Graham Greene

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Graham Greene (1939)

Graham Greene (born October 2, 1904 in Berkhamsted , Hertfordshire , Great Britain , † April 3, 1991 in Vevey , Switzerland ; actually Henry Graham Greene ) was a British writer . He started out as a journalist and then worked as a novelist , playwright and screenwriter. Many of his novels, short stories and plays were made into films. He also wrote travel literature, essays and children's books.



Greene's birthplace in Berkhamsted

Graham Greene was the fourth of six children of the teacher Charles Henry Greene († 1943) and his wife Marian (also Marion ), née Raymond († 1959). The parents were first cousins . Her influential extended family included bankers, politicians and the owners of a brewery, the Greene King Brewery in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, which Charles Greene's grandfather Benjamin Greene founded in 1799. Through his mother, Graham Greene was a great-nephew of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson .

The eldest brother Raymond († 1982) was a doctor and mountaineer. He took part in the expedition to Mount Everest in 1933 . One of the younger brothers, Hugh Greene (1910–1987), was a journalist and later a director general of the BBC .

School time and studies

School began in 1910 at the boarding school in Berkhamsted, whose headmaster was his father. Greene's childhood was difficult because he was caught in a loyalty conflict between his father and his classmates. In his autobiography, Greene later reported that as a schoolboy he was depressed and made several suicide attempts, including through Russian roulette . In 1920, at the age of 16, he was sent to London for six months for psychoanalytic treatment. In 1922 he was a member of the Communist Party for a short time . At that time he tried unsuccessfully to obtain an invitation from the Soviet Union to travel there.

Greene studied history at Balliol College , Oxford . A volume of poetry entitled Babbling April was the first work to be published in 1925, but it received little attention.

Journalism and marriage

After graduation, Greene worked as a journalist for four years , first with the Nottingham Journal and then as a sub-editor on the editorial staff of The Times newspaper .

In Nottingham he began a correspondence with the same age Catholic Vivien Dayrell-Browning (born August 1, 1904), who had written to him to enlighten him about a misrepresented aspect of the Catholic doctrine. Greene was agnostic at the time , but the two grew closer. In 1926 , at the age of 22 , Greene converted to Catholicism , to the surprise of his Anglican entourage , so that a wedding became possible. Graham Greene and Vivien Dayrell-Browning were married on October 15, 1927 in Hampstead, London . The marriage resulted in the daughters Caroline Bourget-Greene (* 1933) and Francis Greene (* 1936).

Life as a writer

In 1929 Greene published his first novel, The Man Within . The positive response encouraged him to quit his journalistic work at the Times and from now on to live as a novelist. The next two attempts, The Name of Action (1930) and Rumor at Nightfall (1931), failed. The breakthrough came in 1932 with the novel Stamboul Train (title in the USA: Orient Express ), which was made into a film in 1934.

To supplement his income, Greene also wrote articles for newspapers, for example film reviews for the magazine The Spectator , in which he panned Alfred Hitchcock . He was co-editor of Night and Day magazine . Some remarks about US child star Shirley Temple in his review of the film Wee Willie Winkie (1937) led to a libel trial that ruined Night and Day magazine . Greene had meanwhile traveled to Mexico and waited there for the trial to end. During this time his passion for travel began. In Mexico, in his matured idea for that novel, which is often referred to as his masterpiece: The Power and the Glory ( The Power and the Glory , 1940).

During the Second World War , Greene worked from 1942 to 1943 in a special mission of the British foreign intelligence service for the Foreign Office in West Africa . In this capacity he was subordinate to the double agent Kim Philby . Greene's precise knowledge of the hidden sides of the diplomatic corps originates from this time, which he portrayed in his novels in a delightful ironic way, for example in Our Man in Havana (1958).

Greene was driven by the eternal feeling of boredom he wanted to escape from, as he recounts in his autobiography Ways of Escape . This led him to alcohol, which plays a role in many of his novels, such as the “Schnaps Priest” in The Power and the Glory and in the crucial scene of Our Man in Havana . Greene traveled to the crisis areas of his time, he threw himself into many affairs and was also a frequent guest in brothels. The Greene couple separated in 1947 because of numerous affairs, but remained married until his death.

Greene was extraordinarily productive as a writer, and he was a formidable writer of letters to the editor . His first play, The Living Room (1953), was a huge hit. In the same year, Giuseppe Cardinal Pizzardo , secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith , cast a spell on the novel The Power and the Glory . Greene was a critic of the official Church throughout his life.

