Authors: Graham Greene

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and critic

Identity: Catholic

Author Works

Long Fiction:

The Man Within, 1929

The Name of Action, 1930

Rumour at Nightfall, 1931

Stamboul Train: An Entertainment, 1932 (pb. in U.S. as Orient Express: An Entertainment, 1933)

It’s a Battlefield, 1934

England Made Me, 1935

A Gun for Sale: An Entertainment, 1936 (pb. in U.S. as This Gun for Hire: An Entertainment)

Brighton Rock, 1938

The Confidential Agent, 1939

The Power and the Glory, 1940 (reissued as The Labyrinthine Ways)

The Ministry of Fear: An Entertainment, 1943

The Heart of the Matter, 1948

The Third Man: An Entertainment, 1950

The Third Man and The Fallen Idol, 1950

The End of the Affair, 1951

Loser Takes All: An Entertainment, 1955

The Quiet American, 1955

Our Man in Havana: An Entertainment, 1958

A Burnt-Out Case, 1961

The Comedians, 1966

Travels with My Aunt, 1969

The Honorary Consul, 1973

The Human Factor, 1978

Dr. Fischer of Geneva: Or, The Bomb Party, 1980

Monsignor Quixote, 1982

The Tenth Man, 1985

The Captain and the Enemy, 1988

Short Fiction:

The Basement Room, and Other Stories, 1935

The Bear Fell Free, 1935

Twenty-four Stories, 1939 (with James Laver and Sylvia Townsend Warner)

Nineteen Stories, 1947 (revised as Twenty-one Stories, 1954)

A Visit to Morin, 1959

A Sense of Reality, 1963

May We Borrow Your Husband?, and Other Comedies of the Sexual Life, 1967

Collected Stories, 1972

How Father Quixote Became a Monsignor, 1980


The Heart of the Matter, pr. 1950 (adaptation of his novel; with Basil Dean)

The Living Room, pr., pb. 1953

The Potting Shed, pr., pb. 1957

The Complaisant Lover, pr., pb. 1959

Carving a Statue, pr., pb. 1964

The Return of A. J. Raffles: An Edwardian Comedy in Three Acts Based Somewhat Loosely on E.W. Hornung’s Characters in “The Amateur Cracksman,” pr., pb. 1975

For Whom the Bell Chimes, pr. 1980

Yes and No, pr. 1980

The Collected Plays of Graham Greene, pb. 1985


Twenty-one Days, 1937

The New Britain, 1940

Brighton Rock, 1947 (adaptation of his novel; with Terence Rattigan)

The Fallen Idol, 1948 (adaptation of his novel; with Lesley Storm and William Templeton)

The Third Man, 1949 (adaptation of his novel; with Carol Reed)

The Stranger’s Hand, 1954 (with Guy Elmes and Giorgino Bassani)

Loser Takes All, 1956 (adaptation of his novel)

Saint Joan, 1957 (adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play)

Our Man in Havana, 1959 (adaptation of his novel)

The Comedians, 1967 (adaptation of his novel)


Alas, Poor Maling, 1975

Radio Play:

The Great Jowett, 1939


Babbling April: Poems, 1925

After Two Years, 1949

For Christmas, 1950


Journey Without Maps: A Travel Book, 1936

The Lawless Roads: A Mexican Journal, 1939 (reissued as Another Mexico)

British Dramatists, 1942

Why Do I Write? An Exchange of Views Between Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, and V. S. Pritchett, 1948

The Lost Childhood, and Other Essays, 1951

Essais Catholiques, 1953 (Marcelle Sibon, translator)

In Search of a Character: Two African Journals, 1961

The Revenge: An Autobiographical Fragment, 1963

Victorian Detective Fiction, 1966

Collected Essays, 1969

A Sort of Life, 1971

The Pleasure Dome: The Collected Film Criticism, 1935-40, of Graham Greene, 1972 (John Russell-Taylor, editor; pb. in U.S. as The Pleasure-Dome: Graham Greene on Film, Collected Film Criticism, 1935-1940)

Lord Rochester’s Monkey: Being the Life of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester, 1974

Ways of Escape, 1980

J’accuse: The Dark Side of Nice, 1982

Getting to Know the General: The Story of an Involvement, 1984

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

The Little Train, 1946

The Little Fire Engine, 1950 (also known as The Little Red Fire Engine)

The Little Horse Bus, 1952

The Little Steam Roller: A Story of Mystery and Detection, 1953

Edited Texts:

The Old School: Essays by Divers Hands, 1934

The Best of Saki, 1950

The Spy’s Bedside Book: An Anthology, 1957 (with Hugh Greene)

The Bodley Head Ford Madox Ford, 1962, 1963 (4 volumes)

An Impossible Woman: The Memories of Dottoressa Moor of Capri, 1975


The Portable Graham Greene, 1973 (Philip Stout Ford, editor)


