greene's perfect prose—an open-hearted, tight-lipped pavane of conscience and sentiment that can be watched and enjoyed for all the wrong, and all the right, reasons. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 16, 1974

This, the life of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester (1647-1680), is Graham Greene's only biographical venture. Written in the early 1930's, it was not published at the time: Rochester's scandalous reputation as the Restoration's most debauched rake-hell, atheist and pornographer made publishers wary, and delayed for many years a due recognition of his very considerable poetic talents. "He might have been another Donne" had not the infamy of his life overshadowed his art. As it was, Rochester shone brightly for a few years at the head of the "merry gang" of sensualists that flocked about Charles Il in the early days of the Restoration when London cast off Puritanism and all flung themselves into a reckless orgy of merriment. A burnt-out case at 33, Rochester is a perfect subject for Greene who sees him as a "spoiled Puritan" using his wit to wreak vengeance on a corrupt and cynical society, not excluding the King and his many mistresses whom Rochester lampooned mercilessly. It was, as Greene points out, an age when Hobbes set the moral tone; the glitter and repartee at Court masked the most vicious and depraved practices. When banished from royal favor as he frequently was, Rochester continued his madcap adventures by setting himself up as an astrologer or an innkeeper, making love as a porter and traveling the roads as a beggar. Whores and lordly ruffians were his constant companions and when, on his deathbed, he became a penitent and embraced Christianity, friends and enemies scorned the conversion as madness. In the words of a contemporary, Rochester lived "as a torch to light himself to Hell thereby" and Greene charts his passage to that fiery place with the taut, restrained compassion which he always extends to fallen idols and angels. Read full book review >
THE LITTLE TRAIN by Graham Greene
Released: June 21, 1974

First published in 1946 with different illustrations, The Little Train is the sort of cute little cautionary tale that even a Graham Greene couldn't get away with today. Having run away from his shed in sleepy Little Snoreling puffing "Freedom, freedom, freedom," the little train becomes so apprehensive among the dark gloomy mountains and so confused in the large station at Smoke Overall (where you connect for Grimborough, High Yelling and Tomb Junction) that he is overjoyed to have the great Scottish express called Robert Bruce push him back to his welcoming home station. The Little Fire Engine, about an old fireman and his horse drawn engine who prove themselves superior to the shiny new truck and brigade brought in to replace them, is just as conventional in outline and coy in using proper nouns but more diverting in detail. The deliberate old fashioned innocence of Ardizzone's style provides just the disarming touch that both stories need, though the Fire Engine gives the illustrator more opportunity to vary the scene and the cast and is thus less confining both in looks and in message. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 14, 1973

Forty in all, representing a forty-year span, "a collection of escapes from the novelist's world" and combining those which appeared in May We Borrow Your Husband?, A Sense of Reality, Twenty-One Stories, as well as three which appear in book form for the first time. There is also an inductive introduction by Mr. Greene on how he now views the short story and on some of the curious circumstances in which a few of them were conceived. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1973

