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Old 12-16-2019, 06:52 AM   #16
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I can't see too much agreement happening on this book! We seem to be divided between those who dislike the story, and those who admire the style and skill of the author.
I hadn't seen this when I posted my previous. I think there are still interesting things to discuss, even if we disagree on the skill of the presentation. Whatever I think of it, this book was written far enough into the career of a man who considered himself a literary writer, so I think we can assume that everything in this book was deliberate. So that raises questions...

As per my previous post: How autobiographical is this? And as per my previous paragraph, if everything was deliberate then I'd say there is little reason to think that the events of Greene's life did anything except provide convenient pieces to slot in.

Why Parkis and his boy? It seems so strange that this investigator should have a child he is training up for the profession, or that Greene should think to include it. I still have no idea what purpose the boy serves.

Parkis himself is a separate question to the boy. I'm inclined to think this Hydra (as Victoria so aptly put it) sticks his head up everywhere to help tie parts together - since it may otherwise have been harder to follow. But did he serve any larger purpose in his role as observer of Sarah?
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Old 12-16-2019, 07:03 AM   #17
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ETA: Sorry gmw, this crossed with your post, and wasn't meant to be a response to it!
No problem, we're just keeping the readers of the thread on their toes, just like this book did.

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[...] We are dealing here with a man who feels inferior to Sarah, because she is both beautiful and intelligent. He tells us this near the beginning of the book:
But he obviously did feel desire for Sarah, and so the implication of those quotes is that he felt superior to her, at least at the start. Exactly how he felt later is harder to discern over his own self-obsession - because it seems to me that Maurice gets to the point where Sarah simply isn't relevant to what is going on in his own head; she is a symbol only, as a person she doesn't matter.

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His own deep inadequacy leads him to abuse and ill-treat the woman he professes to love. She in turn does not believe herself to be worthy of love - it's the perfect recipe for domestic violence.

Then comes the struggle with belief after the seeming miracle of Maurice's survival. It doesn't matter whether we believe in miracles or not: what matters is how Sarah struggled with the need to keep the vow that she made when she prayed for him to survive.
Yes, I agree that it doesn't matter whether the miracle was real or not. I also agree that Sarah seemed in great danger of entering a potentially violent or otherwise abusive relationship - and submitting herself fairly willingly to it. (In some respects I see her submission to God as quite similar ... and I think she did too, but obviously with a different interpretation of what is appropriate..)
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Old 12-16-2019, 09:23 AM   #18
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Here are some articles that discuss the autobiographical details of the affair with Catherine based on his letters to her and other writings in his archives.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-...eart-64876424/

https://www.theguardian.com/books/20...n.grahamgreene
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Old 12-16-2019, 03:12 PM   #19
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Thanks Bookworm-Girl.

gmw, you asked earlier what Parkis was there for. He was needed to get hold of the diary.

Curious that we have read two very different books one after the other about abusive relationships, and with important information being gained from the woman’s diary.
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Old 12-16-2019, 03:20 PM   #20
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With The End of the Affair I am assuming Greene meant me to despise the narrator. How could anyone not despise the narrator? If that's what he wanted, then he succeeded admirably.
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I thought it was very good indeed. Greene’s style is beautiful and understated. Of course Maurice is despicable, but how brilliantly Greene portrayed this.
I'll respond as I come to the posts, so please forgive me redundancies where someone else got there first.

I don't think we were meant to despise Maurice; he was doing just fine on that front himself (as of course he was Greene's own doppelganger and Greene was working out some of his own issues). But my takeaway is that Maurice is a person in a process, on a path, and that while he started and ended the story somewhat arbitrarily as he himself said, using the timeline of the affair itself to define it, his own story is not done. Who can but believe that Maurice will be a reluctant convert himself?

