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The Honorary Consul (Vintage Classics) by…

The Honorary Consul (Vintage Classics) (original 1973; edition 1999)

by Graham Greene (Author)

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1,929266,717 (3.81)86
"The gripping tragicomedy of a bungled kidnapping in a provincial Argentinian town tells the story of Charley Fortnum, the 'Honorary Consul, ' a whiskey-sodden figure of dubious authority who is taken by a group of revolutionaries."--Container.
Title:The Honorary Consul (Vintage Classics)
Authors:Graham Greene (Author)
Info:Vintage (1999), Edition: New edition, 272 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Honorary Consul by Graham Greene (1973)


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English (21)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
An atheist doctor? A former priest with wavering faith? An exotic, isolated setting with whiskey sodden British expats? Check all these. In “The Honorary Consul” the local characters are as vivid as the expat Brits, something not always the case with Greene. (Although, I think he did a good job in his African novels of not assuming to know what the African characters were thinking.) Two of the three Englishmen here aren’t really expats at all. Born in Paraguay to a British father and local mother, Doctor Plarr is our atheist. Born in Argentina to British parents, Charlie Fortnam is the honorary British consul in a small town on the Paraná river in Northeast Argentina. The only other Brit in town is Doctor Humphries, a grumpy teacher of literature whose background we are not sure of, but he was probably born in England. I found it true even in the early 21st century that Anglo-Argentinians held fast to a 'colonial era' English accent and customs, like five o’clock gin and tonics, not maintained among British descendants in my part of the world. So the idea of a locally born Englishman not quite fitting in that Greene introduces rings true.

The setting seems to be based on Formosa (I've got that wrong it was Corrientes a bit further south), capital of the oppressively hot Formosa province - a million miles away from the cosmopolitan capital Buenos Aires, where Doctor Plarr’s Paraguayan mother grows fat on dulce de leche. I don’t know how long Greene was in Argentina, the novel is dedicated to Victoria Ocampo, an Argentine writer he stayed with. He refers vaguely to the political troubles in Argentina in the early 70s, the period just before the return of Perón. (Quickly followed by his death, his wife taking over and the subsequent military dictatorship.) Over the Paraná river is Paraguay - under control of the American backed dictator, General Stroessner. In a muddle up Charlie gets kidnapped by Paraguayan rebels hoping for an exchange of prisoners; the American Ambassador was the real target. The British government isn’t eager to get involved, Charlie is a sixty year old ‘honorary’ consul and alcoholic - worse still he has recently married Clara, a young prostitute - not a becoming image at all. He lives by growing maté and importing cars and then selling them on - flaunting the diplomatic rights he doesn't actually have.

The intellectual conversations at Clara’s (former) brothel between Plarr and local writer Doctor Saavedra are amusing - and Saavedra comes off as a joke, a man obsessed with machismo - until we see that he lives in poverty and Plarr gives him grudging respect for devoting his life to literature. Greene’s idea of Argentine machismo is accurate in its knife fights, but also seems mixed up with the Mexican version which is more pervasive than the Argentine one.

The kidnappers are known to Plarr, who is involved because his British father is a political prisoner in Paraguay. Plarr lacks the faith and personal morality of the head kidnapper, his ex-classmate former priest Rivas, but is a doctor committed to the poor - he resembles Dr. Colin the atheist doctor treating lepers in Greene’s “A Burnt Out Case”. In both novels Greene seems to be debating with himself the merits of the man of faith and the practical man who tries to save lives rather than souls. The saving of souls is a much more tortuous business because it raises the possibility of personal damnation? The pace never drops off much in this book - it didn’t get bogged down in Catholic theology and moral debate (although there is certainly a sufficient amount of these). There is a fair deal of humour too. I was just in the right mood for this novel - so a subjective five stars. ( )
  FEBeyer | Oct 25, 2021 |
El cónsul honorario (en inglés The Honorary Consul) es una novela del escritor británico Graham Greene.

La novela se desarrolla en la década de 1970, en la ciudad argentina de Corrientes, en el Litoral de la República Argentina, donde el narrador, hijo de un diplomático inglés y una señora paraguaya, se desempeña como médico y se conecta con la pequeña comunidad de residentes británicos.

Las descripciones permiten al lector un acercamiento muy vívido a aquella zona del litoral, a los enfrentamientos políticos y, como suele darse en las novelas del autor, al enfrentamiento interno de un cura católico entre su fe y su actuación en el mundo.

Un gran amigo y un conocido de la niñez del narrador planean el secuestro del embajador norteamericano, de visita por la ciudad, para usarlo como eje de negociación de la liberación de algunos presos políticos. Sin embargo, por un error en la ejecución, terminan tomando prisionero a una figura menor, un cónsul honorario británico.

Involucrado en el asunto no solo por haber provisto datos pertinentes a los secuestradores sino también por el amorío que sostiene con la mujer de quien termina siendo capturado, el personaje principal queda atrapado en una red de lealtades traicionadas y sostenidas de difícil escapatoria.

El autor se inspiró en el secuestro auténtico del cónsul paraguayo Waldemar Sánchez ocurrido en marzo de 1970 mientras Greene estaba de visita en Argentina.

