Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Greene, Graham (1904–1991)

Political activist and writer who wrote a number of novels dealing with Cold War–related issues. Born on 2 October 1904 in Hertfordshire, England, to a well-to-do family, Graham Greene was educated at Balliol College, Oxford. He was an editor for The Times during 1926–1930 and for The Spectator during 1940–1941. Between 1941 and 1944 he worked in Sierra Leone in West Africa for MI6, the secret intelligence service within the British Foreign Office.

Following World War II, Greene served as director of Eyre and Spottiswoode Publishers (1944–1948) and Bodley Head Publishers (1958–1968). Throughout his career he traveled extensively and studied the impact of historical forces on the lives of individuals as those forces unfolded. His experiences overseas led him to become increasingly disenchanted with imperialism. His novel The Heart of the Matter (1948) is set in Sierra Leone, where he had encountered one of the Cambridge Five spies, the double agent Kim Philby. Greene included many of his experiences in the novel.

Greene visited Vietnam four times during 1951–1955, and this provided the backdrop for his best-known novel, The Quiet American (1955). In it, Greene uses a naive American official who is in Indochina at the end of the French era there as a vehicle to attack American foreign policy and chronicle the shortcomings of colonialism. Another Greene novel, Our Man in Havana (1957), was a critique of British policy toward Cuba, including its support of the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista and its failure to recognize the level of popular support for the rebel leader Fidel Castro. The Honorary Consul (1973) concerned another revolution, this time in Argentina and Paraguay, where the forces of change struggled against the status quo. Greene's lifelong political activism included his participation in the Panamanian delegation to the Canal Treaty talks in Washington in 1977. While his attraction to third world causes alienated many Western readers, Greene's blending of fact and fiction greatly influenced a number of American writers. He also wrote several original screenplays, most notably for the film The Third Man (1949). Greene died on 3 April 1991 in Geneva, Switzerland.

William T. Walker


Further Reading
Greene, Graham. Ways of Escape. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980.; Sherry, Norman. The Life of Graham Greene. 3 vols. New York: Viking, 2004.
 

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