Was there no escape – anywhere – for anyone? It was worth murdering a world. (p.92)
Writers of the 30s
The English writers of the 1930s were defined by the fact that they missed the Great War which nonetheless ruined their world.
Born in the 1900s they were at school when masters and older boys and older brothers went off to fight and die. They were raised in prep schools and public schools which still indoctrinated all the values of the late Victorians, in which Kipling was God: to be born an Englishman was the luckiest fate in the world, for we ran the greatest Empire the world had ever seen and deserved it because we were gentlemen who played the game, ie cricket and rugger, and believed in honour and duty and self-sacrifice and decency.
This generation (including the poets Auden 1907 and Spender 1909 and MacNeice 1907, the novelists Isherwood 1904, Waugh 1903, Upward 1903, Orwell 1903 and Greene 1904) reached maturity in a world in chaos as the economic consequences of the peace produced crisis after crisis in Weimar Germany and Europe, the consequences of the Russian revolution spread communist and socialist ideology around the globe, the Western world seemed weak and feeble and then, with the great crash and Depression of the early 1930s, it really seemed as if everything the West stood for, all the values their parents and teachers had inculcated, had turned to dust, and they were left abandoned without any workable beliefs in a world permanently in crisis.
The search for belief
Thus it is a well-known cliché that the writers of this decade were all, in one way or another, in search of some kind of value system to replace the schoolboy Imperialism which had proved so inadequate. Innumerable memoirs of the decade repeat the truism that, to many intellectuals it seemed as if the only choice lay between Marxism or religion, and that religion not the milk-and-water Anglicanism of their school days, but full-on, ideological Roman Catholicism. Both were rigorous worldviews demanding lifelong ‘commitment’. Those who chose Left included the circle around Auden, the ‘Oxford poets’, all left-leaning, contributing to Left Book Club etc. Orwell became a famous left-wing journalist and went to fight in the Spanish Civil War.
On the Christian front, T.S. Eliot, the granddaddy of Modernism who had given the great panorama of waste and futility which so many saw in the post-War period its typical expression in his Modernist masterpiece The Waste Land, surprised everyone by converting to a High Church form of Anglicanism in 1927. Evelyn Waugh converted to Catholicism in 1930.
Graham Greene pre-empted them both by being baptised a Roman Catholic on 26 February 1926.
Religious belief – or organised despair?
A lot happened in the world during the 1930s but you’d never know it from Greene’s novels which focus on the same themes obsessively: the world is a battlefield of all against all without meaning or purpose in which there is no beauty or truth but absolutely everything is shabby, seedy and sordid, a world of mass-produced tat in which everyone seeks to exploit or hurt everyone else, in which no-one is happy or fulfilled since everyone is confused, lonely, abandoned, trailing memories of having been bullied and beaten at school, all to the soundtrack of cheap popular songs and the meretricious glamour of the ‘flickers’.
Brighton Rock is no different. It is an orgy of squalor. But, if you’re interested in Greene’s Catholicism, it is arguably his first overtly Catholic novel. There are Catholic characters in his earlier novels – maybe Minty in England Made Me is portrayed in most depth – but the two lead figures in Brighton Rock are very much Catholics, the teenage psychopath Pinkie and the innocent girl Rose he pretends to love solely so she doesn’t implicate the gang in a murder. Their Catholicism builds from scattered references in the first half to a crescendo of theology as the couple marry and then fornicate in a state of mortal sin – thus scoring double on Greene’s ever-active Sin-ometer.
The funfair seaside world of Brighton is a gift for Greene, allowing him to contrast the supposed gaiety and good times of ice creams and amusement arcades with the unremittingly seedy and squalid reality of his poor characters’ lives.
‘Waste not, want not,’ Ida said gently, taking in the details of the bony face, the large mouth, the eyes too wide apart, the pallor, the immature body… (p.74) Mr Corkery wore a blazer with a badge and a stiff collar underneath. He looked as if he needed feeding up, as if he was wasted with passions he had never had the courage to express. (p.75) The inspector looked old and tired and shy. He had tried to hide a tin of fruit drops behind a telephone and a manuscript book. (p.77) Spicer’s hair was thin on top, dry and brittle under the dandruff. (p.85) There was Rose, dressed to go out in a shabby black straw which made her face look as it would look in twenty years’ time, after the work and the child-bearing. (p.86) [She took off her hat] her mousy hair lay flat on the small scalp: he watched her with distaste. (p.88) Hundreds of feet below the pale green sea washed into the scarred and shabby side of England. (p.88) He looked at the mousy skull, the bony body and the shabby dress – and shuddered. (p.90) She got up and he saw the skin of her thigh for a moment above the artificial silk, and a prick of sexual desire disturbed him like a sickness. (p.92) [Mr Prewitt the corrupt lawyer] showed his tartar-coated teeth in a fatherly smile. (p.118)
It is the nearest Greene comes to a joke that the teenage psychopath Pinkie comes from a slum neighbourhood in Brighton named Paradise Piece.