It was an evening which, by some mysterious combination of failing light and the smell of an unrecognized plant, brings back to some men the sense of childhood and of future hope and to others the sense of something which has been lost and nearly forgotten." These lines, early on in Graham Greene's new novel, will establish What will be later confirmed — that the book is the best he has written in 25 years since The Heart of the Matter. It is set in one of those dusty backwaters which is such a fine terrain for his talent — an Argentinian province where marginal survivors en route to becoming burnt-out cases live with their failed expectations, with betrayal of one kind or another, with default — all those constants of the Greene novel. And somewhere between machismo — a reiterated word and concept here extended to mean life — and death, the possibilities of God and love may exist even where the interlining of comforts they provide is thin. Greene here, via one of his lapsed priests, is more articulate on the subject of God in our day and doubting age than he has been in years: "The God I believe in must be responsible for all the evil as well as for all the saints. He has to be a God made in our image with a night-side as well as a day-side... God is suffering the same evolution that we are, but perhaps with more pain." Along with God, absurdity is everpresent (not the antics of The Comedians or Travels with My Aunt), initially manifest when one of the three Englishmen on the scene, Fortnum, the Honorable Consul, is kidnapped by mistake. His steadily tippling existence, ("always two drinks under par"), as empty as his bogus title, has now achieved some meaning — he has married a young girl out of a brothel and is about to become a father. He has found someone to love. The second pillar of the community is a Doctor of Letters who eats a great deal as if to fill some unappeasable void. And the third is a Doctor Plarr who ministers to the poor, to Fortnum's wife, and who is involved with the revolutionaries through an old friend and has hope of retrieving his long-disappeared father. He is now the intercessor as Fortnum lies in their hands — waiting to be shot, or released? Greene's novel is intensely involving in the conflicts which take place on more than one level, worldly and humane at the same time, and — as might be expected — unerring in its vistas of crumbling stucco and mud barrios to perhaps only a room with a view opening on a "dusty palm and a dead fountain." When Greene writes as splendidly as he does here, we are reminded that he has no equivalent. Read full book review >
SORT OF LIFE by Graham Greene
Released: Sept. 16, 1971

Mr. Greene's fractional biography — his sort of life is only a part of a life up through the publication of his early, forgotten novels — is a reproof of Auden's overreaching contention that "biographies of writers, whether written by others or themselves, are always superfluous and usually in bad taste." It is not superfluous since it prefigures, isolates, and supplements much of the material which will later be part of his works, and he is certainly most discreet in releasing this material from the "mortmain of the past." Greene, one of six children of a larger family divided between the rich Greenes and the intellectual Greenes, was a child of many fears and even stronger terrors. His father was a headmaster and he loathed being a student in that school — "like the son of a quisling in a country under occupation." His marginal stability manifested itself at various intervals throughout the years: he was sent to an analyst at about sixteen; later in Oxford, while hoping to seduce a governess, he also flirted with a revolver over and over again. His first odd jobs led to a more permanent one with The Times but he was steadily writing a string of novels, unpublished, until finally The Man Within was accepted but success was tenuous for the next ten years. From the beginning he has made clear that he was "overshadowed by the knowledge of failure, by awareness of the flawed intention"; indeed hesitation, as well as candor, is implied in the title he has chosen. Perhaps it will not come on strongly enough for those who are not already among Graham Greene's admirers, but most readers will be gratified that he has searched his memory which is "like a long broken night. Read full book review >
GREENE by Graham Greene
Released: May 19, 1969

Half of the essays here, including his more important sequence on Henry James, have been reprinted from Mr. Greene's 1952 collection The Lost Childhood which established in Greene's case that the creative writer could also be a critic of some distinction. Not always a corollary. The Jamesian universe of "black and merciless things," with a "sense of evil religious in its intensity" and concomitant betrayals obviously would attract Mr. Greene and he makes many subsequent referrals to it — even in the work of Beatrix Potter and de la Mare (perhaps over-estimated here). Of the almost 80 pieces, one can comment only eclectically on a few: while interest in Sterne and Fielding, Dickens, Maugham, etc. endures (and with Hadrian VII the three pieces on Rolfe will catch many eyes) there are still a great many forgotten figures (poets George Granville or George Darley for example) appearing in what were originally book reviews, the venue of a majority of the essays. Catholic writers receive a proportionate and expectable predominance; among the "Characters" — the second half of the collection — only a few are not literary (Castro, Kim Philby, Louis B. Mayer of MGM, or Schweitzer, the "victim of his own legend"). The opening piece on how, as a child, he was stimulated to write and thereby "live and enjoy" leads to the other, personal piece at the end of the volume and a return to the "Soupsweet Land" (Freetown) where he wrote The Heart of the Matter. It concludes with the sad apostrophe, "How could they tell that for a writer as much as for a priest there is no such thing as success? Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1967

