"A solitary laugh is often a laugh of superiority." -- Graham Greene
Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH (2 October 1904 — 3 April 1991) was an English author, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene was notable for his ability to combine serious literary acclaim with widespread popularity.
Although Greene objected strongly to being described as a Roman Catholic novelist rather than as a novelist who happened to be Catholic, Catholic religious themes are at the root of much of his writing, especially the four major Catholic novels: Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair. Several works such as The Confidential Agent, The Third Man, The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana and The Human Factor also show an avid interest in the workings of international politics and espionage.
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".
"A movie is not a book. If the source material is a book, you cannot be too respectful of the book. All you owe to the book is the spirit.""A murderer is regarded by the conventional world as something almost monstrous, but a murderer to himself is only an ordinary man. It is only if the murderer is a good man that he can be regarded as monstrous.""A petty reason perhaps why novelists more and more try to keep a distance from journalists is that novelists are trying to write the truth and journalists are trying to write fiction.""Against the beautiful and the clever and the successful, one can wage a pitiless war, but not against the unattractive: then the millstone weighs on the breast.""Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully.""Failure too is a form of death.""God created a number of possibilities in case some of his prototypes failed - that is the meaning of evolution.""He felt the loyalty we feel to unhappiness - the sense that is where we really belong.""Heresy is another word for freedom of thought.""I have often noticed that a bribe has that effect - it changes a relation. The man who offers a bribe gives away a little of his own importance; the bribe once accepted, he becomes the inferior, like a man who has paid for a woman.""If you have abandoned one faith, do not abandon all faith. There is always an alternative to the faith we lose. Or is it the same faith under another mask?""In human relationships, kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths.""In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock!""Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.""Innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.""It is impossible to go through life without trust: that is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all, oneself.""Media is just a word that has come to mean bad journalism.""Morality comes with the sad wisdom of age, when the sense of curiosity has withered.""My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane.""No human being can really understand another, and no one can arrange another's happiness.""Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't, why should we? They talk about people and the proletariat; I talk about the suckers and the mugs. It's the same thing.""People talk about the courage of condemned men walking to the place of execution: sometimes it needs as much courage to walk with any kind of bearing towards another person's habitual misery.""Point me out the happy man and I will point you out either egotism, selfishness, evil - or else an absolute ignorance.""Reality in our century is not something to be faced.""Sentimentality - that's what we call the sentiment we don't share.""Success is more dangerous than failure, the ripples break over a wider coastline.""The economy of a novelist is a little like that of a careful housewife who is unwilling to throw away anything that might perhaps serve its turn.""The great advantage of being a writer is that you can spy on people. You're there, listening to every word, but part of you is observing. Everything is useful to a writer, you see - every scrap, even the longest and most boring of luncheon parties.""The moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn't thought about. At that moment he's alive and you leave it to him.""The truth has never been of any real value to any human being - it is a symbol for mathematicians and philosophers to pursue. In human relations kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths.""The world doesn't make any heroes anymore.""The world is not black and white. More like black and grey.""There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.""They are always saying God loves us. If that's love I'd rather have a bit of kindness.""Thrillers are like life, more like life than you are.""Unhappiness in a child accumulates because he sees no end to the dark tunnel. The thirteen weeks of a term might just as well be thirteen years.""We are all of us resigned to death: it's life we aren't resigned to.""When we are not sure, we are alive.""Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation."
Greene was born Henry Graham Greene in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, the fourth of six children. His younger brother, Hugh, became Director-General of the BBC, his elder brother, Raymond, an eminent physician and mountaineer.
His parents, Charles Henry Greene and Marion Raymond Greene, were first cousins, members of a large, influential family, that included the Greene King brewery owners, bankers, and businessmen. Charles Greene was Second Master at Berkhamsted School, the headmaster of which was Dr Thomas Fry, who was married to a cousin of Charles. Another cousin was the right-wing pacifist Ben Greene, whose politics led to his internment during World War II.
In 1910 Charles Greene succeeded Dr. Fry as headmaster. Graham attended the school. Bullied, and profoundly depressed as a boarder, he made several suicide attempts, some, as he claimed in his autobiography, by Russian roulette. In 1920 at age 16 he was psychoanalysed for six months in London, afterwards returning to school as a day boy. School friends included Claud Cockburn the satirist, and Peter Quennell the historian.
In 1925, while an undergraduate at Balliol College, Oxford, his first work, a poorly received volume of poetry entitled Babbling April, was published.
After graduating with a second-class degree in history, Greene took up journalism, first on the Nottingham Journal, and then as a sub-editor on The Times. While in Nottingham he started corresponding with Vivien Dayrell-Browning, a Catholic convert, who had written to him to correct him on a point of Catholic doctrine. Greene converted to Catholicism in 1926 (described in A Sort of Life) when he was baptised in February of that year. He married Vivien in 1927; and they had two children, Lucy Caroline (b. 1933) and Francis (b. 1936). In 1948 Greene separated from Vivien. Although he had other relationships, he never divorced or remarried.