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The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

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

by Graham Greene

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4,5261051,067 (3.98)328
Title:The End of the Affair
Authors:Graham Greene
Info:Vintage (2003), Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:FUE - KEL
Tags:England, tbr

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The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (1951)


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Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
As another GR reviewer noted, this book is more than a read, it has a physical quality. It is absorbing and I, too, found myself curled up while reading.

There are a lot of levels to the story of Maurice, Sarah and Henry. To say it is - as the title presumes - a romance, will not do. But neither is it - in my estimation - a book about Brendix' competition with God as some suggest.

Obsession, delusion, denial, jealousy fueled by self-hatred and a hefty dose of egotism make Brendix not a likable character. His selfish obsession with Sarah, or rather, with the idea of her and his wanting to possess her, is frustrating. On a few occasions, you want may want to shout out "You idiot, can't you see what you are doing?" Nevertheless, it is a pleasure to bear with him, to explore the mysticism that is introduced by the characters of Mr. Smythe and Mrs. Bernard.

It may well be that the second half of the book and the investigation into Sarah's secret is an explicit description of Sarah's conversion to Catholicism and - finally - Brendix' acknowledgement of God, even though - or maybe because - he constantly denies God's existence just as he denies his own guilty part in Sarah's demise.

In my estimation, though, the concept of Catholicism Greene used could easily be substituted with any other faith, superstition, or indeed hocus pocus. Anything that could be used as a target of Brendix' grief; anything that could be used as a locus of Brendix' displaced guilt, self-hatred and inadequacy. All through his tale, Brendix antagonizes people in the search of a rival - first Henry, then Sarah's unknown other lover, before he finally settles his need to compete on a God that he has always denied.

It is a grotesque tale. Beautifully written and very atmospheric. It does leave me wondering, though, if there ever really was an end to the affair.
( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
The conflicts between religious teaching and matters of the heart. ( )
1 vote ghefferon | Jul 9, 2016 |
Sarah, the love object of many in this book, should be canonized not only for the miracles associated with her after her death but for putting up with Morris while she was still alive .

This was a free download from Audible.com, narrated by Colin Firth. Not sure if it was just my cheap Sansa mp3 player and Skullcandy buds, but there was an occasional but very annoying whistle in Mr. Firth's pronunciation of words ending in 's'.

I was glad when The End of the Affair was over. ( )
  wandaly | Jun 30, 2016 |
I think I liked the movie better. It was slow reading -- I thought it would be a quicker read b/c it was less than 200 pages. I was a little disappointed in the ending, but at the same time, it was interesting, especially the whole "coincidence" thing. ( )
  GettinBetter | Jun 27, 2016 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 101 (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 editionscalculated
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.
Henry had his tray, sitting up against two pillows in his green woollen dressing-gown, and in the room below, on the hardwood floor, with a single cushion for support, and the door ajar, we made love.
I suppose Germany by this time had invaded the Low Countries: the spring like a corpse was sweet with the smell of doom,...
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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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