This is Graham Greene's third collection of catchy, sketchy short stories, one or two miniaturized to not more than five or six pages. They are subtitled And Other Comedies of the Sexual Life which connotes a little of their trifling sophistication. In the title story, two homosexuals appropriate a honeymooning husband; in Mortmain. a second marriage seems to be haunted by the first—letters, and little domestic reminders, lurk everywhere; Two Gentle People confide on a park bench and over dinner before returning in resignation to their wretched marital existence; Jerome loses his adored father in A Shocking Accident—a pig falls on him.... The backgrounds vary from Antibes to England, and they are all told with a casual, conversational ease—a deceptive sleight of hand which may also suggest that there's not too much up the sleeve. Read full book review >
THE COMEDIANS by Graham Greene
Released: Jan. 28, 1965

Greene usually subdivides his fiction into novels or entertainments. This is to an extent the former, but superlatively the latter. As an entertainment, it is an adventure story with some fauve scenery— Haiti, that "shabby land of terror" under the regime of Papa Doc, a dictator who may be a survival—or revival—of Baron Samedi. As a novel, even if it is not as seriously concerned with conscience and commitment as its predecessors, there are reminiscent asides; and there's an attractive affair. The comedians of the title are Smith, Jones and Brown, as improbably brought together by the "authoritative practical joker" as the old routine they suggest. They meet on the way down to Haiti where Brown, who tells the story, is summoned by his mother, a grande amoureuse, who lives and dies with abandon. Brown, who was born in Monaco, is not only a man without a country but a purpose or a belief. Jones is a confidence man with a special, unexpected innocence. And Smith is a freedom-riding vegetarian with a dream of nut cutlets and educational films for the natives. Together they are involved in this variation of the absurd: death, the suicide of an ex-minister; love, Brown's attachment to the young wife of an Ambassador; hope, the liberation of Haiti from Papa Doc; and faith, Brown's not quite lapsed Catholicism.... Greene says, comedians are an "honorable profession... If only we could be good ones the world might gain at least a sense of style." And Greene's Comedians is eminently, expertly stylish. It may not be his most important book but a good many attractive adjectives apply. Read full book review >
A SENSE OF REALITY by Graham Greene
Released: June 21, 1963

Three short stories, and one which is actually a novella, are affiliated by their concern with the intangible and illusory and they sometimes cross over into less finite areas where reality is blurred by fantasy, memory and myth. In Under the Garden, the longest and strongest story here, a man completes a lifetime of wanderjahre around the world by making a shadowed return to the past of his childhood and an earlier experience both remembered and imagined. A Visit to Morin turns another man back to the Catholic writer who had once influenced him- man all but forgotten who has written away his faith and now lives in the fear of his total disaffection. The Dream of a Strange Land converts the home of a once eminent, now almost retired, doctor into a casino for a night. And in Discovery in the Woods four youngsters search for, find, and eventually mourn "a whole world lost" — both past and present... The stories are individually variable in calibre and consequence but collectively they engage in a reconnaissance through the dustier reaches of man's experience with its spectres of doubt, default, failure and paradox. These serious overtones qualify the collection as more than light entertainment, which it also is, although it may ultimately prove to be only peripheral as a part of this writer's permanent collection. Read full book review >
IT'S A BATTLEFIELD by Graham Greene
Released: Sept. 24, 1962

This early (1934) Graham Greene novel is being republished here for the first time, along with a new introduction in which Greene states that this fifth book was the least read of any of his novels. It is perhaps easy to explain, in that the decisively dramatic conflicts (whether physical- as in the entertainments, or spiritual- as in some of his stronger works) are subdued. Despair is dulled to a disconsolate awareness of human imperfection; and while dealing with some of the great abstractions (justice, love, courage) they are no larger than the men who entertain them and become the operative realities (injustice, lust, cowardice). Here on the battlefield which is more than political and is part of the general war of life, many are variously involved: Jim Drover, whose Communist affiliations have contributed to the death sentence he now faces; Conrad, his brother, in love with his brother's wife and wishfully attempting to match the condemned man's "stupidity, serenity and strength"; Molly Drover's sister, who finds an easy escape in purely sensuous attachments; Surrogate, an intellectual, who assumes the liberal stance to camouflage his humiliation and emasculation as a man; the Assistant Commissioner, filled with doubt and self-distrust as he sees the end to which his investigations lead; etc., etc. It is a thoughtful, quietly disturbing book which explores some of the grey areas of guilt, regret and confusion, and the misconceptions which pass for beliefs. And while appreciably less popular in character than much that he has written, Greene's more serious readership will welcome its reappearance and find it a subtle, serious commentary. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1961

