Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Birthday wishes for Graham Greene

George Orwell once said that Evelyn Waugh was "about as good a novelist as one can be while holding untenable opinions." Orwell, an atheist, was talking about Waugh's staunch Catholicism and he made a good point but I think the same could be said about Graham Greene, who would have celebrated his 103rd birthday today if he wasn't, you know, dead.

Although The Power and the Glory was probably his most famous novel and others like Brighton Rock or The Quiet American arguably his most celebrated it is The End of the Affair that has always done it for me. Part slushy romance, part war-time picture of London and part bitter, bitter cynicism this was the first Greene I ever read and still my favourite.

“I sat with the telephone receiver in my hand and I looked at hate like an ugly and foolish man whom one does not want to know. I dialled her number. I must have caught her before she had time to leave the telephone and said: ‘Sarah,tomorrow’s all right, I’d forgotten something. Same place. Same time. And sitting there, my fingers on the quiet instrument, with something to look forward to, I thought to myself: I remember. This is what hope feels like.”
I've prattled on about this book before over here so it's not my intention to do so again. But there are so many books being written and published every year that I frequently get caught up in panic that I can never 'catch up'. With this mentality it's easy to forget about a dead Catholic author and the books he wrote but if you've never had occasion to dip into a little Greene then his birthday seems as good a time to do it as any. And cross your fingers that Greene died happier than his protagonists ever seemed to end up.

"O God, You've done enough, You've robbed me of enough. I'm too tired and old to learn to love. Leave me alone forever."

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