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The Heart of the Matter (1948)

by Graham Greene

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,551771,916 (3.92)181
In this widely acclaimed modern classic, Graham Greene delves deep into character to tell the dramatic, suspenseful story of a good man's conflict between passion and faith. A police commissioner in a British-governed, war-torn West African state, Scobie is bound by the strictest integrity and sense of duty both for his Colonial responsibilities and for his wife, whom he deeply pities but no longer loves. Passed over for a promotion, he is forced to borrow money in order to send his despairing wife away on a holiday. When in her absence he develops a passion for a young widow, the scrupulously honest Catholic finds himself giving way to deceit and dishonor. Enmeshed in love and intrigue, he will betray everything he believes in, with tragic consequences. The Heart of the Matter is one of Graham Greene's most enduring and tragic novels.… (more)
  1. 10
    On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (akfarrar)
    akfarrar: Another serious book with marriage at the heart of it and the tug of war between being an individual and uniting with an 'other'. Both deal with a generation of people on the edge of change and with matters both earthly and spiritual.
  2. 10
    Morte d'Urban by J. F. Powers (christiguc)
  3. 00
    The Mission Song by John Le Carré (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: The two books reflect the supposedly 'catholic' viewpoint so often attributed to Greene. The Mission Song is from a catholic African's view.
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» See also 181 mentions

English (70)  Dutch (3)  Danish (2)  Hebrew (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (77)
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
3.5 ( )
  jaydenmccomiskie | Sep 27, 2021 |
It's been a few months since I read this, but my feeling is one of annoyed disappointment, unless this is meant to be an ironic story about a man who makes an ultimately pointless ultimate sacrifice. Perhaps, if Scobie had had some frank, even difficult discussions with the people he thought he was protecting---if it had occurred to him that they might have something of value to say about themselves, he might have realized that his actions were unnecessary, unhelpful, and wrong. Hmmm---a lot of evil gets done by people who believe they are doing what must be done even though it causes them great suffering; at least Scobie's actions hurt him more than others. OK, maybe there's more to the novel than I thought.

It's also very hot in Western Africa.

Ah, but I nearly forgot my favorite part: Scobie is asked to read to a sick boy, who would like a murder story; alas, the only books available are those approved by missionaries who don't approve of novels. Scobie picks up A Bishop among the Bantus and then, rather than read the book, he brilliantly makes up the beginning an exciting pirate story. He explains to the boy that if someone else continues the book, it may sound a little different.

A quote:
The lights inside would have given an extraordinary impression of peace if one hadn't known, just as the stars on this clear night gave also an impression of remoteness, security, freedom. If one knew, he wondered, the facts, would one have to feel pity even for the planets? if one reached what they called the heart of the matter? [p. 111]

The main character commits suicide in a way he hopes will appear otherwise (he saves up medicine and takes it all at once) in order to protect his wife and mistress. But his wife, unknown to him, knows about his affair and his mistress is ready to move on from their relationship. I found his problem quite interesting, but he chooses his own eternal damnation for the sake of others who don't really care. ( )
  raizel | Jun 30, 2021 |
Unlike Anna Karenina, I finished this drivel hoping there would be something worthwhile in the end. There wasn't. I wanted to smack everyone for being so appallingly stupid and I couldn't wait for Scobie to kill him self and get it over with. I kept muttering "Get on with it." to the book. ( )
  KittyCunningham | Apr 26, 2021 |
El comandante de policía Henry Scobie y su mujer Louise viven desde hace años junto a otros funcionarios británicos en una remota colonia de África Occidental. Un entorno asfixiante que todos están deseando abandonar, especialmente Louise. Henry, por su parte, es un hombre íntegro que acepta estoicamente su situación y su matrimonio con una mujer por la que siente compasión más que cariño y a la que, por encima de todo, procura hacer feliz. Pero con la llegada de una inesperada visitante, los firmes principios de Henry se verán puestos a prueba.

Publicada en 1948 e inspirada en la experiencia del propio autor en Sierra Leona durante la guerra, esta novela se convirtió rápidamente en un best seller y está considerada como una de sus mejores obras. El revés de la trama ahonda en los temas predilectos de Greene: los claroscuros de la naturaleza humana, la traición a los demás y a uno mismo, el fracaso, la fe, el sacrificio y el amor llevado hasta sus últimas consecuencias. Intensa y conmovedora, es sin duda una novela inolvidable.
  ArchivoPietro | Nov 13, 2020 |
Rated: B
Wonderful literature / writing. Fascinating descriptions and dialogue. Depressing story of pure futility. ( )
  jmcdbooks | Oct 26, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
A policeman's lot is not a happy one. The white (and dark) man's burden must always be heavy. And man's debt to man will be forever in arrears -- from West Africa to the West End, from Brooklyn to Bucharest. Generations of novelists have wrestled with these melancholy truisms. It is a pleasure to report that Graham Greene, in "The Heart of the Matter," has wrestled brilliantly with all three -- and scored three clean falls. Mr. Greene (as a well-earned public knows) is a profound moralist with a technique to match his purpose. From first page to last, this record of one man's breakdown on a heat-drugged fever-coast makes its point as a crystal-clear allegory -- and as an engrossing novel.
 
One thing I admire with the Heart of the Matter is the introduction of several other characters that in a way or another adds up to the genuine plot. They all seem to have a story to tell and each story affects and adds up to the conflict that has been surfacing within the inner self of Scobie.

 

» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greene, Grahamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Puchwein, ErichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wood, JamesIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"Le pécheur est au cœur même de chrétienté.
. . .Nul n'est aussi compétent que le pécheur
en matière de chrétienté. Nul, si ce n'est le saint."
-- Péguy
Dedication
To
V.G.,
L.C.G.,
and
F.C.G.
First words
Wilson sat on the balcony of the Bedford Hotel with his bald pink knees thrust against the ironwork.
Quotations
He Had no sense of responsibility towards the beautiful and the graceful and the intelligent. They could find their own way. It was the face for which nobody would go out of his way, the face that would never catch the covert look, the face which would soon be used to rebuffs and indifference that demanded his allegiance. The word 'pity' is used as loosely as the word 'love' : the terrible promiscuous passion which so few experience.
Outside the rest-house he stopped again. The lights inside would have given an extraordinary impression of peace if one hadn't known, just as the stars on this clear night gave also an impression of remoteness, security, freedom. If one knew, he wondered, the facts, would one have to feel pity even for the planets? if one reached what they called the heart of the matter?
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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In this widely acclaimed modern classic, Graham Greene delves deep into character to tell the dramatic, suspenseful story of a good man's conflict between passion and faith. A police commissioner in a British-governed, war-torn West African state, Scobie is bound by the strictest integrity and sense of duty both for his Colonial responsibilities and for his wife, whom he deeply pities but no longer loves. Passed over for a promotion, he is forced to borrow money in order to send his despairing wife away on a holiday. When in her absence he develops a passion for a young widow, the scrupulously honest Catholic finds himself giving way to deceit and dishonor. Enmeshed in love and intrigue, he will betray everything he believes in, with tragic consequences. The Heart of the Matter is one of Graham Greene's most enduring and tragic novels.

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