The houses which looked as if they had passed through an intensive bombardment, flapping gutters and glassless windows, an iron bedstead rusting in a front garden, the smashed and wasted ground in front where houses had been pulled down for model flats which had never gone up. (p.90)
But his disgust and the repressed sexuality which can only express itself in violence, in razoring people, killing them, pushing them over stairwells or throwing acid in their faces, are all attributed to his bed being in the same room as his parents’ bed, and his seeing his parents have sex every week throughout his childhood.
‘Saturday’, he thought… remembering the room at home, the frightening weekly exercise of his parents which he watched from his single bed. That was what they expected of you, every polony you met had her eye on the bed… (p.90)
Then, using the ‘memory technique’ I’ve described in another post, Greene refers to this scene – what Freud called the Primal Scene – repeatedly. In references varying from a paragraph or a sentence long to just a few words, Greene uses it to convey how Pinkie’s violence and hatred is fuelled by the memory, and, at a deeper level, to create the character of Pinkie. Pinkie’s consciousness is the obsessive repetition of the scene.
He didn’t want that relationship with anyone: the double bed, the intimacy, it sickened him like the idea of age. (p.101)
He knew what was expected of him; he regarded her unmade-up mouth with faint nausea. Saturday night, eleven o’clock, the primeval exercise. (p.128)
[visiting the ruined slum] … the room where the Saturday night exercise had taken place was now just air. (p.140)
‘You can’t teach me the rules,’ the Boy went on with gusty anger. ‘I watched ’em every Saturday night, didn’t I? Bouncing and ploughing.’ His eyes flinched as if he were watching some horror. (p.164)
[Pinkie] heard the stealthy movement of his parents in the other bed. It was Saturday night. His father panted like a man at the end of a race and his mother made a horrifying sound of pleasurable pain. He was filled with hatred, disgust, loneliness: he was completely abandoned… (p.186)
Sex and violence. Violence arising out of repressed and perverted sex. Spicer’s ex offers herself in the back of a car and Pinkie’s rage knows no bounds for he simply doesn’t know what to do with a woman and this enormous, humiliating frustration vents itself as the wish to hurt someone. ‘He was like a child with haemophilia; every contact drew blood.’ (p.150)
Greene makes it personal, psychological, Freudian assumptions that lie behind Pinkie’s monstrous character. That Pinkie and Rose are poor, coming from Brighton’s appalling slums, is an aspect of their lives described – and conveyed through the depressing visit to her parents – but not offered as an explanation for their behaviour. Psychology, religion, sex, these determine Greene’s characters – not class, money, power.
I don’t find any of these early novels believable. The plots seem limp and contrived. They are at the same time melodramatic and strangely flat, uneventful. I didn’t for a second believe Krogh as a portrait of the CEO of a multinational company, he just read like another Greene lost soul, uncomfortable at the opera, out of his place at cocktail party discussions of art, I didn’t believe he’d hire a loser like Anthony Farrant or that, just a few days later, he’d acquiesce in his murder. All the events in England Made Me seemed contrived solely to provide a neat, cynical plot; the novel seemed like an absurd confection.
Same for the domestic melodrama of Battlefield, where all the characters have the same monotonous thoughts about the futility of life, and the climax – the shooting which goes wrong – is there solely to symbolise the pathos of human failure rather than anything which might actually happen.
Similarly, in Brighton Rock, it is impossible to take the characters seriously. An atmosphere of rather farcical grand guignol is built up around characters who remind me of the Ealing comedies or Carry On films. In all of these novels it seems to me Greene can’t find the situations or plots on which to convincingly hang his two standout attributes: his miserabilist worldview and his striking way with description. These early novels amount to a worldview in search of a plot.
Some people find Brighton Rock a powerful thriller but, having met some hardened criminals, I find it impossible to believe.
- I don’t understand the motive for the gang killing Hale (it is given on page 130, that Hale was ‘A dirty little journalist who played in with Colleoni and got Kite killed’ but this doesn’t work).
