Graham Greene OM CH

English writer,playwright and literary critic Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH, was born 2 October 1904 in Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire into a large, influential family that included the owners of the Greene King Brewery. He boarded at Berkhamsted School in Hertfordshire, where his father taught and became headmaster. Unhappy at the school, he attempted suicide several times. He also went to Balliol College, Oxford, to study history, where, while an undergraduate, he published his first work in 1925—a poorly received volume of poetry, Babbling April.

After graduating, Greene worked first as a private tutor and then as a journalist – first on the Nottingham Journal and then as a sub-editor on The Times. He converted to Catholicism in 1926 after meeting his future wife, Vivien Dayrell-Browning. He published his first novel, The Man Within, in 1929; its favourable reception enabled him to work full-time as a novelist. He supplemented his novelist’s income with freelance journalism, and book and film reviews. His 1937 film review of Wee Willie Winkie (for the British journal Night and Day), commented on the sexuality of the nine-year-old star, Shirley Temple. This provoked Twentieth Century Fox to sue, prompting Greene to live in Mexico until after the trial was over. While in Mexico, Greene developed the ideas for The Power and the Glory.

Greene originally divided his fiction into two genres (which he described as “entertainments” and “novels”): thrillers—often with notable philosophic edges—such as The Ministry of Fear; and literary works—on which he thought his literary reputation would rest—such as The Power and the Glory. His works also explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene was noted for his ability to combine serious literary acclaim with widespread popularity. especially the four major Catholic novels: Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair.

Although Catholic religious themes are at the root of much of his Several works such asThe Confidential Agent, The Third Man, The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana and The Human Factor, Greene objected strongly to being described as a Roman Catholic novelist rather than as a novelist who happened to be Catholic, and Later in life he took to calling himself a “Catholic agnostic”, or even at times a “Catholic atheist”. Many of Greene’s novels also show an avid interest in the workings of international politics and espionage.

By 1943 Greene had acquired the reputation of being the “leading English male novelist of his generation”,and at the time of his death in 1991 had a reputation as a writer of both deeply serious novels on the theme of Catholicism, and of “suspense-filled stories of detection”.Acclaimed during his lifetime, he was shortlisted in 1966for the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1967, Greene was among the final three choices, according to Nobel records unsealed on the 50th anniversary in 2017. The committee also considered Jorge Luis Borges and Miguel Ángel Asturias, with the latter the chosen winner.

Although Greene never received the Nobel Prize in Literature, He collected many other literary awards for his novels, including the 1941 Hawthornden Prize for The Power and the Glory and the 1948 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Heart of the Matter. As an author, he received the 1968 Shakespeare Prize and the 1981 Jerusalem Prize, a biennial literary award given to writers whose works have dealt with themes of human freedom in society. In 1986, he was awarded Britain’s Order of Merit.

Greene suffered from bipolar disorder, which had a profound effect on his writing and personal life. In a letter to his wife Vivien, he told her that he had “a character profoundly antagonistic to ordinary domestic life”, and that “unfortunately, the disease is also one’s material”. Greene sadly passed away 3 April 1991 in Vevey, Switzerland. However He inspired many other authors and is regarded as a major 20th-century novelist,and was described by John Irving, prior to Greene’s death, as “the most accomplished living novelist in the English language.” Novelist Frederick Buechner called Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory a “tremendous influence.” William Golding described Greene as “the ultimate chronicler of twentieth-century man’s consciousness and anxiety.”

The Graham Greene International Festival is an annual four-day event of conference papers, informal talks, question and answer sessions, films, dramatised readings, music, creative writing workshops and social events. It is organised by the Graham Greene Birthplace Trust, and takes place in the writer’s home town of Berkhamsted (about 35 miles northwest of London), on dates as close as possible to the anniversary of his birth (2 October). Its purpose is to promote interest in and study of the works of Graham Greene. Graham Greene wrote some classic novels including Brighton Rock, The Third man and the End of the Affair, many of which have been adapted for film, television and stage numerous times. He is the subject of the 2013 documentary film, Dangerous Edge: A Life of Graham Greene. His short story “The Destructors” was featured in the 2001 film Donnie Darko.

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