THE CONFIDENTIAL AGENT
Graham Greene was born in 1904. On coming down from Balliol College, Oxford, he worked for four years as sub-editor on
. He established his reputation with his fourth novel,
. In 1935 he made a journey across Liberia, described in
Journey Without Maps
, and on his return was appointed film critic of the
. In 1926 he was received into the Roman Catholic Church and visited Mexico in 1938 to report on the religious persecution there. As a result he wrote
The Lawless Roads
and, later, his famous novel
The Power and the Glory. Brighton Rock
was published in 1938 and in 1940 he became literary editor of the
. The next year he undertook work for the Foreign Office and was stationed in Sierra Leone from 1941 to 1943. This later produced the novel,
The Heart of the Matter
, set in West Africa.
As well as his many novels, Graham Greene wrote several collections of short stories, four travel books, six plays, three books of autobiography â
A Sort of Life, Ways of Escape
A World of My Own
(published posthumously) â two of biography and four books for children. He also contributed hundreds of essays, and film and book reviews, some of which appear in the collections
Mornings in the Dark
. Many of his novels and short stories have been filmed and
The Third Man
was written as a film treatment. Graham Greene was a member of the Order of Merit and a Companion of Honour. He died in April 1991.
ALSO BY GRAHAM GREENE
The Man Within
It's a Battlefield
A Gun for Sale
The Ministry of Fear
The Third Man
The End of the Affair
Loser Takes All
The Quiet American
A Burnt-Out Case
Travels with my Aunt
Dr Fischer of Geneva
The Bomb Party
The Human Factor
The Tenth Man
England Made Me
The Power and the Glory
The Heart of the Matter
The Fallen Idol
Our Man in Havana
The Honorary Consul
The Captain and the Enemy
The Last Word and Other Stories
May We Borrow Your Husband?
Journey Without Maps
The Lawless Roads
In Search of a Character
Getting to Know the General
Mornings in the Dark
A Sort of Life
Ways of Escape
Fragments of an Autobiography
A World of my Own
Lord Rochester's Monkey
An Impossible Woman
The Little Train
The Little Horse-Bus
The Little Steamroller
The Little Fire Engine
The Confidential Agent
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Epub ISBN: 9781409020486
Published by Vintage 2006
8 10 9
Copyright Â© Graham Greene 1978
Introduction copyright Â© John Rebus Ltd 2006
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First published in Great Britain by William Heinemann 1939
First published by Vintage in 2002
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To Dorothy Craigie
The gulls swept over Dover. They sailed out like flakes of the fog, and tacked back towards the hidden town, while the siren mourned with them: other ships replied, a whole wake lifted up their voices â for whose death? The ship moved at half speed through the bitter autumn evening. It reminded D. of a hearse, rolling slowly and discreetly towards the âgarden of peace', the driver careful not to shake the coffin, as if the body minded a jolt or two. Hysterical women shrieked among the shrouds.
The third-class bar was jammed; a rugger team was returning home and they scrummed boisterously for their glasses, wearing striped ties. D. couldn't always understand what they were shouting: perhaps it was slang â or dialect. It would take a little time for his memory of English completely to return; he had known it very well once, but now his memories were rather literary. He tried to stand apart, a middle-aged man with a heavy moustache and a scarred chin and worry like a habit on his forehead, but you couldn't go far in that bar â an elbow caught him in the ribs and a mouth breathed bottled beer into his face. He was filled with a sense of amazement at these people; you could never have told from their smoky good fellowship that there was a war on â not merely a war in the country from which he had come, but a war here, half a mile outside Dover breakwater. He carried the war with him. Wherever D. was, there was the war. He could never understand that people were unaware of it.
âPass here, pass here,' a player screamed at the barman, and somebody snatched his glass of beer and shouted, âOffside.' âScrum,' they all screamed together.
D. said, âWith your permission. With your permission,' edging out. He turned up the collar of his mackintosh and went up on to the cold and foggy deck where the gulls were mourning, blowing over his head towards Dover. He began to tramp â up and down beside the rail â to keep warm, his head down, the deck like a map marked with trenches, impossible positions, salients, deaths: bombing planes took flight from between his eyes, and in his brain the mountains shook with shell-bursts.
He had no sense of safety walking up and down on this English ship sliding imperceptibly into Dover. Danger was part of him. It wasn't like an overcoat you sometimes left behind: it was your skin. You died with it; only corruption stripped it from you. The one person you trusted was yourself. One friend was found with a holy medal under the shirt, another belonged to an organisation with the wrong initial letters. Up and down the cold unsheltered third-class deck, into the stern and back, until his walk was interrupted by the little wooden gate with a placard: âFirst-Class Passengers Only.' There had been a time when the class distinction would have read like an insult, but now the class divisions were too subdivided to mean anything at all. He stared up the first-class deck. There was only one man out in the cold like himself: collar turned up, he stood in the bow looking out towards Dover.
D. went back into the stern, and again, as regular as his tread, the bombing planes took off. You could trust nobody but yourself, and sometimes you were uncertain whether after all you could trust yourself.
didn't trust you, any more than they had trusted the friend with the holy medal; they were right then, and who was to say whether they were not right now? You â you were a prejudiced party; the ideology was a complex affair; heresies crept in.Â .Â .Â . He wasn't certain that he wasn't watched at this moment; he wasn't certain that it wasn't right for him to be watched. After all, there were aspects of economic materialism which, if he searched his heart, he did not accept.Â .Â .Â . And the watcher â was he watched? He was haunted for a moment by the vision of an endless distrust. In an inner pocket, a bulge over the breast, he carried what were called credentials, but credence no longer meant belief.
He walked slowly back â the length of his chain; through the fog a young female voice cried harshly and distinctly, âI'm going to have one more. I
have one more': somewhere a lot of glass broke. Somebody was crying behind a lifeboat â it was a strange world wherever you were. He walked cautiously round the bow of the boat and saw a child, wedged in a corner. He stood and looked at it. It didn't mean a thing to him â it was like writing so illegible you didn't even try to decipher it. He wondered whether he would ever again share anybody's emotion. He said to it in a gentle dutiful way, âWhat is the matter?'
âI bumped my head.'
He said, âAre you alone?'
âDad stood me here.'
âBecause you bumped your head?'
âHe said it wasn't any cause to take on.' The child had stopped crying; it began to cough, the fog in the throat: dark eyes stared out of their cave between boat and rail, defensively. D. turned and walked on. It occurred to him that he shouldn't have spoken: the child was probably watched â by a father, or a mother. He came up to the barrier â âFirst-Class Passengers Only' â and looked through. The other man was approaching through the fog, walking the longer length of his chain. D. saw first the pressed trousers, then the fur collar, and last the face. They stared at each other across the low gate. Taken by surprise they had nothing to say. Besides, they had never spoken to each other; they were separated by different initial letters, a great many deaths â they had seen each other in a passage years ago, once in a railway station and once on a landing-field. D. couldn't even remember his name.
The other man was the first to move away; thin as celery inside his thick coat, tall, he had an appearance of nerves and agility; he walked fast on legs like stilts, stiffly, but you felt they might fold up. He looked as if he had already decided on some action. D. thought: he will probably try to rob me, perhaps he will try to have me killed. He would certainly have more helpers and more money and more friends. He would bear letters of introduction to peers and ministers â he had once had some kind of title himself, years ago, before the republicÂ .Â .Â . count, marquisÂ .Â .Â . D. had forgotten exactly what. It was a misfortune that they were both travelling on the same boat and that they should have seen each other like that at the barrier between the classes, two confidential agents wanting the same thing.