- I don’t understand how they actually kill him to make it appear due to natural causes.
- I don’t believe a 17-year-old could run a gang of adult crooks – especially as he seems so maladroit, his solution to every little problem being to kill someone, and the whole point of the novel is how quickly he fails.
- There’s little description of what the gang actually do to justify them being a gang at all apart from worry about the consequences of killing Hale. There are some references to gambling at the races, but it isn’t really explained or shown.
- The whole plot hinges on one of the gang continuing to hand out Hale’s secret cards after they’ve bumped him off in order to give themselves an alibi. But this gang member is seen by the 16-year-old waitress in the cafe. She can prove it wasn’t Hale and so could tell the police that Hale must have been murdered before that time and that this member of the gang must be somehow involved. This spurs Pinkie on to seduce her and then marry her so she can’t testify against her husband. It all seem ludicrously contrived. There’s no real sense that this is how criminal gangs operated in the 1930s.
If it wasn’t for the pervasive mood of squalor and futility and the one sickening scene at the races where Pinkie is himself razored, it could almost be a children’s adventure book.
What is believable, what gives his excessively morose worldview its plausibility, what redeems the catchpenny plots, is the incredible amount of observation and detail Greene crams into the text. Page after page of clear-eyed, disenchanted description which, for some reason, I find more rich and striking in Brighton Rock than any of the previous books.
A mounted policeman came up the road, the lovely cared-for chestnut beast stepping delicately on the hot macadam, like an expensive toy a millionaire buys for his children; you admired the finish. the leather as deeply glowing as an old mahogany table top, the bright silver badge; it never occurred to you that the toy was for use… A man stood by the kerb selling objects on a tray; he had lost the whole of one side of the body: leg and arm and shoulder, and the beautiful horse as it paced by turned its head aside delicately like a dowager. (p.12)
It is a key part of Greene’s style to use objective correlatives, to find descriptions which embody his characters’ moods, which both embody and create, perpetuate, the ambience of a world abandoned by God, in ruins, populated by failure and anomie.
An old man went stooping down the shore, very slowly, turning the stones, picking among the dry seaweed for cigarette ends, scraps of food. The gulls which had stood like candles down the beach rose and cried under the promenade. The old man found a boot and stowed it in his sack and a gull dropped from the parade and swept through the iron nave of the Palace Pier, white and purposeful in the obscurity. (p.131)
Catholicism is a fascinating theology but as an ethos seems to have a very detrimental affect on people’s characters, being more or less a practical demonstration of Freud’s notion of ‘repression’, the repression of instinctive drives which results in neuroses, obsessions, unhappiness. On the up side, the compensation appears to be the belief that you are the centre of the universe and that God the Creator is riveted by every motion of your immortal soul. Comforting. Because Catholic belief lists so many ways to sin, it invests what other people, we infidels, think of as harmless everyday acts, with a vast supernatural significance, enough to satisfy even the most monstrous narcissism.
Catholic belief – maybe especially for converts like Waugh and Greene – is thus a way to fill with meaning an otherwise terrifyingly meaningless world. So, on a mundane level, Pinkie marries the simple-minded Rose in a hurry, purely so she can’t testify against him in court. But Rock is sometimes described as Greene’s first overtly Catholic novel because the actions and thoughts of the two sorry protagonists are invested with the garish lights of a melodramatic theology. Because neither of them took confession before taking the sacrament of marriage Pinkie and Rose are, technically – and what else is Catholicism if it isn’t an enormous textbook of technicalities – commiting a mortal sin.
[I didn’t confess, admits Rose.] I went away.’ She said with a mixture of fear and pride. ‘We’re going to do a mortal sin.’ The Boy said with bitter and unhappy relish,’It’ll be no good going to confession ever again – as long as we’re both alive.’ He had graduated in pain… He had a sense now that the murders of Hale and Spicer were trivial acts, a boy’s game, and he had put away childish things. Murder had only led up to this – this corruption. He was filled with awe at his own powers. (p.167)
In the old days, it occurred to him, you signed covenants like this in your blood. He stood back and watched Rose awkwardly sign – his temporal safety in return for two immortalities of pain. He had no doubt whatever that this was mortal sin, and he was filled with a kind of gloomy hilarity and pride. He saw himself now as a full-grown man for whom the angels wept. (p.169)
It seems to me it’s not only Pinkie who thinks dragging Catholic theology into the story will invest him with a spurious maturity and significance – but also the author. From this novel onwards Greene and his fans are able to say that, even if the plot and the characterisation are often not entirely credible, well, he’s got the weight of two thousand years of Catholic theology to dignify his novels, to lend them depth and resonance. It seems, to me, to be cheating.