Henry Graham Greene, though not innovative stylistically, was a master craftsman in both the fields of the genre novel (which he called an “entertainment”) and the “serious” novel. He was the fourth of six children. His father was headmaster of Berkhamsted School; Robert Louis Stevenson was a first cousin of his mother’s. During his boyhood, Greene made several attempts to take his own life. He continued to be oppressed by ennui during his Oxford University years. Like his contemporary Evelyn Waugh, Greene as a young man became a Roman Catholic convert. Whereas Waugh turned to Catholicism after a failed marriage, Greene came to the Church in 1926 through his marriage to Vivien Dayrell-Browning. The marriage, which created a permanent breach between him and his family, eventually produced a son and a daughter.{$I[AN]9810001181}{$I[A]Greene, Graham}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Greene, Graham}{$I[tim]1904;Greene, Graham}{$I[geo]CATHOLIC;Greene, Graham}

Graham Greene

(©Amanda Saunders)

Greene began his journalistic career with the Nottingham Journal. Next, he worked for The Times of London as a copy editor. He observes in his autobiography that proofreading is by far the best training for a fledgling writer. Upon selling The Man Within, Greene left his newspaper job and set out to live by his writing.

Greene’s second and third novels, The Name of Action and Rumour at Nightfall, were unsuccessful. Over the next seven years, however, he had an unbroken string of successes, primarily stylish tales of adventure, such as Stamboul Train and A Gun for Sale. Both were popular in the United States under slightly altered titles. Greene began very early to draw a formal distinction between such novels as these and his more serious works. Critics would later create yet another category by labeling some of his novels “Catholic.” By the mid-1930’s, Greene was traveling widely and constantly, and many of his works, both the “entertainments” and the serious novels, feature exotic locales.

Greene’s great fiction begins with Brighton Rock in 1938. This work and other early novels employ violence and betrayal; often the conflict leads to murder or suicide. Although Brighton Rock contains all the raw material of the thriller, Greene’s flawless characterization raises it above that genre. In the next decade, he turns from the conflicts of person against person and humankind against nature to the conflict of humankind against God. In a world where evil dominates, Greene places a good-bad protagonist in a situation in which what is at stake transcends integrity, where the human potentials for evil and good inevitably collide.

While traveling in Mexico, Greene had observed the anti-Catholicism of Marxist elements in the provincial governments. His protagonist in The Power and the Glory is an unnamed drunken priest with an illegitimate daughter. He has unwillingly gone into a province where priests are routinely shot. He dies an unheroic martyr but, in the end, he will not deny his faith to save his life. The Heart of the Matter, his most popular novel, is set in West Africa. The protagonist, Scobie, a Catholic convert, is a good man who nevertheless has become embroiled in adultery and corruption. His suspicious wife demands that he take Holy Communion with her. Scobie is faced with the dilemma of taking the Sacrament while in a state of mortal sin or committing suicide. The book was scorned on doctrinal lines. Waugh saw The Heart of the Matter as providing a retreat from the world for readers wallowing in self-pity, a version of which dooms Scobie: “To me, the idea of willing my own damnation for the love of God is either a very loose poetical expression or a mad blasphemy, for the God who accepted that sacrifice could be neither just nor lovable.” In this case and others, Greene implies that all the rules and responses the Church has formulated over two thousand years are still insufficient to cope with the complexities of the human heart.

During World War II Greene served in MI6, Great Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. He had already published The Confidential Agent, set during the Spanish Civil War. Out of his intelligence experience came several more successful novels in the spy genre: The Ministry of Fear, Our Man in Havana, and The Human Factor.

In The End of the Affair Greene returns to his Catholic concerns. A Catholic woman is torn between her passion for a former lover and a promise she has made to God. A Burnt-Out Case, set in a leper colony, features a protagonist who has lost his faith, having apparently turned from God to art. Some critics have suggested that Greene’s Catholicism was more a source of literary material than a deeply held faith, but he firmly denied this assertion. The world of Greene’s–novels in both his serious works and his entertainments–is a shabby, vulgar, tawdry world. He said that he would rather believe in hell than believe that this empty, banal world is all there is.

After A Burnt-Out Case, Greene turned from religious to mostly political subjects. His own politics were left of center, but this fact did not affect his close friendship with the right-wing Evelyn Waugh. Greene’s novels are often perceived as having a strong anti-American bias (The Quiet American, for example). He worked in virtually every literary genre, and more than twenty of his novels and stories have been adapted as films. Monsignor Quixote, Greene’s best novel written after his seventy-fifth year, reinforces his prime concern as dramatized in his masterpiece The Power and the Glory: the transforming power of love. He lived most of his eighty-six years under a torment of faith, of which his politics were the merest suggestion. Greene was no innovator in literary form; he employed the traditional narrative devices to produce fiction which is always stylish and readable, and which upon occasion approaches greatness.

