Thursday, May 27, 2010

The End of the Affair

So I am teaching Graham Greene's The End of the Affairat the moment. I had forgotten the triangular, impossible brutality of that book. Henry married to Sarah. Sarah in love with Bendrix. Bendrix obsessed with Sarah. Sarah promising God to end her affair with Bendrix and remain with Henry. Ouch.

It is like an earthbound Sartre where they can all leave the room. The lines are roughly cut with sharp scissors but retain a softly draped ethereal mist about them. Maybe it is the amount that Greene does not tell us. Maybe it is the post war London silhouette of tilted hats and exploded buildings. There is something about this book.

No one is likable--not really. You would not want to have Bendrix over for dinner or meet Henry for a walk in the park. Sarah compels but because of what she does rather than what she says. It is fascinating to watch someone make such an absolute wreck of two men who love her. Greene has done something extraordinary here. The novel is skinned with a thin dermis of politeness. All Greene's Brighton violence happens within the heart but is just as knifing. There is something about this book.


  1. The movie adaptation with Ralph Fiennes and Julianna Moore resonated with me, I found it profoundly moving and have bought the book to read it, but haven't got around to it yet. Sometimes powerful, overwhelming, upsetting books are good. They make you think, make you feel.

  2. stella, i agree. i have not seen the film but can imagine that fiennes would be brilliant. it is a haunting, sharply cornered theme that fascinates even as it upsets. i have read it many times and am surprised each time at the deeply rooted impossibility and violence at the heart of this book.

  3. Priya, you did it again: this goes to the top of my summer reading list. By the way, I'm currently reading Jude Morgan's Passion, also at your suggestion. So far, I love it!

  4. so glad you are liking passion! this one will crop up again and again in my mind. it is such a difficult, consuming book.

  5. "skinned with a thin dermis of politeness"

    That sounds absolutely, and exactly the kind of read that would fascinate me. I may very well have to add this to the TBR!

  6. "if triangles had gods their gods would have three sides"

    I picked this up re- listening to the Hitch.

    it relates to the Sarah, Henry, Bendrix triangle in some way but I have not yet figured it out.

  7. the gods often do have three sides: hindu, egyptian, christian--trinity gods.

    three sides of what?


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