The Catholicism allows Greene to invest what had been tawdry from a mundane point of view, with the new and sinister glamour of sin. Sin!
She took off her hat, her mackintosh – this was the ritual of mortal sin: this, he thought, is what people damn each other for… ‘It’s Saturday night,’ he said with a bitter taste on his tongue, ‘it’s time for bed.’… Shaken by a kind of rage, he took her by the shoulders… he pushed her against the bed. ‘It’s mortal sin,’ he said, getting what savour these was out of innocence, trying to taste God in the mouth: a brass bedball, her dumb, frightened and aquiescent eyes – he blotted everything out in a sad brutal now-or-never embrace: a cry of pain and then the jangling of the bell beginning all over again. ‘Christ,’ he said… He felt an odd sense of triumph: he had graduated in the last human shame – it wasn’t so difficult after all… he had a sense that he would never be scared again. Running down from the track he had been afraid, afraid of pain and more afraid of damnation – of the sudden and unshriven death. Now it was as if he was damned already and there was nothing more to fear ever again… This was hell, then; it wasn’t anything to worry about; it was just his own familiar room… (pp.180-182)
And much, much more in the same vein. Greene’s Catholicism doesn’t redeem anything at all. It is deployed as a tactic to give his protagonists’ tawdry doings – and therefore the entire text – an extra level of meaning. It doesn’t lead anywhere. It resolves nothing. It is a kind of God porn, leaving the reader in a continuous state of theological arousal.
He heard a whisper, looked sharply round, and thrust the paper back. In an alley between two shops, an old woman sat upon the ground; he could just see the rotting and discoloured face: it was like the sight of damnation. Then he heard the whisper, ‘Blessed art thou among women,’ saw the grey fingers fumbling at the beads. This was not one of the damned: he watched with horrified fascination: this was one of the saved. (p.97)
In chapter 12 of volume II of Norman Sherry’s biography of Greene, he discusses Greene’s anger at the way the 1943 stage production of the book changes his meaning. I had thought the character of Ida, the plump, bossy woman who determines to track down Hale’s killers (ie Pinkie’s gang) and who drives the story forwards to Pinkie’s eventual death, I thought she was a good person. Apparently not. Greene wrote an outraged note to the play’s director.
‘The idea is that Pinkie & Rose belong to the real world in which good & evil exist, but that the interfering Ida belongs to a kind of artificial surface world in which there is no such thing as good & evil but only right & wrong.’ (the Life of Graham Greene, volume II, p.163)
I understand the theology of this but find it shocking as a real belief. It is a form of Platonism: this world is a spume, a dream, a fantasy, a bubble, compared to the True Eternal World of Forms or God’s Love. Pinkie and Rose, because baptised and educated in Catholicism, are playing their parts in that eternal world. Even though evil and sinful people, they have the benefit of being Roman Catholics and therefore true human beings- whereas Ida belongs to the shallow, empty world of the atheists and agnostics and humanists.
It is rather terrifying to realise how completely religious believers can dismiss the good, moral, altruistic behaviour of non-believers, as somehow trivial and insignificant, as unreal and therefore unworthy, compared to their own potentially wicked and evil, but somehow more real and therefore more valid, actions.
And this, from Greene’s own pen, is the meaning and intent of the novel.
The theatrical production was adapted for the screen, featuring many of the same actors from the stage, notably the 19-year-old Richard Attenborough in his breakthrough role as Pinkie.
- The Man Within (1929) One of the worst books I’ve ever read, a wretchedly immature farrago set in a vaguely described 18th century about a cowardly smuggler who betrays his fellows to the Excise men then flees to the cottage of a pure and innocent young woman who he falls in love with before his pathetic inaction leads to her death. Drivel.
The Name of Action (1930) (repudiated by author, never republished) Rumour at Nightfall (1931) (repudiated by author, never republished)
- Stamboul Train (1932) A motley cast of characters find out each others’ secrets and exploit each other on the famous Orient Express rattling across Europe, climaxing in the execution of one of the passengers, a political exile, in an obscure rail junction, and all wound up with a cynical business deal in Istanbul.
