I just reread Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair as it’s being discussed in a class I have this week. I first read it years ago, a long time ago – it was probably one of the first books by him that I read.
I like Graham Greene. And I know that he isn’t fashionable, I know he was too prolific to be mysterious, I know he is very much no one’s favourite novelist. I can’t make much of this, because he isn’t mine either.
But I have enjoyed every novel by Greene that I’ve read. Some less than others. The HILARIOUS Our Man In Havana and Travels With My Aunt both had me laughing uproariously throughout. They are both very, very funny comic novels that have aged well. Compared to other “comic classics” such as Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim and anything by Wodehouse*, they are much funnier. The jokes still work.
And the variety of place in his books is impressive and important too. Greene wrote novels set all over the world – The Quiet American in the Far East, The Power and the Glory in Mexico, Brighton Rock on the English south coast, Our Man in Havana in Havana… He was an open-minded and explorative individual, and I know he also wrote books set in Africa – though not any I have yet read. At least.
His books are all about sex, are all about shame, are all about faith. The chess game played with miniature bottles of whiskey, the broken bannister, the rutting, boozing BUT FUCKING GOOD HEARTED priest, the opium-addicted loner, the chest full of gold bars, the miraculous convert, the, the the
Greene has created a huge amount of images and characters that have stayed vividly in my mind. He wrote too many books and was too successful and establishment for me to love him, for me to raise him to the heights of Lowry, Plath, Johnson, Hemingway, in my mind: he isn’t quite depressive and suicidal enough for me to love to read him.
But I do always enjoy his writing. His thrillers are thrilling. His comedies are funny. His poignant novel about adultery, faith, jealousy and friendship – The End of the Affair – is moving, articulate and brave.
I’m a big fan of Graham Greene. Give the man more of your time. CATHOLICS TOGETHER!!!
* I hate Wodehouse. For reference.