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The Confidential Agent by Graham Greene

The Confidential Agent (1939)

by Graham Greene

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Have not read any Greene for 30 years? But came across some recommendations so dipped back in.

This is one of his “entertainments”. A thriller/ perhaps even a love story.

Why the “agents”are known as D, L and K, whereas all others have full names did work for me. It seemed to hinder the development of their characters and personalities.

Will try another

Big Ship

1 September 2018 ( )
  bigship | Sep 1, 2018 |
Review first published on BookLikes: http://brokentune.booklikes.com/post/873494/the-confidential-agent

"The gulls swept over Dover. They sailed out like flakes of the fog, and tacked back towards the hidden town, while the siren mourned with them: other ships replied, a whole wake lifted up their voices – for whose death?"

So begins the story of D.

D. is an agent - a confidential agent - who is sent to England on a mission. Having arrived in Dover, nothing goes to plan and D. is soon pitched against another agent (L.).

In this race to fulfill his task, D. is thrown into the centre of a time and place pulled into antagonising directions - there is a battle between the young and old, the aristocracy and the ordinary men, the natives and foreigners, the mad and the sane, the powerful and the helpless, the stupid and the enlightened, love and indifference - all elements which would come to define the somewhat harrowing place that is Greene-land.

"It was absurd, of course, to feel afraid, but watching the narrow stooping back in the restaurant he felt as exposed as if he were in a yard with a blank wall and a firing squad."

Graham Greene famously wrote The Confidential Agent, fueled by Benzedrine, in parallel to The Power and the Glory. In contrast to The Power and the Glory, he expected to earn money from the sales of this "entertainment". It is of no surprise then that The Confidential Agent does not dwell on morality or religion as much as some of Greene's other books. It does have elements of those deliberations - after all The Confidential Agent is based on and inspired by the Spanish Civil War - but it does not go into great depths.

And, this for me is where it falls down. What I love about Greene is that he commits his protagonists to something - an ideal, a cause, a situation, anything - and gives them depth. This is lacking a bit here. D. is portrayed well and we learn much of his back-story, but knowing D.'s past does not help much to figure out other characters in the book. So, despite a promising start and interesting plot, the story itself loses grip on a number of occasions because there is little chemistry, or tension, between the characters - not between D. and his nemesis, not between D. and his persecutors, and not even between D. and Rose.

The Confidential Agent was first published in 1939, ten years after his first novel The Man Within, and knowing of Greene's life and career, it is still an "early" work. It shows all the potential that would fully develop in his subsequent work, but it just isn't of the same quality. However, I do wonder...
I haven't read The Power and the Glory, yet, but I almost want to wager that Greene put in it what he held back on in The Confidential Agent - less aimless caper and more study of the human condition. ( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
This is a wonderful thriller which in the end nothing happens. Lots of complications (events as you will) along the way. But nothing that rises to a plot for this novel. And characters? Generic names. In the end the details of the characters end up having more of a story. This isn't a thriller after all but a love story. Definitely recommend for a reader with a bit of patience.

The audible reading was very annoying. But the book was good enough to get me through. ( )
  idiotgirl | Dec 25, 2015 |
D. is an agent from a war torn country, trying to get a contract for coal from some major manufacturers in England in the early part of the Twentieth century. There is, however, a counter-agent trying to get the contract for his side.
Wow an intriguing book full of ups and downs. Wasn't sure how it would end until the last paragraph, and I don't know whether I like that or not. Very slowly built up an affection for the protagonist, only to have it fade. Projected the feeling of despair and numbness of the protagonist very well. ( )
1 vote MrsLee | May 9, 2013 |
This is probably my least favourite of Greene's "entertainments", but I'm not sure how much of it can be chalked up to the book and how much of it is a lack of engagement on my part. The plot is promising: a university lecturer from a civil-war-torn country is sent to England to negotiate a coal deal, but along the way he becomes a wanted man, racking up charges that include the possession of a false passport, theft, and even murder. However, I felt rather detached from the proceedings, perhaps because the protagonist is never referred to by an actual name, only by an initial. Of course the detachment may have been the effect Greene was going for, but it didn't really work for me.

One thing I did find amusing was the artificial language "Entrenationo", which I took to be a play on Esperanto. The writing itself is also very good, but the story just kind of chugs along. You definitely need to give it your full attention and be in the right mood for it. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Nov 13, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
But the violence and evil and pity are not of war only; human life always carries its seeds of anarchy and brutality and fear and tragic waste, and man must find his own courage and generosity and integrity and hope, even through horror, if and as he can. "The Confidential Agent" is an even better novel than its brilliant predecessor, "Brighton Rock," and -- in all its tragic timeliness -- it should be very widely read.
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To Dorothy Craigie
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The gulls swept over Dover.
In a happy life the final disillusionment with human nature coincided with death.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
In a small continental country civil war is raging. Once a lecturer in medieval French, now a confidential agent, D is a scarred stranger in a seemingly casual England,  sent on a mission to buy coal at any price. Initially, it seems to be a matter of straightforward negotiation, but soon, implicated in murder, accused of possessing false documents and theft, held responsible for the death of a young woman, D becomes a hunted man, tormented by allegiances, doubts and the love of others.
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The Austrian artist Birgit J?rgenssen (1949-2003) was an outstanding heroine of the feminist avant garde. From the late 1960s she made the female body the focus of her work, through drawing, collage, painting and photography. With many previously unseen works from the artist's estate, this volume surveys Jurgenssen's career.… (more)

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