- It’s a Battlefield (1934) London: a working class man awaits his death sentence for murder while a cast of seedy characters, including a lecherous HG Wells figure, betray each other and agonise about their pointless lives.
- England Made Me (1935) Stockholm: financier and industrialist Krogh hires a pretty Englishwoman Kate Farrant to be his PA/lover. She gets him to employ her shiftless brother Anthony who, after only a few days, starts spilling secrets to the seedy journalist Minty, and so is bumped off by Krogh’s henchman, Hall.
- A Gun for Sale (1936) England: After assassinating a European politician and sparking mobilisation for war, hitman Raven pursues the lecherous middle man who paid him with hot money to a Midlands town, where he gets embroiled with copper’s girl, Anne, before killing the middle man and the wicked arms merchant who was behind the whole deal, and being shot dead himself.
- Brighton Rock (1938) After Kite is murdered, 17 year-old Pinkie Brown takes over leadership of one of Brighton’s gangs, a razor-happy psychopath who is also an unthinking Catholic tormented by frustrated sexuality. He marries a 16 year-old waitress (who he secretly despises) to stop her squealing on the gang, before being harried to a grisly death.
- The Confidential Agent (1939) D. the agent for a foreign power embroiled in a civil war, tries and fails to secure a contract for British coal to be sent to his side. He flees the police and unfounded accusations of murder, has an excursion to a Midlands mining district where he fails to persuade the miners to go on strike out of solidarity for his (presumably communist) side, is caught by the police, put on trial, then helped to escape across country to a waiting ship, accompanied by the woman half his age who has fallen in love with him.
- The Lawless Roads (1939) Greene travels round Mexico and hates it, hates its people and its culture, the poverty, the food, the violence and despair, just about managing to admire the idealised Catholicism which is largely a product of his own insistent mind, and a few heroic priests-on-the-run from the revolutionary authorities.
- The Power and the Glory (1940) Mexico: An unnamed whisky priest, the only survivor of the revolutionary communists’ pogrom against the Catholic hierarchy, blunders from village to village feeling very sorry for himself and jeopardising lots of innocent peasants while bringing them hardly any help until he is caught and shot.
- The Ministry of Fear (1943) Hallucinatory psychological fantasia masquerading as an absurdist thriller set in London during the Blitz when a man still reeling from mercy-killing his terminally ill wife gets caught up with a wildly improbable Nazi spy ring.
- The Heart of The Matter (1948) Through a series of unfortunate events, Henry Scobie, the ageing colonial Assistant Commissioner of Police in Freetown, Sierra Leone, finds himself torn between love of his wife and of his mistress, spied on by colleagues and slowly corrupted by a local Syrian merchant, until life becomes intolerable and – as a devout Catholic – he knowingly damns himself for eternity by committing suicide. Whether you agree with its Catholic premises or not, this feels like a genuinely ‘great’ novel for the completeness of its conception and the thoroughness of its execution.
- The Third Man (1949) The novella which formed the basis for the screenplay of the famous film starring Orson Welles. Given its purely preparatory nature, this is a gripping and wonderfully-written tale, strong on atmosphere and intrigue and mercifully light on Greene’s Catholic preachiness.
- The End of The Affair (1951) Snobbish writer Maurice Bendrix has an affair with Sarah, the wife of his neighbour on Clapham Common, the dull civil servant, Henry Miles. After a V1 bomb lands on the house where they are illicitly meeting, half burying Bendrix, Sarah breaks off the affair and refuses to see him. Only after setting a detective on her, does Bendrix discover Sarah thought he had been killed in the bombing and prayed to God, promising to end their affair and be ‘good’ if only he was allowed to live – only to see him stumbling in through the wrecked doorway, from which point she feels duty bound to God to keep her word. She sickens and dies of pneumonia like many a 19th century heroine, but not before the evidence begins to mount up that she was, in fact, a genuine saint. Preposterous for most of its length, it becomes genuinely spooky at the end.
- Twenty-One Stories (1954) Generally very short stories, uneven in quality and mostly focused on wringing as much despair about the human condition as possible using thin characters who come to implausibly violent endings – except for three short funny tales.
- The Unquiet American (1955) Set in Vietnam as the French are losing their grip on the country, jaded English foreign correspondent, Thomas Fowler, reacts very badly to fresh-faced, all-American agent Alden Pyle, who both steals his Vietnamese girlfriend and is naively helping a rebel general and his private army in the vain hope they can form a non-communist post-colonial government. So Fowler arranges for Pyle to be assassinated. The adultery and anti-Americanism are tiresome, but the descriptions of his visits to the front line are gripping.
