Sunday, November 11, 2012

Graham Greene - The Human Factor

There was a time a month or two ago, when I yearned to read something by Graham Greene.  My pocket being on the slender side, my budget for books is not much.  Hence, such wishes are not followed necessarily by an order on Flipkart.

I can redress that by joining the State Library.  I am also lazy, and forget to just walk into the library and get myself a membership.

I did remember to walk into the sprawling second hand book market that we have in Chandigarh in Sector 15, right next to the Lajpat Rai Bhawan.  This time round I managed to find myself quite a treasure.  Among my second hand loot, was a book by Graham Greene, The Human Factor.

The books starts elegantly, languidly, describing a routine day in the life of Maurice Castle, a secret service employee.  Along with his colleague Arthur Davis, he mans the Africa desk at the embassy.  Their job is not glamorous or of any earth shaking importance.  Their mundane existence is shaken by a sudden scrutiny of their lives by a new security officer.  Being an old hand Castle knows exactly what that means.  There is a breach in the security and he is a suspect, along with Davis.

Castle has had an unblemished service.  He did have a spot of trouble with apartheid when he was posted in South Africa and fell in love with a black woman of the Bantu tribe, Sarah.  He managed to get her out of there and married her, and had a son.  Ever since he has settled in the suburbs, and lives a dull domesticated life.  His conduct is exemplary and he has nothing to fear.

On the other hand, Davis was caught taking official papers out with him.  He drinks too much, gambles and womanizes. The needle of suspicion is likely to point to him, but he is not guilty, Castle knows.

Colonel Daintry, Hargreaves and Doctor Percival are some of the people conducting the inquiry into the leak.  Despite their jolly and bluff manner, Hargreaves and Dr. Percival are not as harmless as they seem.  Despite his blustering ways, Colonel Daintry is not as threatening as he looks.  The secrets, once they start tumbling out the closet do not cease, until we learn the entire sad truth at the very end.

The book starts slow, the pace is unhurried, as I mentioned earlier, languid.  But readers of fiction of this sort know that the calm is merely that on the surface of the hill just before the volcano erupts.  The story picks up pace, and takes us through rapid climaxes to the end.

It is a story about love, and what people do for love.  It is also about politics of our world,  just what we expect a Graham Greene novel to be about.  It is as incisive as Graham Greene novels are, and we wind up feeling sad for the state our world is in, and the way it uses ordinary people as grist to its mill.

To quote a blurb at the back of the book:

"To the lonely, isolated, neurotic world of the Secret Service, Graham Greene brings his brilliance and perception, laying bare a machine that sometimes overlooks the subtle and secret motivations that impel us all."


harveypam said...

sounds good!
I have read something from Graham Greene, but remember what or which?

Carole said...

Thanks for commenting on Books You loved. I have linked the post in for you using Mr Linky. Have a good week.

Ava Suri said...


:) Socho socho!

Ava Suri said...

Thank you very much Carole!

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