In his mature years, Greene became a sharp critic of US foreign policy and endorsed the policies of Fidel Castro . In the novel The Quiet American (1955), he implicitly criticized US foreign policy in Indochina . The book has been widely criticized in the United States for being anti-American . Together with other US criticisms of Greene, it was the reason that he was practically continuously under surveillance by US intelligence services from the 1950s until his death in 1991, which only became known in 2002.

In the novel The Hour of the Comedians (1966) Greene presented the terror regime of the Tontons Macoutes in Haiti and described in a brochure François Duvalier , the head of state of Haiti, as a “torturer”. Thereupon he was persecuted by Duvalier with slander.

His large circle of friends included the writer Evelyn Waugh , a Catholic convert like Greene himself, Omar Torrijos , the President of Panama, and the film producer Alexander Korda . In the 1973 film The American Night by François Truffaut , Greene played a silent role. Greene was present in public for over forty years, but he kept his private life as shielded as possible. That led to the question of whether he really stopped working for the secret service after the Second World War. The Orient Express says: "A novelist is something like a spy."

Graham Greene's grave in Corseaux

Rudolf Walter Leonhardt , who was personally acquainted with Greene, saw in the British author above all an individualist who was too difficult to classify for literary studies and also for the jury of the Nobel Prize for Literature :

“Isn't Graham Greene 'idealistic' enough (this criterion appears in Nobel's testament)?, Not moral enough (too much whiskey and too much sex) ?, too liberal for the communists, too 'sympathetic' for the liberals ?, for the Catholics heretical, too catholic for the atheists? entertaining intellectual critics ?, too white men for colored people, too chameleon for white people? No matter, Graham Greene has millions of readers and admirers around the world, but he lacks a lobby of influential friends. [...] He is a loner [...], he loves the masses of people little, and he also treats individuals with mistrust. "

Greene spent the last phase of his life in Switzerland, in Vevey on Lake Geneva . He befriended Charlie Chaplin , who also lived in Vevey, and visited him often until Chaplin died in 1977. Graham Greene died of leukemia in 1991 at the age of 86 . His grave is in the cemetery of Corseaux , Canton of Vaud . His wife Vivien died in Oxfordshire in 2003 at the age of 99.

To the novels

Greene himself long divided his works into novels (the serious novels like Battlefield of Life, 1934) and entertainments (the entertainment novels like Jagd im Nebel, 1939), but later abandoned this distinction. The worldwide popularity of Greene's novels is also reflected in the fact that almost all of the novels were made into films, some of them several times. Some novels found wide circulation in Germany when they came out as inexpensive paperbacks by Rowohlt Verlag in the 1950s .


The writer Marjorie Bowen and her work The Viper of Milan (1906), which Graham Greene had read at the age of fourteen, he himself named as the trigger for the beginning of his writing: "From that moment I began to write." He was also enthusiastic about Joseph Conrad , but also about spy novels by John Buchan ( The 39 Steps ). In his autobiography Ways of Escape , Greene named other writers who influenced him at the beginning, most notably TS Eliot and Herbert Read . James Joyce and Ezra Pound were of lesser importance .

In addition to his great-uncle Robert Louis Stevenson , Henry James was also important for his later development as a writer , about whom Greene wrote: “With the death of Henry James the English novel lost its religious feeling, and with the religious feeling he lost the feeling for importance human actions. It was as if English literature had lost a dimension. "

Especially after the publication of the novel The End of the Affair (1951), literary criticism established a relationship with the Renouveau catholique , a literary-philosophical movement that originated in France. Influences from Georges Bernanos , but also François Mauriac , Julien Green and Léon Bloy are mentioned . For example, Graham Greene uses a quote from Léon Bloy to describe the subject of the novel The End of the Affair .


His novels, some of which are extremely successful, repeatedly address central points of the human condition such as guilt, (un) belief and betrayal in the outer guise of adventure stories, spy stories and crime novels . Greene was, among other things, a vehement critic of colonialism and its excesses.

Especially in his early novels there is a shabby, dreary atmosphere in which people seek redemption (until A Burned Out Case , 1960). In English usage, the term Greeneland was established for this atmosphere . In his later novels, such as from Die Reisen mit mein Aante (1969), he increasingly combined his traditional themes such as religion and crime with a sense of black humor (as in Dr. Fischer from Geneva or Die Bombparty ).


Graham Greene is considered the author with the most nominations for the Nobel Prize for Literature. He never got it, but received the following awards:

He was also nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay in 1950 for his work on Little Heart in Need , a film adaptation of his own material . The National Board of Review awarded him a Best Screenplay Award in 1949 for the same production.