The book publication of this Greene play, a sophisticated marital and extramarital comedy which was hugely successful in London (partly due to the excellence of its cast), will be timed here to coincide with its Broadway production. Its small cast, and general sophistication of theme and tone, would suggest that it will be desirable for little theatre groups and while no more than it is an agreeable diversion. Read full book review >
Released: June 15, 1961

This slim book consists of two journals which Greene kept on two trips to Africa- in 1941 and in 1959. The earlier, shorter and lesser of the two covers his wartime crossing by ship. While neither was intended for publication, the later journal is far more interesting. It is the original sketch book for the novel A Runt Out Case in which Greene secured the raw materials on the improserie in the Congo which became the terminus for querry, here a still unformulated and unnamed character. While much of the journal deals with the medical data he needed to authenticate the book he was to write, there is a good deal of peripheral material of general interest. Thoughts- and impressions- on the wing-give this its fresh spontaneity; Africa itself, often oppressive, or impressive, is "a cure for the sick heart"; the author, in search of a character as well as a locale, questions as well as observes, and Greene himself, depressed, discouraged, occasions some of the more meditative insights here (is he burnt out? will this be, as he states at one point, his last novel?) All in all, it is expectedly fragmentary and unexpectedly revealing, and of primary concern to those who are more seriously interested in Greene- the writer. Read full book review >
A BURNT-OUT CASE by Graham Greene
Released: Feb. 17, 1960

Almost all of Greene's serious works have been framed within the context of Catholicism, and while intimations of grace and disgrace hover over his new book here, there is no sterner conflict-no deadlock between the flesh and the faith. For Querry, the central character, has come "to the end of everything"- and the symptomatic attitudes of his predecessors (failing priests, disappointed idealists, hollow men) the pessimism- the doubt- the denial, here reach an impossible indifference. In his escape from the world, (an easy success with women, real fame as an architect) Querry comes to a leproserie in the Congo attached to a Catholic mission and run by a Doctor Colin whose only belief is a practical humanity. There he is assigned a servant- Deo Gratias- a "burnt-out case"- a leper who loses everything that can be eaten away before he is cured. And there Querry, who is obviously just as mutilated, attempts to remain uninvolved. Deo Gratias' disappearance however impels him to go out and search for him in the bush- and save his life. As the weeks pass, he works a little- designs a new hospital. But the world does not respect his privacy; a journalist exploits the legend which is growing- the second coming of Schweitzer?- "The Recluse of the Great River". And a young wife, Marie, unhappily married to an aging planter, uses him to escape, and while he is completely innocent of any interest in her, exposes him to the injuries of an aggrieved husband in a finale which is regrettably closer to farce than to tragedy..... To much of this Greene brings his expert touch: the steamy, fetid country; the contrasts of character which range from Doctor Colin's dedication to Querry's repudiation, from Deo Gratias' touching gratitude to Marie's childlike guile. If there is a certain sense of failure it is perhaps Querry's- the commitment he avoids may also be the reader's. Strong publisher backing and the author's name assure initial attention. Read full book review >
OUR MAN IN HAVANA by Graham Greene
Released: Oct. 24, 1958

