Graham Greene, a purported lifetime spy for MI6 with strong political beliefs and outspoken opinions, was one of the 20th century’s finest novelists.
Many literary fans remember him for Our Man in Havana, the novel which established Greene on rocky footing with Cuba’s revolutionary government in 1958. Fidel Castro failed to appreciate Greene’s self-branded "entertainment" novel which sees an absurd Cuban vacuum cleaner salesman foil the British Intelligence with a fabricated spy ring, set against the backdrop of the brutal Batista dictatorship.
“Alas, the book did me little good with the new rulers in Havana,” said Greene. “In poking fun at the British Secret Service, I had minimized the terror of Batista’s rule.” Despite Our Man in Havana’s political blunders, a film adaptation starring Alec Guinness was completed in 1959 and the book garnered international attention during the Cuban Missile Crisis when its depiction of a secret agent “taking aerial photos of strange machinery” rang startlingly true.
Greene sprung onto the British literary stage in 1929 with his first novel The Man Within. Interpreting his success as a means to quit his job as a sub-editor at The Times of London, his subsequent works were considered so bad Greene later disowned them. However, the publication of Stamboul Train (1932) put him back on the map and was the first of 18 of his novels to be adapted into films, including The Quiet American which was released as a motion picture in 1958 with a new version in 2002.
Greene remained a controversial figure until his death in 1991. He narrowly escaped libel charges after writing that Shirley Temple exhibited “a certain adroit coquetry which appealed to middle aged men” early in his career. Known for his underlying religious and political themes, Greene strongly objected to being called a “Catholic novelist” though he publicly disparaged writers like Virginia Woolf and EM Forster for their failure to incorporate religious themes. Greene spent his last days in Switzerland, where he developed a friendship with Charlie Chaplin.
Conceived as one of Graham Greene's "entertainments," Our Man in Havana tells of MI6's man in Havana, Wormold, a former vacuum-cleaner salesman turned reluctant secret agent out of economic necessity. To keep his job, he files bogus reports based on Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare and dreams up military installations from vacuum-cleaner designs. Then his stories start coming disturbingly true.
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First published in England in 1951, The End of the Affair tells of the love affair between Maurice Bendix and Sarah, flourishing in the turbulent times of the London Blitz, ends when she suddenly and without explanation breaks it off. Two years later, after a chance meeting, Bendix hires a private detective to follow Sarah, and slowly his love for her turns into an obsession.
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With Aunt Augusta, a veteran of Europe's hotel bedrooms, dull, suburban Henry travels her way through Brighton, Paris, Istanbul, Paraguay and finds himself in a shiftless, twilight society: mixing with hippies, war criminals, CIA men; smoking pot, breaking all currency regulations and eventually coming alive. Greene not only gives us intoxicating entertainment but also confronts us with some of the most perplexing human dilemmas.
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For Arthur Rowe, the trip to the charity fete was a joyful step back into adolescence, a chance to forget the nightmare of the blitz-and the aching guilt of having mercifully murdered his sick wife. He was surviving alone, aside from the war, until he happened to guess both the true and the false weight of the cake. From that moment, he finds himself ruthlessly hunted, the quarry of malign and shadowy forces, from which he endeavors to escape with a mind that remains obstinately out of focus.
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Written with Graham Greene's complete consent, this extraordinary biography introduces a romantic and impassioned Greene. Delving into this early life, Sherry uncovers the origins of Greene's literary preoccupations and his development as a novelist, penetrating the strange emotional territory that Greene made his own.
The Life of Graham Greene: Volume I | All Volumes
A surprising and insightful memoir of the life and spiritual yearnings of one of the world's most renowned and elusive novelists, Graham Greene. "Few writers were as watched, listened to, or talked about, yet Greene was almost invisible, especially at the height of his fame."--New Yorker
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