Michael Caine, Richard Gere, Bob Hoskins, Joaquim de Almeida y Elpidia Carrillo fueron algunos de los actores que participaron en la película The Honorary Consul (1983), filmada en escenarios naturales de la ciudad y el puerto de Veracruz, así como en la región de Los Tuxtlas, México.
  ArchivoPietro | Nov 16, 2020 |
"When I was a young priest, I used to try to unravel what motives a man or woman had, what temptations and self-delusions. But I soon learned to give all that up, because there was never a straight answer. No one was simple enough for me to understand. In the end I would just say, 'Three Our Fathers, Three Hail Marys. Go in peace.'" (pg. 182)

Graham Greene has never become the beloved personal favourite I expected him to become after my first few interactions (The End of the Affair, Our Man in Havana, The Third Man), but his novels are always bristling with intelligent writing, lucid ideas and complex characters. Even though my two previous Greene choices had left me cold (Brighton Rock and The Comedians), I knew that they – and all his books I have read so far – maintained this intelligence and quality in writing and story construction. Greene sets a solid baseline of quality in his work, and the reader's ability to love, hate or become indifferent towards the particular title established on top of it can then vacillate between a number of points.

The Honorary Consul, one of Greene's later works, illustrates this well. It has that solid baseline of intelligent writing, complex characterisation and lucid ideas (often delivered in the form of aphorisms, such as "Free Will was the excuse for everything. It was God's alibi" (pg. 227)). It seems to be reaching for a similar topic to The Power and the Glory, one of Greene's more successful experiments, but Consul's more linear plot allows it to be delivered more concisely (leaving less readers behind) while at the same time robbing the book of some of the literary potency that The Power and the Glory possessed. The setting of Argentina in the Seventies, corrupt and politically volatile, is an interesting one and suits Consul's story, while at the same time lacking the intensity of setting of, say, Duvalier's Haiti in The Comedians – even though Comedians was a less appealing book.

You begin to see, I hope, how much play there is in the steering of a Greene book once that reassuring baseline is established. Much corresponds to personal taste: many readers will dislike the dramatic Dostoevsky-like musings of Consul's final act, though I enjoyed them, and many will enjoy the jaded sexual politics of the earlier movements, which I found unremarkable. The characters operate, as Greene's always do, in a morally grey area which can be alternately stimulating and dispiriting; indeed, I often find I approach Greene's books with a sort of trepidation, as though I yearn for the intellectual exercise they guarantee but fear they will tip me over into the pit of depression they share. Then again, there is always that baseline: Greene's dark pit has a bottom, and The Honorary Consul has more hope than is usually found in this author's writing. But it seems that in all but his very best work, there is always something indescribable that is blunting my desire to engage. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Nov 15, 2020 |
Angst. Too much of it. Apparently angst bores me, whether it be Catholic angst, angst about being incapable of love, angst about being a failure or anything else this motley crew of idiots, incompetents, buffoons, alcoholics and pompous arses find to angst about.

Which is a shame, because when the plot is advancing it's a fairly good story, though the plot turns on an imbecilic decision by one of the protagonists. There's a good, taut, 150p novel struggling to escape all the angst but ultimately drowning in it. ( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
Nothing in The Honorary Consul seems ever to reach beyond the tone in color of a smokey gray evening with a streak of red to mark the setting of the sun. Graham Greene uses this very description to provide a landscape for the remote Argentine city on a river, the Parana, that borders Paraguay. But this tone also invades the character of the people present in the novel. Eduardo Plarr, a doctor of medicine, is someone who has had all belief drained out of him, just as his childhood friend, Father Rivas, has been mostly emptied of the belief that should have driven his chosen path as a priest. The other major character, Charley Fortnum, a man in his sixties, is the only one still seeking something out of life beyond the mere existence his younger counterparts have fallen prey to. And Charley does so with a prostitute, Clara, a girl a fraction of his age who doesn't seem to possess the capability of loving or being loved.

And that is the matter at hand, here. The death of romance--both as a love affair and as the possibility of an aesthetic, or romantic, philosophy of art and literature. Thus it's no surprise to see dark shades of color dominate. Even during daylight hours, the novel retreats to darkened rooms and hideaways. It's reflective of a death of romantic attitudes.

Only at the end, in the very last few pages, is there the flowering of some degree of hope. Charley, in particular, finds a reason to connect with the erstwhile dispassionate and emotionless Clara. And Clara herself seems to open herself up to new possibilities of life. Without spoiling the plot, that is as much as can be said.

As for the novel, overall, it does disappoint. It seems too brittle, as if its surface might easily shatter and take the story with it. That bit of hope at the end, too, seems desperate, ill at ease with the rest of the novel. It only makes sense if you see that lonely streak of red in the lingering sunset as something equally desperate to give light and meaning to life towards the end. ( )
  PaulCornelius | Apr 12, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Graham Greeneprimary authorall editionscalculated
Fiori, GabriellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schaap, H.W.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Törnell, AidaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'All things merge in one another -
good into evil, generosity into
justice, religion into politics . . . '

~ Thomas Hardy
For Victoria Ocampo with love, and in memory of the many happy weeks I have passed at San Isidro
and Mar del Plata.
First words
Doctor Eduardo Plarr stood in the small port on the Parana, among the rails and yellow cranes, watching where a horizontal plume of smoke stretched over the Chaco.
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"The gripping tragicomedy of a bungled kidnapping in a provincial Argentinian town tells the story of Charley Fortnum, the 'Honorary Consul, ' a whiskey-sodden figure of dubious authority who is taken by a group of revolutionaries."--Container.

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