Graham Greene's new "Entertainment" offers only a questionable diversion this time, substitutes a lightminded travesty of secret service operations (the intentions are not too clearly decipherable) for the surer suspense of the earlier books in this genre. Wormold, a vacuum cleaner representative in Havana, a middle-aged man whose daughter is his prime security interest, is tapped as secret agent number 59200 stroke five by the British Secret Service. With "no accomplice except the credulity of other men", Wormold turns in bogus reports and fabulous diagrams (vacuum cleaner parts), recruits an extensive payroll of imaginary sub-agents, and rigs an elaborate deception which backfires when one of his men materializes- only to be killed, his friend Hasselbacher is a second victim, and he is a potential third... For all the occasional overtones and undercuts, this is no more than a genial form of nonsense in which Greene is not at his best. This still may be good enough for a great many people to whom the name assumes more than is this time assured. Read full book review >
Released: March 9, 1956

........ is a disquieting examination of a central, contemporary issue, and substitutes political conscience for the spiritual concern of Greene's recent vela but the battleground is still a highly personal terrain- and an individual is the chief casualty. Tom Fowler tells the story, in an attempt to exercise his guilt, and Fowler is an Englishman, a man of middle years, of few scruples, of even less courage, and disillusioned to the point of diffidence. It is in Salgon where he is stationed as a reporter that he meets Alden Pyle of the American Economic Mission, an innocent and an idealist, who belongs to ""a psychological world of great simplicity, where you talked of Democracy and Honor without the 'u'"". They have only one thing in common-Fowler's mandarin mistress Phuong whom Pyle is ready to marry. Fowler's first act of betrayal is toward Phuong- as he conceals from her the fact that his wife- in England- will not free him. His second is toward Pyle who has been engaged with a small time local General in an attempt to back a Third Force against the Communists, and when a bomb demonstration misfires, Fowler is equally responsible for the retaliation which leads to Pyle's death... A morality tale of these times- of impulsive idealism which is often ignorance on the one hand, up against the moral inertia of the rest of the world. Indochina, and the shabby, shoddy accent of the East sharpens the background for a novel which is an effective entertainment as well. It should assure a wider audience than Robert Shaplen's A Forest of Tigers (Knopf) which deals with this theme and this part of the world. Read full book review >
LOSER TAKES ALL by Graham Greene
Released: Jan. 1, 1955

Based on a shooting script (as was The Fallen Idol a few years ago) this is one of the works Greene has tagged as "entertainments". And as he also refers to it as a "frivolity" and has not expanded it to much more than a long short story- it is one of the lightest and slightest of these. This is not however to minimize its expertise- however trivial the object of its application. The story concerns Bartram, an accountant for the powerful and unreliable and enigmatic Dreuther who persuades him to get married in Monte Carlo- rather than Bournemouth- where Dreuther will pick up the honeymoon couple on his yacht. Forgotten by Dreuther, and fundless, Bartram works up a system to beat the bank- and in so doing- devoting all his time to the tables- loses his grip on his bride. Finally as Dreuther appears and acts in an advisory capacity, Bartram throws away his millions to regain his wife..... A pleasant diversion- and at this price- anybody can play. Read full book review >
Released: May 5, 1952

Three "entertainments" as Graham Greene defines his earlier thrillers, will introduce a new Greene to many who have "discovered" him with his serious psychological novels and his critical writing. Here — in one volume — three distinguished novels that rank far above the average level of what we know as thrillers... This Gun for Hire: The Confidential Agent. The Ministry of Fear. Read full book review >
THE SHIPWRECKED by Graham Greene
Released: Jan. 9, 1952

A republication of an early novel which appeared in 1935 under the title England Made Me, and which was not widely read at that time. And it is doubtful whether it would be widely read today were it not for the name which is now a passe partout to the popular public. For while there is something of the style, the now acerb- now compassionate sense of human frailty which Greene later developed, there is certainly none of the philosophic purpose of his later books, or the narrative intensity of what he was to term his "entertainments". The situation here which is set up, and only fitfully pursued, concerns three people whose precarious paste have brought them to a point of diminishing returns as youth fades with no indemnity of security- or content. For Kate Farrant, who becomes the secretary and mistress of Krogh, a Swedish industrialist, there is only the satisfaction of material comfort to offset her singlehearted affection for Tony, her twin, a living example of the past she'd escaped. For Tony, with his accomodating charm and easy plausibility, there is only a succession of fraudulent jobs and easy women. And for Krogh, a symbol of the power he has created rather than a man, there is a life lived out in public gestures and private defeat.... A provocative, occasionally speculative portrayal of marginal lives- to which disenchantment lends its finality. Read full book review >
THE LOST CHILDHOOD And Other Essays by Graham Greene
Released: June 15, 1951

