Friday, February 05, 2010

30 Days of Recommendations: The End of the Affair

By Graham Greene

What’s it about: Writer Maurice Bendrix has an affair with married Sarah Miles during the London Blitz. After one barely escaping a bombardment attack, Sarah abruptly breaks things off with the stunned Bendrix. Two years later, a jealous and bitter Bendrix runs into Sarah’s milquetoast husband, Henry, who tells him he suspects his wife of having an affair and asks him to investigate who it might be, never realizing they both had a rival neither had a hope of overcoming.

Why you should read it: because it’s one of the best books by Greene, who was constantly overlooked by the Nobel Prize committee, and because of his ability to get inside the head of the obsessive Bendrix, boiling between rage and love while the object of his obsession wrestles with faith and fate. Anyone who has been disappointed in love, or those who like good writing and a good mystery, will appreciate this moving work.

Opening Lines:
"A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead. I say 'one chooses' with the inaccurate pride of a professional writer who—when he has been seriously noted at all—has been praised for his technical ability, but do I in fact of my own will choose that black wet January night on the Common, in 1946, the sight of Henry Miles slanting across the wide river of rain, or did these images choose me? It is convenient, it is correct according to the rules of my craft to begin just there, but if I had believed then in a God, I could also have believed in a hand, plucking at my elbow, a suggestion, 'Speak to him: he hasnt seen you yet.'

For why should I have spoken to him? If hate is not too large a term to use in relation to any human being, I hated Henry—I hated his wife Sarah too. And he, I suppose, came soon after the events of that evening to hate me: as he surely at times must have hated his wife and that other, in whom in those days we were lucky enough not to believe. So this is a record of hate far more than of love, and if I come to say anything in favour of Henry and Sarah I can be trusted: I am writing against the bias because it is my professional pride to prefer the near-truth, even to the expression of my near-hate."