Graham Greene (2 October 1904 – 3 April 1991) was an English novelist regarded by many as one of the leading English novelists of the 20th century.
Combining literary acclaim with widespread popularity, Greene acquired a reputation early in his lifetime as a major writer, both of serious Catholic novels, and of thrillers (or „entertainments“ as he termed them).
He was shortlisted, in 1966 and 1967, for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Through 67 years of writings, which included over 25 novels, he explored the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world, often through a Catholic perspective.
Greene had a history of depression, which had a profound effect on his writing and personal life. In a letter to his wife, Vivien, he told her that he had „a character profoundly antagonistic to ordinary domestic life,“ and that „unfortunately, the disease is also one’s material.“
William Golding praised Greene as „the ultimate chronicler of twentieth-century man’s consciousness and anxiety.“
He died in 1991, at age 86, of leukemia, and was buried in Corseaux cemetery.
The sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of happiness. In misery we seem aware of our own existence, even though it may be in the form of a monstrous egotism: this pain of mine is individual, this nerve that winces belongs to me and to no other. But happiness annihilates us: we lose our identity.
Point me out the happy man and I will point you out either extreme egotism, selfishness, evil – or else an absolute ignorance.
Despair is the price one pays for setting oneself an impossible aim. It is, one is told, the unforgivable sin, but it is a sin the corrupt or evil man never practices. He always has hope. He never reaches the freezing-point of knowing absolute failure. Only the man of goodwill carries always in his heart this capacity for damnation.
Time has its revenges, but revenge seems so often sour. Wouldn’t we all do better not trying to understand, accepting the fact that no human being will ever understand another, not a wife with a husband, nor a parent a child? Perhaps that’s why men have invented God – a being capable of understanding.
Friendship is something in the soul. It is a thing one feels. It is not a return for something.
Hate is an automatic response to fear, for fear humiliates
When you visualized a man or a woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity… that was a quality God’s image carried with it… when you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of imagination.
Hatred seems to work on the same glands as love: it even produces the same actions. If we had not been taught how to interpret the story of the Passion, would we have been able to say from their actions alone whether it was the jealous Judas or the cowardly Peter who loved Christ?
Grief and disappointment are like hate: they make men ugly with self-pity and bitterness. And how selfish they make us too.
In our hearts there is a ruthless dictator, ready to contemplate the misery of a thousand strangers if it will ensure the happiness of the few we love.
To be in love is to see yourself as someone else sees you, it is to be in love with the falsified and exalted image of yourself. In love we are incapable of honour – the courageous act is no more than playing a part to an audience of two.
Suffering is not increased by numbers. One body can contain all the suffering the world can feel.
Life would go out in a ‘fraction of a second’ (that was the phrase), but all night he had been realizing that time depends on clocks and the passage of light. There were no clocks and the light wouldn’t change. Nobody really knew how long a second of pain could be. It might last a whole purgatory – or for ever.