A collection of short places, largely critical, occasionally autobiographical, which provide a commentary of personal perception and original insight and subtle stimulus on the passing literary scene. If much of what Graham Greene interprets is shaded, slanted a private vision, a consciousness of sin and salvation which is applied to the terminal judgment, this is what lends the purpose if at the same time a bias of his analytic method. It is particularly evident in the five pieces on Henry James, "the puritan with a nose for the Pit", and the "sense of evil, religious in its intensity" which brought him to the of Catholicism. And although it was Marjorie Bowen's The of Milan which was to direct Greene toward a lifetime of writing, it is Henry James who casts a constant shadow in the many pieces here, on the divers figures of Conrad, Mauriac, Beatrix Potter, Samuel Butler, Francis Parkman, Havelock Ellis, Herbert Read, Fielding and Sterne, etc. etc. And a closing personal postscript, on a time when at 17 he was "fixed in boredom" and tested the temptation of a brother's gun, of a wartime scene, a film luncheon and "the voice of American capital"- Louis B. Mayer, of a book market, — complete the collection in which the estimates are sparked by the individual response and an inward view. For an appreciative, rather than an appreciable, market. Read full book review >
THE THIRD MAN by Graham Greene
Released: June 15, 1950

The story for the motion picture which has had a sensationally successful critical and popular reception, this although it may not be as "finished" (the author) as the film for which it was written, is still a highly effective experience in suspense. Against the backdrop of the strangely, silent streets of postwar Vienna, this follows the search for the third man said to have witnessed the death of Harry Lime as it is undertaken by Rollo Martins, Lime's friend of twenty years, a rather fatuous and adolescent American. And as the inquiry leads from those who know Harry to the girl who loved him, to the folio of a man from Scotland Yard, the climax is reached with the resurrection of the dead man and a stalk through the sewers of the city. The case here, the use of occasional characterization, the unrelieved and undeviating tension demonstrate again a mastery of this medium. Read full book review >
Released: July 12, 1948

Reported originally in the February 15th bulletin, this was postponed to the above date as a mid-summer selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. The original report ran as follows: "Not to be associated with Graham Greene's earlier works (Brighton Rock, The Confidential Agent, The Ministry of Fear, etc.) this is a novel of considerable seriousness and stature in which the sensational brilliance of his previous writing has been subdued by sincerity, by compassion, and by a strong sense of faith. But with no sacrifice of narrative momentum, this pursues the theme of good and evil in its ultimate implications, portrays the corruption of a man by a worldly- rather than a final-judgment. This is the story of Scobie, whose austere integrity has remained above question during his fifteen years' service as Assistant Police Commissioner in a West African coastal town, has brought him few friends and many enemies. Bound by a sense of responsibility to his work, to his wife, Louise, for whom he feels only pity and the pathos of her unattractiveness, Scobie becomes the victim of that pity when to give Louise a fresh start- he borrows the money for her passage from a Syrian, Yussuf. Falling in love again, this time with a childlike widow of nineteen, Scobie again finds that passion dies away, that only pity is left, and his indiscretion exposed to the malevolent Yussuf- he becomes an object of blackmail. In a descrescendo to dishonor which leads from doubt to deceit, indirectly to murder, Scobie commits the unforgivable sin in the tenets of his Catholicism, suicides, but in so doing finds the renunciation of his life... A book which offers a variety of virtues- in its external drama, in its satiric subtlety as it is directed against the insular, colonial scene, and in its relentless portrayal of a man destroyed by the strength of his conscience rather than the weakness of the flesh. For an adult, appreciative audience. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 14, 1948

