Graham Greene

Graham Greene (Henry Graham Greene), 1904–91, English novelist and playwright. Although most of his works combine elements of the detective story, the spy thriller, and the psychological drama, his novels are essentially parables of the damned. Greene's heroes realize their sins and achieve salvation only through great pain and soul-searching agony. A Roman Catholic convert (1926), he was intensely concerned with the moral problems of humans in relation to God. Some of his 26 novels have been ranked as thrillers, and Greene himself called such works as Stamboul Train (1932; U.S. title, Orient Express) and The Ministry of Fear (1943) "entertainments" to distinguish them from his more serious efforts. His major works, which include Brighton Rock (1938), The Power and the Glory (1940), The Heart of the Matter (1948), and The End of the Affair (1951), mark him as a novelist of high distinction.

Greene was a superb journalist, a sometime British spy, and a world traveler, often courting danger in various international wars and revolutions and participating in local high and low life in dozens of famous and obscure corners of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Many of his novels are set in locations with which he had personal experience, sites often of topical journalistic interest: The Quiet American (1955) a prescient account of early American involvement in Vietnam; Our Man in Havana (1958), set in Cuba; A Burnt-Out Case (1961), in the Belgian Congo just before its independence; The Comedians (1966), in François Duvalier's Haiti; and The Captain and the Enemy (1980), in Panama. His fine sense of comedy is displayed in the short-story collection May We Borrow Your Husband? (1967) and the novel Travels with My Aunt (1969). Greene also wrote several plays, including The Living Room (1953) and The Potting Shed (1957), both thinly disguised religious dramas, and The Complaisant Lover (1959), a witty and intelligent play about marriage and infidelity. He also is noted for his essays, travel books, film criticism, and film scripts, including the mystery melodrama The Third Man (1950).

See his autobiographies (1971, 1980) and his posthumously published A World of My Own: A Dream Diary (1995); S. Hazzard, Greene on Capri: A Memoir (2000); R. Greene, ed., Graham Greene: A Life in Letters (2008); biographies by M. Shelden (1994) and N. Sherry (3 vol., 1989–2004); studies by H. J. Donaghy (1983), A. A. De Vitis (1986), and J. Meyers, ed. (1990).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Graham Greene
Francis Wyndham.
Longmans, Green, 1955
21 Stories
Graham Greene.
Viking Press, 1962
Librarian’s tip: Includes "The Destructors," "The Blue Film," and "Special Duties," and more
The Pursuit of Salvation: A Critical Guide to the Novels of Graham Greene
Georg M. A. Gaston.
Whitston, 1984
A Study in Greene: Graham Greene and the Art of the Novel
Bernard Bergonzi.
Oxford University Press, 2006
Graham Greene: An Approach to the Novels
Robert Hoskins.
Garland, 1999
Graham Greene's Fictions: The Virtues of Extremity
Cates Baldridge.
University of Missouri Press, 2000
Graham Greene: The Entertainer
Peter Wolfe.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1972
Graham Greene's Catholic Imagination
Mark Bosco.
Oxford University Press, 2004
Fighting Evil: Unsung Heroes in the Novels of Graham Greene
Haim Gordon.
Greenwood Press, 1997
In My Opinion: An Inquiry into the Contemporary Novel
Orville Prescott.
Bobbs-Merrill, 1952
Warring Fictions: American Literary Culture and the Vietnam War Narrative
Jim Neilson.
University Press of Mississippi, 1998
British Playwrights, 1880-1956: A Research and Production Sourcebook
William W. Demastes; Katherine E. Kelly.
Greenwood Press, 1996
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