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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The End of the Affair (1951) by Graham Greene

Julianne Moore started in the 1999 film version of The End of the Affair by Neil Jordan.

Book Review
The End of the Affair (1951)
by Graham Greene

   As I make my way into the 1950s, I'm beginning to recognize the literary landscape of my early education, both inside and outside the classroom.  Issac Asimov broke out in the early 1950s- I, Robot and the first Foundation novel, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Catcher in the Rye, Junkie by William Burroughs, The Lord of the Flies, The Lord of the Rings,  all books I read as a lad.  Finally, I am in terra cognita, simply filling in gaps rather than moving through entire decades where every book is a new surprise.

 One of the major advantages of the chronological approach required by the 1001 Books project is that you don't binge on a particular author, but rather get a chance to read each book in it's temporal context with an idea of what other books people (and authors) were reading at the same time.  For an author like Greene, who remained at the top of his game for decades, this is a particularly valuable approach.  

  You can tell that The End of the Affair was written well into his career because his treatment of Catholicism- almost a unifying theme for all of his serious work- is used here as a plot twist.  The story, revolving around an affair between author Maurice Bendix and the wife of his friend, Sarah Miles, appears to be Catholic free until the last 50 pages, when it is revealed that one of the characters may have been a Catholic the entire time, unbeknownst to the other characters.

  You compare this approach to his main characters in books like The Power and the Glory or Brighton Rock, where the Catholicism permeates the text, and you can see that Greene evolved in his approach to his faith and its role in his fiction.  Greene uses several novel (for him) narrative techniques- including a lengthy portion where one character reads the journal of another character- and we read along with him.    This is a variation from all of Greene's novels up to this point- which stick to a first person narration.

  Two different movie versions of The End of the Affair- on in 1955 and the other in 1999 ensure that modern audiences remain vaguely familiar with this text, if only by being able to recognize the title.  The description of London during World War II, and a passage where Bendix actually has a v2 rocket fall on him are another reason to check out this title.

  

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