  • 1929 The Man Within
    • Conflict of the soul, German by Walther Puchwein; Zsolnay , Hamburg 1952.
    • New translation: Zwiespalt der Seele, German by Marion Zerbst; Zsolnay, Darmstadt / Vienna 1990. ISBN 3-552-04134-6
  • 1930 The Name of Action (novella - not recognized by Greene)
  • 1931 Rumor At Nightfall (novella - not recognized by Greene)
  • 1932 Stamboul Train (US title Orient Express , 1933)
    • Orientexpress, German by J. Lesser; Zsolnay, Vienna, Hamburg 1950.
    • New translation: Orient-Express, German by Gerhard Beckmann; Zsolnay, Darmstadt / Vienna 1990. ISBN 3-552-04135-4
  • 1934 It's a Battlefield
    • Battlefield of Life, German by Walther Puchwein; Zsolnay, Vienna 1952.
    • New translation: The battlefield of life, German by Gerhard Beckmann; Zsolnay, Darmstadt / Vienna 1989. ISBN 3-552-04136-2
  • 1935 The Bear Fell Free
  • 1935 England Made Me (US title The Shipwrecked , 1953)
    • A son of England, German by Walther Puchwein; Zsolnay, Vienna 1952.
    • New translation: A son of England, German by Gerhard Beckmann; Zsolnay, Darmstadt / Vienna 1989. ISBN 3-552-04137-0
  • 1936 A Gun for Sale. Entertainment
    • The assassination, German by HB Kranz; Zsolnay, Vienna 1951.
    • New translation: The assassination, German by Klaus Kamberger; Zsolnay, Darmstadt / Vienna 1993. ISBN 3-423-11717-6
  • 1938 Brighton Rock
    • Brighton Rock, German by Magda H. Larsen; Zsolnay, Berlin, Vienna, Leipzig 1948.
    • also as: At the abyss of life, same translation; Rowohlt, Hamburg 1950.
    • New translation: Am Abgrund des Lebens, German by Barbara Rojahn-Deyk, edited by Fanny Esterhàzy; Zsolnay, Vienna 1994. ISBN 3-552-04430-2
  • 1939 The Confidential Agent
    • Jagd im Nebel, German by Edmund Th. Kauer; Zsolnay, Hamburg 1951.
    • New translation: Jagd im Nebel, German by Christian Spiel; Zsolnay, Vienna 1994. ISBN 3-552-04604-6
  • 1940 The Power and the Glory
  • 1943 The Ministry of Fear
    • Center of Terror, German by Walther Puchwein; Zsolnay, Vienna 1952.
  • 1948 The Heart of the Matter
  • 1950 The Third Man
  • 1951 The End of the Affair
  • 1955 Loser Takes All
    • Never marry in Monte Carlo, German by Ernst Laue; Zsolnay, Vienna 1955.
  • 1955 The Quiet American
  • 1958 Our Man in Havana
  • 1960 A burnt-out case
  • 1966 The Comedians
    • The hour of the comedians, German by Hilde Spiel ; Zsolnay, Vienna 1966.
  • 1969 Travels With My Aunt
    • Travels with my aunt , German by Maria Felsenreich and Hans W. Polak; Zsolnay, Vienna 1970.
    • New translation: Traveling with my aunt, German by Brigitte Hilzensauer; Zsolnay, Vienna 2000. ISBN 3-552-04978-9
  • 1973 The Honorary Consul
  • 1978 The Human Factor
    • The human factor, German by Luise Wasserthal-Zuccari and Hans W. Polak; Zsolnay, Hamburg / Vienna 1978. ISBN 3-552-03013-1
    • New translation: The human factor, German by Ilse Walter; Zsolnay, Vienna 2003. ISBN 3-552-05276-3
  • 1980 Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party
  • 1982 Monsignor Quixote
    • Monsignore Quijote, German by Gertie Polak u. Hans W. Polak; Zsolnay, Hamburg / Vienna 1982. ISBN 3-552-03425-0
  • 1985 The Tenth Man (written in 1944)
    • The tenth man, German by Alexandra Auer and Hans W. Polak; Zsolnay, Hamburg / Vienna 1985. ISBN 3-552-03706-3
  • 1988 The Captain and the Enemy


