(Henry) Graham Greene
English novelist, short-story writer, playwright and journalist, whose
novels treat moral issues in the context of political settings. Greene
is one of the most widely read novelist of the 20th-century, a superb
storyteller. Adventure and suspense are constant elements in his novels
and many of his books have been made into successful films. Although
Greene was a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature several times,
he never received the award.
"The main characters in a novel must necessarily have some kinship to
the author, they come out of his body as a child comes from the womb,
then the umbilical cord is cut, and they grow into independence. The
more the author knows of his own character the more he can distance
himself from his invented characters and the more room they have to grow
in." (Graham Greene in Ways of Escape, 1980)
Graham Greene was born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, as the son of
Charles Greene and Marion Raymond Greene, a first cousin of the author
Robert Louis Stevenson. Greene's father had a poor academic record but
became the headmaster of Berkhamsted School, following Dr. Thomas Fry.
Charles Greene had a brilliant intellect. Originally he had intended to
become a barrister. However, he found that he had liking for teaching
and he decided to stay at Berkhamsted. Often his history lessons were
less lessons than comments on the crack-up of Liberalism. His brother
Graham ended his career as Permanent Secretary at the Admiralty.
Greene was educated at Berkhamstead School and Balliol College, Oxford.
He had a natural talent for writing, and during his three years at
Balliol, he published more than sixty poems, stories, articles and
reviews, most of which appeared in the student magazine Oxford Outlook
and in the Weekly Westminster Gazette. In 1926 he converted to Roman
Catholicism, later explaining that "I hand to find a religion... to
measure my evil against." When critics started to study the religious
faith in his work, Greene complained that he hated the term 'Catholic
In 1926 Geene moved to London. He worked for the Times of London
(1926-30), and for the Spectator, where he was a film critic and a
literary editor until 1940. In 1927 he married Vivien Dayrell-Browning.
After the collapse of their marriage, he had several relationships,
among others in the 1950s with the Swedish actress Anita Bjoerk, whose
husband writer Stig Dagerman had committed suicide. During the 1920s and
1930s Greene had, according to his own private reckoning, some sort of
of relationship with no less than forty-seven prostitutes. In 1938
Greene began an affair with Dorothy Glover, a theatre costume designer;
they were closely involved with each other until the late 1940s. She
started a career as a book illustrator under the name 'Dorothy Craigie'
and wrote children's books of her own, among them Nicky and Nigger and
the Pirate (1960).
During World War II Greene worked "in a silly useless job" as he later
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