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The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
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The End of the Affair (original 1951; edition 2003)

by Graham Greene

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Member:dylanwolf
Title:The End of the Affair
Authors:Graham Greene
Info:Vintage (2003), Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:FUE - KEL
Rating:
Tags:England, tbr

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The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (1951)

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It is part of the pact we make with those unknown forces which govern the universe that when we fall in love we accept we will also endure the pain of love's end. It's not always a conscious decision, but we all know on some level deep down that all good things must end, that for every moment of pleasure a price in pain must be paid. The only ones immune to this cosmic bartering are the astonishingly beautiful and the astonishingly stupid. It is with this tragedy of loving another person, of the highs and the lows that result, that The End of the Affair occupies itself. And it is because nearly every member of the human race experiences this pleasure and this pain that many will identify with the emotions in this small and unassuming novel, even if the backdrop of the affair – of post-war London and of the contradictions of Catholicism – remains alien. I confess that I didn't fully understand some of the God stuff – particularly towards the end of the book – although the excellent comparison between the love for God and the love for a woman on page 47 is worthy of note. But it doesn't matter: it is the emotional intelligence of the novel which gives it its universal quality.

Because we identify and connect with this emotional integrity and with the raw, imperfect – that is to say, human – characters, the novel can be a difficult read. Not difficult as in impenetrable or boring, you understand: the prose is very engaging and the pages turn easily. In fact, at times it reads a bit like a thriller, which of course author Graham Greene was also adept at writing. Rather, it is difficult to read because the emotions which are evoked on the page – and explained so eloquently by Greene – are ones which we have all experienced in varying degrees of intensity. All the facets of love, from the good (trust, hope, etc.) to the bad (trust, hope, etc.), are recalled from the depths of our own memories by Greene's prose, and we find ourselves as readers not just negotiating the love affair of Maurice and Sarah but also our own personal heartache. When I pictured Maurice, I did not just see a middle-aged writer with a bum leg: I saw myself, still a relatively young and able-bodied man. And when I pictured Sarah, I did not just see the unhappy wife of a civil servant or the striking blonde-haired lady pictured on the front cover: I saw her, dark-haired and doe-eyed and perfectly happy and content in her life without me.

This quality gives the novel a far greater weight than its mere two-hundred pages would suggest. It covers all the different emotions involved in being in love, but is particularly good at articulating the negative ones. As Greene is not shy of emphasising, the novel is, for the most part, about the hate involved in loving someone. The obsessiveness, the jealousy, the anxiety – these are just as natural in love as compassion, affection and ecstasy. In one passage, Greene notes how, when in love, a man can turn a blind eye to a woman's more troubling and inconsistent actions no matter how disconcerting they become: I woke with the sadness of her… still resting on my mind, and within three minutes of waking her voice on the telephone dispelled it… When she came into a room or put her hand on my side she created at once the absolute trust I lost with every separation." (pg. 48). He wants to believe she is honest and true, despite all evidence to the contrary, and that belief is enough. Irrationality is surely one more aspect of love (note: is this related to the God stuff I mentioned earlier?)

Elsewhere, Greene evokes the torturous process of hope (for it is the hope, not the despair, that is the killer) involved in waiting for a telephone call from a woman, and gradually coming to the realisation that she's not going to do it. She's not going to do what she promised to do: "For days after that, of course, I had hope. It was only a coincidence, I thought, that the telephone wasn't answered... Morning after morning I would hear the rattle in the post-box and deliberately I would remain upstairs until my landlady fetched my mail. I wouldn't look through the letters – disappointment had to be postponed, hope kept alive as long as possible; I would read each letter in turn and only when I reached the bottom of the pile could I be certain that there was nothing from Sarah. Then life withered until the four o'clock post, and after that one had to get through the night again." (pg. 74). And later: "I went home in the tube with hope for company, and sitting at home, in dying expectation of the telephone-bell ringing, I saw my companion depart again: it wouldn't be today." (pg. 134).