  • 1929 The End of the Party (short story)
    • Spiel im Dunkeln, German by Walther Puchwein; Benziger, Cologne 1950.
  • 1963 A Sense of Reality (contains the stories Under the Garden , A Visit to Morin , Dream of a Strange Land , A Discovery in the Woods )
    • Under the garden, German by Walther Puchwein; Zsolnay, Vienna 1963.
  • 1967 May We Borrow Your Husband? (contains stories May We Borrow Your Husband? , Beauty , Chagrin in Three Parts , The Over-night Bag , Mortmain , Cheap in August , A Shocking Accident , The Invisible Japanese Gentlemen , Awful When You Think of It , Doctor Crombie , The Root of All Evil , Two Gentle People )
    • Will you lend us your husband? - Erotic comedies , German by Hilde Spiel and Walther Puchwein; Zsolnay, Vienna 1967.
  • 1990 The Last Word and Other Stories (contains the stories The Last Word , The News in English , The Moment of Truth , The Man Who Stole the Eiffel Tower , The Lieutenant Died Last , A Branch of the Service , An Old Man's Memory , The Lottery Ticket , The New House , Work Not in Progress , Murder for the Wrong Reason , An Appointment With the General )
    • The man who stole the Eiffel Tower and other stories, German by Monika Seeger; Zsolnay, Vienna 1993. ISBN 3-552-04404-3

Stage plays

  • 1953 The Great Jowett (radio play)
  • 1953 The Living Room - world premiere: Dramaten , Stockholm; October 31, 1952
    • The last room, German by Alex Cornelius; German-language premiere: Städtische Bühnen Dortmund; April 14, 1953
  • 1957 The Potting Shed - World premiere: Bijou Theater, New York; January 29, 1957
  • 1959 The Complaisant Lover - First performed at the Globe Theater , London; June 18, 1959
  • 1964 Carving a Statue - World premiere: Haymarket Theater , London; 17th September 1964
    • The image, German by Peter von Wiese - German-language premiere: Städtische Bühnen Bielefeld, April 20, 1969
  • 1975 The Return of AJRaffles - World premiere: Royal Shakespeare Company , London; December 10, 1975
    • Raffle's return, German by Tatjana Sais and Hugh Green - not performed
  • 1980 For Whom the Bell Chimes - World premiere: Haymarket Studio Theater, Leicester; March 20, 1980
    • The hour has struck, German by Alex Cornelius - not performed


  • 1958
    • From the paradox of Christianity. With a foreword by Gertrud von le Fort , (Herder-Bücherei Vol. 31), Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1958.
  • 1971 A Sort of Life
    • A kind of life, German by Maria Felsenreich, Hans W. Polak, Hanna Lux, Ida Koch-Löpringen; Zsolnay, Hamburg / Vienna 1971.
    • New translation: A kind of life, German by Dieter Hildebrandt; Zsolnay, Vienna 2004. ISBN 3-552-05311-5
  • 1980 Ways of Escape
    • Escape routes, German by Ursula Dülberg and Hans W. Polak; Zsolnay, Hamburg / Vienna 1981. ISBN 3-552-03326-2
  • 1984 Getting to Know the General. The story of an involvement
    • My friend the general. History of an engagement, German by Werner Richter; Zsolnay, Hamburg / Vienna 1984. ISBN 3-552-03622-9
  • 1992 A World of My Own: A Dream Diary

Children's books

  • 1946 The Little Train (with illustrations by Dorothy Craigie)
    • The little locomotive: Narrated for big and small people, German by Alexandra Auer and Ilse Walter; Rauch, Düsseldorf 1953.
  • 1950 The Little Fire Engine (with illustrations by Dorothy Craigie)
    • The small fire engine, German by Alexandra Auer and Ilse Walter; Rauch, Düsseldorf 1954.
  • 1952 The Little Horse Bus (with illustrations by Dorothy Craigie)
    • The little horse-drawn bus; German from Ilse Walter; Rauch, Düsseldorf 1955.
  • 1955 The Little Steamroller (with illustrations by Dorothy Craigie)


  • 1925 Babbling April
  • 1983 A Quick Look Behind

Travel literature

  • 1936 Journey without Maps
    • The way to Africa, German by Richard Moehring; The Ark, Zurich, 1950.
    • Journey without maps, German by Michael Kleeberg; Liebeskind, Munich, 2015
  • 1939 The Lawless Roads
    • Lawless Streets: Notes from Mexico, German by Hubert Greifeneder; Herder, Vienna 1949.
  • 1961 In Search of a Character: Two African Journals
    • African diary, German by Heinrich Bohn; Zsolnay, Vienna / Hamburg 1963.
  • 1990 A Weed Among the Flowers



