Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Graham Greene's Human Factor

I've been looking for a budget copy of The Quiet American, but when I found The Human Factor in San Marcos for $3.99, I decided to give it a try. For my first Graham Greene novel, I have not been disappointed.

A superb tale of espionage, love and the loneliness which accompanies secrets. It's a highly readable work which draws you along the twists and turns of the ordinary life of a double agent. For those who are looking for a James Bond type tale, you will be dejected, because as Greene says in his forward:
My ambition after the war was to write a novel of espionage free from the conventional violence, which has not, in spite of James Bond, been a feature of the British Secret Service. I wanted to present the Service unromantically as a way of life, men going daily to their office to earn their pensions, the background much like that of any other profession - whether the bank clerk or the business director - an undangerous routine, and within each character the more important private life.
Greene was in the British Secret Service (MI6) during World War 2 and was supervised by Kim Philby - the famous British double agent who later defected to the Soviets. (Philby's memoir, My Silent War, is also an excellent read). His experiences in the Secret Service provide the basis for several of his novels, but they are richer and deeper than any lurid tales of sex and violence which we often associate with spies.


  1. I have collected and read all of Greene's excellent books but The Human Factor, in my opinion, is the most powerful. If you can find it, the DVD of The Quiet American is a good watch. Michael Caine does an excellent job.