Graham Greene (1904 – 1991)

descarga (2)Henry Graham Greene OM CH (2 October 1904 – 3 April 1991), professionally known as Graham Greene, was an English novelist regarded by many as one of the leading English novelists of the 20th century. Greene acquired a reputation early in his lifetime as a major writer, both of serious Catholic novels, and of thrillers (or “entertainments” as he termed them). Although Greene objected strongly to being described as a Roman Catholic novelist, rather than as a novelist who happened to be Catholic, Catholic religious themes are at the root of much of his writing, especially the four major Catholic novels: Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, and The End of the Affair; which have been named “the gold standard” of the Catholic novel. Several works, such as The Confidential Agent, The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana, The Human Factor, and his screenplay for The Third Man, also show Greene’s avid interest in the workings and intrigues of international politics and espionage.

Greene was born in Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire into a large, influential family that included the owners of the Greene King Brewery. He boarded at Berkhamsted School in Hertfordshire, where his father taught and became headmaster. Unhappy at the school, he attempted suicide several times. He attended Balliol College, Oxford, to study history, where, while an undergraduate, he published his first work in 1925—a poorly received volume of poetry, Babbling April. After graduating, Greene worked first as a private tutor and then as a journalist—first on the Nottingham Journal and then as a sub-editor on The Times. He converted to Catholicism in 1926 after meeting his future wife, Vivien Dayrell-Browning. He published his first novel, The Man Within, in 1929; its favourable reception enabled him to work full-time as a novelist. He supplemented his novelist’s income with freelance journalism, and book and film reviews. Greene originally divided his fiction into two genres (which he described as “entertainments” and “novels”): thrillers—often with notable philosophic edges—such as The Ministry of Fear; and literary works—on which he thought his literary reputation would rest—such as The Power and the Glory. Greene had a history of depression, which had a profound effect on his writing and personal life. He died in 1991, at age 86, of leukemia, and was buried in Corseaux cemetery. (Excerpted from Wikipedia)

Selected Novels: Stamboul Train (1932), England Made Me (1935), A Gun for Sale (1936), Brighton Rock (1938), The Confidential Agent (1939), The Power and the Glory (1940), The Ministry of Fear (1943), The Heart of the Matter (1948), The Third Man (novella; 1949), The End of the Affair (1951), The Quiet American (1955),  Our Man in Havana (1958), The Comedians (1966), The Honorary Consul (1973), The Human Factor (1978), Doctor Fischer of Geneva (1980).

Although, as I understand, Graham Greene abandoned this distinction later on, in an interview held in the spring of 1953 (The Paris Review, I (Autumn 1953), 25-41) he termed  ‘Entertainments’ such novels as Stamboul Train, Gun for Sale, The Confidential Agent, The Ministry of Fear and The Third Man and The Fallen Idol; in contrast to his literary novels (Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair). However he did not offer much insight to this distinction, except that the ‘Entertainments’, ‘as the name implies they do not carry a message (horrible word)’. Although it is more likely that the ‘Entertainments’ were aimed to provide him the financial means, at a time when he had given up his post at The Times, to devote himself to write full time. Be that as it may, the fact is that I find, in many cases, his so-called ‘Entertainments’ are at par with his literary novels.

The Ministry of Fear was one of Anthony Boucher’s twenty best crime novels of 1943. (The Passing Tramp)

From Wikipedia: The Ministry of Fear is a 1943 novel written by Graham Greene. It was first published in Britain by William Heinemann. It was made into the 1944 film Ministry of Fear, directed by Fritz Lang and starring Ray Milland. The title is explained in the book. The Nazi regime, in countries it controlled and in those it intended to subvert, built up information on individuals in order to blackmail them into co-operation. This Greene called their ministry of fear.


(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Heinemann (UK), 1943)

Synopsis: It is 1941 and bombs have turned London into the front line of a world war. In the shadows of the Blitz, Hitler’s agents are running a blackmail operation to obtain documents that could bring the nation to instant defeat. Arthur Rowe, a man once convicted of a notorious mercy killing, stumbles onto a German spy operation in Bloomsbury and must be silenced. But even with his memory taken from him, he is still a very dangerous witness. A taut thriller and a haunting exploration of pity, love, and guilt, The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest of all spy novels. With an introduction by the biographer and editor Professor Richard Greene. Designed to appeal to the booklover, the Macmillan Collector’s Library is a series of beautifully bound gift editions of much loved classic titles. (Pan Macmillan, UK, publicity page)


(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. The Viking Press (USA), 1943)

Synopsis: For Arthur Rowe, the trip to the charity fête 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, outside the war, until he happened to win a cake at the fête. From that moment, he is ruthlessly hunted by Nazi agents and finds himself the prey of malign and shadowy forces. This Penguin Classics edition features an introduction by Alan Furst. (Penguin Random House, US, publicity page)

The Ministry of Fear has been reviewed, among others, at Existential Ennui, Tipping My Fedora and The crime segments.

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