These passages and many, many more are ones that I, and many other readers, no doubt, can automatically apply to our own experiences, past or present. It is not a cathartic read, for Greene has no answers to this pain, but there is a tiny shred of comfort in knowing you're not the only one who's been made to feel this way. All men should read this book even if just to feel some sort of comradeship with other men; all women should read it to get some insight into just what they are capable of doing to men. Because far too many are unaware of their potency. Or worse, they don't care." ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
Review: The End Of The Affair by Graham Greene. This story was about exploring the darker and metaphysical side of love, hate and religion. I did enjoy the author’s skill in conveying the deepest of human emotions and obsessive behavior in a prose style. There was a number of interesting themes within the story. Greene also examines the fine line between love and hate, and makes comments of the importance of observations about the nature of jealously and human love. Greene’s covers his main character‘s view on the job of writing, interwoven with the larger themes of adultery and spirituality. It was a good story but sometimes confusing because of the origination of events and some points of view were unsettled for my reading. The story is about a triangle relationship between Maurice Bendrix, whose profession is a writer, Sarah Miles, as a housewife, and Henry Miles a business man. Bendrix is the protagonist who is narrating the story in first person which increases the intensity of the emotions that are felt when reading the novel. Plus, Greene portrayed Sarah as somewhat of a saint because of her goodness and elite traits but also showing the sinful adulteress as her flaw. Henry Miles is portrayed as naïve, gullible, and not that sensitive when it came to his wife. Bendrix’s love for Sarah, a married woman, is described with honesty and frankness, as he is unashamed to state the selfishness that is his worst fault and enemy. Bendrix’s has no trouble describing his distaste, disregard and pity for others who surround him. Sarah has many secrets and does not convey any of her thought or issues with her husband or Mr. Bendrix. Her conscious turmoil was religion. She was at a place in her life where she was revolving around her religious beliefs with help from a clergy of sorts who hid his scared face for years behind a veil which later on in the story his face becomes pure and smooth. This is one of the times where Greene influences the story towards Sarah having a God like power. The other time is when she believes Bendrix’s is dead and she makes a statement to God and say‘s, “if you allow Bendrix to live I will stop my sinful adultery ways. Bendrix did live and Sarah gave up the person she loved. Bendrix was beside himself not knowing why Sarah broke off their relationship. As the story goes on Bendrix and Henry become friends and go on living their lives as they wanted. The story made sense once I got done the book but I felt like it was coming together like a puzzle as an effect of what came first, the love, the hate or was it the religion aspect of the story. I will say they were complicated characters…. ( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
Colin Firth. Need I say more? He brings incredible depth to a book that explores life, death, love and faith. This book is a prime example of the reason that classics are classics. Few writers can take such a deep subject and have something new to express about it, while still allowing the reader to make up her own mind.

This book begins with the end and goes backwards, forwards and in between. This book begins with hate, anger, and jealousy, and ends in forgiveness, love and hope. Here are a few good quotes:

Maurice Bendrix: "Love had turned into "love affair" with a begining and an end.”

* * *
Sarah: Love doesn't end, just because we don't see each other.
Maurice Bendrix: Doesn't it?
Sarah: People go on loving God, don't they? All their lives. Without seeing him.
Maurice Bendrix: That's not my kind of love.
Sarah: Maybe there is no other kind.


* * *
Maurice Bendrix: You have to understand. I'm jealous of everything that moves. I'm jealous of the rain!

* * *

One can't read classics all of the time. They are too deep. But they are good to read every once in a while so a good goal to try is to read a classic once a year. Because they are so deep, they are very fulfilling and they are great brain fodder. If you want to read at least one classic a year, I highly suggest this book, by way of the Colin Firth audible rendition.


( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
The novel focuses on Maurice Bendrix, a rising writer during World War II in London, and Sarah Miles, the wife of an important civil servant. Bendrix is loosely based on Greene himself, and he reflects often on the act of writing a novel. Sarah is based loosely on Greene's mistress at the time, Catherine Walston, to whom the book is dedicated.