In an acknowledgment by the author that these stories (written at intervals over the last two decades) are only by-products of a novelist's career, there is the recognition also that they will not rank with his more serious- or longer-works. That being said, there are still many in this collection which are instantaneously compelling if not permanently memorable, and almost all reveal Greene's concern with failures and outcasts, with lost and wayward lives. Three of the outstanding stories deal with children; I Spy; The End of the Party, and The Basement Room- the latter an exploration of a boy's terror in the face of adult deception and betrayal- the fear and guilt which will last a lifetime. All in their synchronization of suspense and violence hold compassion as well. On the author's name, the volume will carry to a wider market than is usual in this medium. Read full book review >
Released: May 21, 1943

Less bizarre than Brighton Rock or Thy Labyrinthine Ways, this is a return to the straight mystery novel which in Greene's hands is always something more. Psychologically provocative, atmospherically adept, it is the story of Arthur Rowe who by chance becomes the victim of a group of Nazi agents, operating and gaining power through fear. Strange occurrences, the cake at the fair which makes him the butt of murder, a seance where another man is killed in his stead, a bombing and subsequent amnesia which lands him in a private nursing home; strange people, the private detective who disappears, a fortune teller, the Hilfes — refugee brother and sister, and an enigmatic psychiatrist. Finally, in coordination with the Yard, the webbing of fortuitous events and individuals becomes clear — and Rowe is released from a past and private guilt, the killing of his wife. Ingenious intrigue, handled with fastidious finish. Read full book review >
Released: March 15, 1940

Another Mexico was the plaint of a Catholic touring Mexico and finding little to his taste. Brighton Rock was mystery-adventure. Now in this novel, Greene has used his Mexican background (none too savory) for a vitriolic story in the Rogue Male genre. His Catholic adherents won't relish his picture of the whisky priest; his liberal readers won't find the red shirt lieutenant of police particularly inspiring a figure, so let's forget motives and backgrounds, and see this as sheer adventure, as the craven, cowardly priest seeks refuge with his stupid, loyal peasants, and flees terrified from the wrath of the law. In the dialog one gets various facets of modern Mexico, and there emerges a somewhat macabre picture of Mexico today. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 29, 1939

Though this is straight international-adventure stuff, Greene lifts it from worn ruts by cutting out glamorous trappings and substituting a loyal, conscientious agent who gets pushed around just once too often and turns on the pack. He comes to England to negotiate a coal contract, as lone wolf, and is double-crossed at home and abroad, subjected to assault and battery, robbery, threats, and eventually is jockeyed into a murder charge. Greene does a superior job, and the growing horror as hero becomes hemmed in by entangling net of intrigue is exciting. Read full book review >
ANOTHER MEXICO by Graham Greene
Released: June 5, 1939

A Catholic tours Mexico and finds little to his liking, and plenty to condemn. The anti-Catholic movements have prejudiced him in advance, and he travels down from Texas, with a chip on his shoulder, looking for things to criticize. He succeeds in getting plenty to feed his distaste and he pours it all forth in this volume, — places, people, travel accommodation, scenery, food, lodgings — he was acutely miserable throughout. Stringent antidote to usual enthusiasm for Mexico and things Mexican. Particular market — the Catholics who want food for their wrath. Read full book review >
BRIGHTON ROCK by Graham Greene
Released: June 10, 1938

A blend of horror, adventure, mystery and morbid realism for this weird, sometimes original story of murders at Brighton Rock, the London Coney Island. An unprepossessing Londoner on a Bank Holiday is the first victim and his friend of the day investigates the murder, which was done by Pinkie, a boy of 17, heading a gang of racing racketeers, whose rule is threatened by another more powerful gang. Perversed, abnormal, dwarfed, the "Boy" goes from one razor cutting to another in his attempt to cover his initial crime, is forced to marry a young girl who holds the clue to the first killing, though he hates women and despises his own impotency. And in the end — inevitable defeat for the "Boy". For this type of thing, overlong and occasionally repetitive, with some unconvincing elements. But there is a good sense of the tawdry scene and the crowds, and considerable originality with interesting psychological touches to the characterization. Plus sale in the mystery section. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 6, 1936