- Loser Takes All (1955) Charming comic novella recounting the mishaps of accountant Bertram who is encouraged to get married at a swanky hotel in Monte Carlo by his wealthy boss who then doesn’t arrive to pick up the bill, as he’d promised to – forcing Bertram to dabble in gambling at the famous Casino and becoming so obsessed with winning that he almost loses his wife before the marriage has even begun.
- Our Man In Havana (1958) Comedy about an unassuming vacuum cleaner salesman, Jim Wormold, living in Havana, who is improbably recruited for British intelligence and, when he starts to be paid, feels compelled to manufacture ‘information’ from made-up ‘agents’. All very farcical until the local security services and then ‘the other side’ start taking an interest, bugging his phone, burgling his flat and then trying to bump him off.
- A Burnt-Out Case (1960) Tragedy. Famous architect Querry travels to the depths of the Congo, running away from his European fame and mistress, and begins to find peace working with the local priests and leprosy doctor, when the unhappy young wife of a local factory owner accuses him of seducing her and fathering her child, prompting her husband to shoot Querry dead.
- The Comedians (1966) Tragedy. Brown returns to run his hotel in Port-au-Prince, in a Haiti writhing under the brutal regime of Papa Doc Duvalier, and to resume his affair with the ambassador’s wife, Martha. A minister commits suicide in the hotel pool; Brown is beaten up by the Tontons Macoute; he tries to help a sweet old American couple convert the country to vegetarianism. In the final, absurd sequence he persuades the obvious con-man ‘major’ Jones to join the pathetic ‘resistance’ (12 men with three rusty guns), motivated solely by the jealous (and false) conviction that Jones is having an affair with his mistress. They are caught, escape, and Brown is forced to flee to the neighbouring Dominican Republic where the kindly Americans get him a job as assistant to the funeral director he had first met on the ferry to Haiti.
- Travels With My Aunt (1969) Comedy. Unmarried, middle-aged, retired bank manager Henry Pullman meets his aunt Augusta at the funeral of his mother, and is rapidly drawn into her unconventional world, accompanying her on the Orient Express to Istanbul and then on a fateful trip to south America, caught up in her colourful stories of foreign adventures and exotic lovers till he finds himself right in the middle of an uncomfortably dangerous situation.
- The Honorary Consul (1973) Tragedy. Dr Eduardo Plarr accidentally assists in the kidnapping of his friend, the alcoholic, bumbling ‘honorary consul’ to a remote city on the border of Argentina, Charley Fortnum, with whose ex-prostitute wife he happens to be having an affair. When he is asked to go and treat Fortnum, who’s been injured, Plarr finds himself also taken prisoner by the rebels and dragged into lengthy Greeneish discussions about love and religion and sin and redemption etc, while they wait for the authorities to either pay the ransom the rebels have demanded or storm their hideout. It doesn’t end well.
- The Human Factor (1978) Maurice Castle lives a quiet, suburban life with his African wife, Sarah, commuting daily to his dull office job in a branch of British Security except that, we learn half way through the book, he is a double agent passing secrets to the Russians. Official checks on a leak from his sector lead to the improbable ‘liquidation’ of an entirely innocent colleague which prompts Castle to make a panic-stricken plea to his Soviet controllers to be spirited out of the country. And so he is, arriving safely in Moscow. But to the permanent separation with the only person he holds dear in the world and who he was, all along, working on behalf of – his beloved Sarah. Bleak and heart-breaking.
- Monsignor Quixote (1982) Father Quixote is unwillingly promoted monsignor and kicked out of his cosy parish, taking to the roads of Spain with communist ex-mayor friend, Enrique ‘Sancho’ Zancas, in an old jalopy they jokingly nickname Rocinante, to experience numerous adventures loosely based on his fictional forebear, Don Quixote, all the while debating Greene’s great Victorian theme, the possibility of a doubting – an almost despairing – Catholic faith.
- The Captain and The Enemy (1988) 12-year-old Victor Baxter is taken out of his boarding school by a ‘friend’ of his father’s, the so-called Captain, who carries him off to London to live with his girlfriend, Liza. Many years later Victor, a grown man, comes across his youthful account of life in this strange household when Liza dies in a road accident, and he sets off on an adult pilgrimage to find the Captain in Central America, a quest which – when he tells him of Liza’s death – prompts the old man to one last – futile and uncharacteristic – suicidal gesture.