Bendrix and Sarah fall in love quickly, but he soon realizes that the affair will end as quickly as it began. He picks fights with her out of jealousy, but she remains patient. He is frustrated by her refusal to divorce Henry, her amiable but boring husband. When a bomb blasts Bendrix's flat as he is with Sarah, he nearly dies. After this, Sarah breaks off the affair with no explanation.

Two years later, Bendrix is still wracked with jealousy when he sees Henry crossing the Common that separates their flats. Henry has finally started to suspect something, and Bendrix decides to go to a private detective to discover Sarah's new lover. Through her diary, he learns that she made a promise to God not to see Bendrix when she thought he was dead after the bombing. Greene describes Sarah's struggles with Catholicism, though it is an odd version of the faith, more like Jansenism. After her sudden death from pneumonia, several almost-miraculous events occur, though it is not clear what Greene expects the reader to think. By the last page of the novel, Bendrix has come to believe in a God as well, though not to love him.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
One of Greene's "Catholic" novels, this book is beautifully written and somewhat surprising. What I like about Graham Greene is his ability to write about less-than-lovable characters without making the reader despise them for their weaknesses. A book about love and faith, it's a must for all fans of Graham Greene. ( )
  Oodles | Feb 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
In "The End of the Affair" the splendidly stupid private detective, Alfred Parkis, and his apprentice son, and the maudlin grifter who is the heroine's mother, equal the best of the seedy supernumeraries of his other novels. It is savage and sad, vulgar and ideal, coarse and refined, and a rather accurate image of an era of cunning and glory, of cowardice and heroism, of belief and unbelief.
 
Great romantic novels are about pain and hate, and among the greatest is Graham Greene's searing The End of the Affair. It is one of the most forensic and honest analyses of love you will ever read.
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Graham Greeneprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Firth, ColinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering in order that they may have existence.
Leon Bloy
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A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0142437980, Paperback)

Set in London during and just after World War II, Graham Greene's The End of the Affair is a pathos-laden examination of a three-way collision between love of self, love of another, and love of God. The affair in question involves Maurice Bendrix, a solipsistic novelist, and a dutifully married woman, Sarah Miles. The lovers meet at a party thrown by Sarah's dreary civil-servant husband, and proceed to liberate each other from boredom and routine unhappiness. Reflecting on the ebullient beginnings of their romance, Bendrix recalls: "There was never any question in those days of who wanted whom--we were together in desire." Indeed, the affair goes on unchecked for several years until, during an afternoon tryst, Bendrix goes downstairs to look for intruders in his basement and a bomb falls on the building. Sarah rushes down to find him lying under a fallen door, and immediately makes a deal with God, whom she has never particularly cared for. "I love him and I'll do anything if you'll make him alive.... I'll give him up forever, only let him be alive with a chance.... People can love each other without seeing each other, can't they, they love You all their lives without seeing You."

Bendrix, as evidenced by his ability to tell the story, is not dead, merely unconscious, and so Sarah must keep her promise. She breaks off the relationship without giving a reason, leaving Bendrix mystified and angry. The only explanation he can think of is that she's left him for another man. It isn't until years later, when he hires a private detective to ascertain the truth, that he learns of her impassioned vow. Sarah herself comes to understand her move through a strange rationalization. Writing to God in her journal, she says:

You willed our separation, but he [Bendrix] willed it too. He worked for it with his anger and his jealousy, and he worked for it with his love. For he gave me so much love, and I gave him so much love that soon there wasn't anything left, when we'd finished, but You.
It's as though the pull toward faith were inevitable, if incomprehensible--perhaps as punishment for her sin of adultery. In her final years, Sarah's faith only deepens, even as she remains haunted by the bombing and the power of her own attraction to God. Set against the backdrop of a war-ravaged city, The End of the Affair is equally haunting as it lays forth the question of what constitutes love in troubling, unequivocal terms. --Melanie Rehak

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:51 -0400)

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Maurice Bendrix is a sardonic and cynical writer who reflects on his affair with Sarah, a married woman, during the bombing of London in 1940.

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