  • 1932 The Old School: Essays by Divers Hands (Essays)
  • 1942 British Dramatists
  • 1948 Why Do I Write? An Exchange of Views between Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene and VS Pritchett
  • 1951 The Lost Childhood and Other Essays
  • 1957 The Spy's Bedside Book (edited with Hugh Greene )
  • 1969 Introduction to My Silent War by Kim Philby
  • 1969 Collected Essays
  • 1974 Lord Rochester's Monkey. Being the Life of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester (biography).
    • Lord Rochester's monkey. The dissolute life of the ingenious drunkard and whore house poet, German by Inge Resch and Brigitte Burger (text), Hermann Buchner (poems); Zsolnay, Vienna 1974. ISBN 3-552-02818-8
  • 1975 An Impossible Woman: The Memories of Dottoressa Moor of Capri (Editor)
  • 1980 The Pleasure-Dome: The Collected Film Criticism, 1935–40
  • 1982 J'Accuse: The Dark Side of Nice
  • 1989 Yours, etc .: Letters to the Press
  • 1989 Why the Epigraph?
  • 1991 Reflections
  • 1993 The Graham Greene Film Reader: Reviews, Essays, Interviews and Film Stories
  • 2006 Articles of Faith: The Collected Tablet Journalism of Graham Greene
  • 2007 Graham Greene: A Life in Letters (edited by Richard Greene)

Film adaptations

Graham Greene is one of the most filmed writers of the 20th century. Most of his novels have been made into films, as have many of his plays and short stories. The Internet Movie Database lists 66 films from 1934 to 2010 that are based on works by Greene.


  • John A. Atkins: Graham Greene . Calder & Boyars, London 1970
  • Ulrich Greiwe: Graham Greene and the richness of life . Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag, Munich 2004 ISBN 3-423-24417-8
  • Shirley Hazzard: Encounter on Capri. Memories of Graham Greene . Zsolnay Verlag, Vienna 2002 ISBN 3-552-05201-1
  • Josef Rischik: Graham Greene and his work . Dissertation University of Bern a. Swiss English Studies, 28th vol., Francke, Bern 1951
  • Michael Shelden: Graham Greene: a biography . Steidl, Göttingen 1995 ISBN 3-88243-368-X
  • Norman Sherry: The Life of Graham Greene . Penguin Books, Harmonsworth 1990 ff (vol. 1–3)
  • Philip Stratford: Faith and fiction: creative processes in Greene and Mauriac . Notre Dame, Ind., Univ., Diss., Notre Dame 1967
  • William J. West: The Quest for Graham Greene . St. Martin's Pr., New York 1988 ISBN 0-312-18161-2

Web links


Individual evidence

  1. Ulrich Greiwe: Graham Greene and the wealth of life . Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag, Munich 2004, pp. 205 ff.
  2. Thein Fidel: Biography.
  3. ^ Rowohlt Verlag (ed.): What they write. What they look like . Rowohlt, Hamburg 1954. p. 33 (not paginated).
  4. Ulrich Greiwe: Graham Greene and the wealth of life . Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag, Munich 2004, p. 205.
  5. ^ Author portrait in: Graham Greene: The end of an affair . Rowohlt, Hamburg 1955, p. 2.
  6. ^ Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham MI6 agents. In: Der Standard from September 22, 2010, accessed November 25, 2013
  7. The British newspaper The Guardian was able to deduce this in 2002 from US government documents that it had received under the Freedom of Information Act . In life as in fiction, Greene's taunts left Americans in a quiet fury. The Guardian, December 2, 2002
  8. ^ Graham Greene: Orient Express . Rowohlt, Hamburg 1950, p. 102.
  9. ^ Rudolf Walter Leonhardt: We are talking about the human. Why Graham Greene doesn't get the Nobel Prize. The time , 47/1978
  10. ^ Graham Greene: The Lost Childhood and Other Essays. Eyre & Spottiswoode, London 1951, p. 14.
  11. ^ Graham Greene: Escape Routes . Zsolnay, Hamburg a. Vienna, 1981, p. 42.
  12. Rudolf Walter Leonhardt : The dangerous edge of things. Nekrolog in: Die Zeit, No. 16 of April 12, 1991.
  13. ^ Author portrait in: Graham Greene: The end of an affair . Rowohlt, Hamburg 1955, p. 2 u. 7th
  14. ^ A b Graham Greene: The Quiet American. Penguin, London 1974, p. 1.