BibliographyBayley, John. “Graham Greene: The Short Stories.” In Graham Greene: A Reevaluation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990. Basing his comments on his analysis of “The Hint of an Explanation,” Bayley argues that many Greene stories have a hidden subject in a sense that none of his novels does. Claims that by means of almost invisible contrasts and incongruities, the story leads the reader both away from and toward its central revelation.Couto, Maria. Graham Greene: On the Frontier. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988. A well-rounded approach to Greene criticism, including a discussion of the final novels and a retrospective on Greene’s career. Contains an insightful interview with Greene and a selection of Greene’s letters to the international press from 1953 to 1986.De Vitis, A. A. Graham Greene. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1986. Most interesting in this volume are an overview of critical opinion about Greene, a chronology, and a chapter on the short stories. Supplemented by a thorough primary bibliography and an annotated bibliography of secondary sources.Evans, Robert O., ed. Graham Greene: Some Critical Considerations. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1963. Although published before some of Greene’s later works, this collection of critical essays covers the major novels and short stories and contains rare information on Greene’s plays and film criticism. Includes an extremely thorough primary and secondary bibliography covering all Greene’s literary genres.Falk, Quentin. Travels in Greeneland: The Complete Cinema of Graham Greene. 3d ed. New York: Trafalgar Square, 2000. A guide to Greene’s association with film, as a screenwriter and as a reviewer, as well as the numerous adaptations of his novels to film.Greene, Richard. Graham Greene: A Life in Letters. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2008. The letters published in this biography reveal much about Greene’s personal life, including his relationship with his estranged wife, his friendships with other writers, his love for travel, and his views on politics and religion. Contains 8 pages of illustrations by Greene.Hill, William Thomas. Graham Greene’s Wanderers: The Search for Dwelling–Journeying and Wandering in the Novels of Graham Greene. San Francisco: International Scholars, 1999. Examines the motif of the dwelling in Greene’s fiction. Deals with the mother, the father, the nation, and the Church as the “ground” of dwelling.Hoskins, Robert. Graham Greene: An Approach to the Novels. New York: Garland, 1999. An updated look at Greene’s oeuvre. Includes bibliographical references and an index.Kelly, Richard. Graham Greene. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1984. A general introduction to Greene and his work. The chapter on the short stories discusses “The Destructors,” “The Hint of an Explanation,” and “The Basement Room” as the best of Greene’s stories.Kelly, Richard. Graham Greene: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1992. Discusses the influence of Henry James, Guy de Maupassant, and W. Somerset Maugham on Greene’s stories, but also discusses how the stories reflect Greene’s own personal demons. Includes an interview with Greene, his introduction to his Collected Stories, and three previously published essays by other critics.McEwan, Neil. Graham Greene. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988. Combines criticism and autobiography in the opening chapter, “Greene on Greene,” and adds chapters on the early novels, Catholic influences, and comedy. Includes a bibliography of major works.Malmet, Elliott. The World Remade: Graham Greene and the Art of Detection. New York: P. Lang, 1998. Focuses on Greene’s genre fiction.Meyers, Jeffrey, ed. Graham Greene: A Revaluation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990. These essays by eight scholars offer critical analyses of Greene’s accomplishments, in the shadow of his death.Miller, R. H. Understanding Graham Greene. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1990. A guide to all of Greene’s writing. The style is concise yet informative and evaluative, but the author runs too quickly through the canon. Bibliography and index.O’Prey, Paul. A Reader’s Guide to Graham Greene. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1988. A critical overview of Greene’s fiction. The excellent introduction familiarizes the reader with Greene’s major themes. Supplemented by a complete primary bibliography and a brief list of critical works.Sheldon, Michael. Graham Greene: The Enemy Within. New York: Random House, 1994. In this unauthorized biography, Sheldon takes a much more critical view of Greene’s life, especially of his politics, than does Norman Sherry, the authorized biographer. A lively, opinionated narrative. Notes and bibliography included.Sherry, Norman. The Life of Graham Greene. 2 vols. New York: Viking Press, 1989-1995. The first two parts of what is certainly the most comprehensive, most authoritative account of Greene’s life yet published, written with complete access to his papers and the full cooperation of family, friends, and the novelist himself. Includes a generous collection of photographs, a bibliography, and an index.Smith, Grahame. The Achievement of Graham Greene. Sussex, England: Harvester Press, 1986. Includes an excellent introduction, with an overview of themes and biographical data. Contains chapters on “Fiction and Belief” and “Fiction and Politics,” as well as sections titled “The Man of Letters” and “Greene and Cinema.” Augmented by a select bibliography.West, W. J. The Quest for Graham Greene. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998. Focuses on the more obscure aspects of Greene’s life, including his adolescent nervous breakdown and his involvement with the British Secret Service.
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