The novelist (Orient Express, The Man Within) was obsessed by the idea that he must go to Liberia. So he went — down the African coast, inland with guides. And this is the story. There's amazing vitality, a contagion of enthusiasm, in the telling. There is somewhat the bite in describing conditions that characterized Africa Dances. There is much of what he found there — there is much of the man himself, through anecdotes and commentary on life. More than a travel book, but sell as travel and autobiography- Read full book review >
IT'S A BATTLEFIELD by Graham Greene
Released: March 21, 1934

Not a mystery story, but will appeal to those mystery fans who liked BEFORE THE FACT, and THE PARADINE CASE, though there is less of continuity of thought and plot, and more of the flashlight treatment of his earlier book, ORIENT EXPRESS. The battlefield is the background against which various characters, connected one way or another with a murderer sentenced to death, play out their parts. London today, with cuts from various social strata. Read full book review >

The grand old man of English letters here collects 12 diverting stories of disparate quality that were written between 1923 and 1989. Although a few appeared in earlier volumes, none were included in the Collected Stories of 1972; three were recently written for The Independent, and one has never before been published—all of them, though, are quintessentially Greene in subject and style. Politics and religion figure prominently in many of these well-told tales. The title story, set in some futuristic totalitarian world, concerns an old man whose memory has been erased, but who turns out to be the Pope, brought from obscurity to be publicly executed now that there are no more living Christians. "The Lottery Ticket"—written in the 40's—finds a befuddled Liberal Englishman mired in a Latin-American political hot-spot, where he must witness the tragic consequences of his good intentions. In "An Appointment with the General," a French journalist on assignment from a trendy left-wing magazine interviews a socialist Latin general whose political correctness is suspect, and finds him a practical, charming, and intelligent leader (shades of Greene's late buddy Trujillo). A smashingly good WW II yarn, "The News in English," chronicles an episode of true Nazi-stopping heroism. Similarly, "The Lieutenant Died Last" relies on dramatic irony for its heroic effects when a drunken poacher manages to foil the only German parachute jump on a small English town. Counter-espionage takes an unusual cover in "A Branch of the Service," in which a restaurant-guide writer uses his job to track suspects, but allows indigestion to outweigh patriotic duty. Outside the usual fare is "The Moment of Truth," a poignant story of a lonely bachelor waiter in London who mistakes the bonhomie of some American tourists for true empathy. The rest here seems filler: a predictable whodunit, a few whimsical bits, and an early, extremely amateurish fable about artistic integrity. Despite three or four outstanding pieces, then, this volume's mainly for Greene scholars. Read full book review >

The English novelist makes a successful jump to a juvenile, writing sagely and sympathetically of the trials of an outdated engine, its fireman Sam Trolley, and his horse Today. In Britain in the village of Little Snoreing, the heyday of Sam, the engine, and Toby, is brought to an end by mean mayor Briggs of Much Snoreing, (the neighboring town) who has his own men and a new engine take over Sam's duties. Times are bad. But thou one evening while everyone is carousing in Much Snoreing, Toby discovers a fire in a barn, wakes Sam who extinguishes it with his old engine and is reestablished. Read full book review >

A companion story for Greene's The Little Red Fire Engine (published last year and also illustrated in color by Dorothy Craigie) takes a similar theme, though with different characters and setting and chronicles a London grocer's conquest of bankruptcy. When a new store opens across the street from Mr. Potter and takes all his business, it is his horse Brandy and his little horse bus who catch the thieves that try to rob his rival. Heroism wins the day and Potter wins popularity. Hearty, but not The Heart of the Matter. Read full book review >

A companion book to the other stories Graham Greene has been writing for children (see The Little Red Fire Engine and The Little Horse Bus) again makes the perversity of objects work in favor of the law. This time a steamroller, working away at his job at the London Airport is emphatically instrumental in capturing a gang of smugglers. Read full book review >