I agree with Bookpossum on liking the book and finding Greene's prose marvelous.
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Old 12-16-2019, 03:29 PM   #21
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I finished the book just before posting. In thinking more, I felt Greene himself was the real protagonist, and the book was primarily about the nature of people’s religious experience, which he sells a bit short. I found him to be rather reductionist in his treatment of all relationships, but the ideas are engaging.
Yes, you beat me to this comment about Greene's working out in his own issues. But I'd disagree that he was selling religious experience short, so much as he was deliberately attempting to undermine it, playing Devil's Advocate. Ultimately, I think Greene was a man who believed, but struggled with it throughout his life. Unlike Sarah, who just took a leap - as Maurice rather wished he could:

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For even if this God exists, I thought, and if even you--with your lusts and your adulteries and the timid lies you used to tell--can change like this, we could all be saints by leaping as you leapt, by shutting the eyes and leaping once and for all: if you are a saint, it's not so difficult to be a saint. It's something He can demand of any of us, leap.
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Old 12-16-2019, 03:43 PM   #22
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I don't think I'd characterize this as an abusive relationship, that is, no more abusive than any relationship which is ending unhappily and where one person is behaving badly. For all Maurice talks about hate, Sarah sees it as love and I think her reading is the correct one, and not that of an abused person who excuses and rationalizes her treatment.

As I said, I liked this very much; I enjoyed Greene's meanderings, the timeshifts, Maurice's exploration of Sarah and their relationship. However, I thought the miracles were overwrought. Not the first one, if a miracle is was, where Maurice lived when Sarah thought him dead, but the cures she effected after she died. They seemed clunky to me; I'd have preferred events that were more nebulous, more along the spectrum toward sheer coincidence or randomness. These were too explicit, especially Sarah's having kissed Richard on his damaged cheek and the presence of relics in the case of both cures.
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Old 12-16-2019, 04:16 PM   #23
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Thanks Bookworm_Girl. It’s very interesting to hear more aboutGreene himself. There were certainly a lot of parallels with the major themes of the book.
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Old 12-16-2019, 04:50 PM   #24
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Yes, you beat me to this comment about Greene's working out in his own issues. But I'd disagree that he was selling religious experience short, so much as he was deliberately attempting to undermine it, playing Devil's Advocate. Ultimately, I think Greene was a man who believed, but struggled with it throughout his life. Unlike Sarah, who just took a leap - as Maurice rather wished he could:
Playing Devil’s Advocate to deliberately undermine religious experience is an interesting perspective - I need to try it on for a while. But deliberate or just misguided, to me Greene sells religious experience woefully short by reducing it, like all the relationships in the book, to just a series of transactions. All sacrifice, no enrichment, no joy. Just tick the right boxes and you’re saved, but from what and to what?

In the same way, he equates sex with love - as though that’s all love is. Maurice didn’t love Sarah; he wanted to possess her. No tenderness, no attentiveness. He didn’t even notice that she was ill. To me, there was very little heartfelt depth in the book. And perhaps you’re right - that’s exactly what Greene wanted to portray. If so what was the point of the book - lives of quiet desperation?

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Old 12-16-2019, 05:02 PM   #25
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I'm on jury duty this week. So far, it's a toss-up as to what's more boring: sitting around all day in a freezing jury room, or reading the book.
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Old 12-16-2019, 05:27 PM   #26
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I'm on jury duty this week. So far, it's a toss-up as to what's more boring: sitting around all day in a freezing jury room, or reading the book.
I’m sorry you’re cold, but it’s a bit surprising to hear jury duty is boring. I’ve always wiggled out of it, for fear it would go too far in the other direction.
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Old 12-16-2019, 06:02 PM   #27
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[...] gmw, you asked earlier what Parkis was there for. He was needed to get hold of the diary.

Curious that we have read two very different books one after the other about abusive relationships, and with important information being gained from the woman’s diary.
Regarding Parkis, I meant on a bigger scale than that. Given that Bendrix had access to the house via Henry, access to the diary could have been managed another way. No, I felt Greene must have had a bigger reason to have Parkis in this story.

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[...]I don't think we were meant to despise Maurice; he was doing just fine on that front himself (as of course he was Greene's own doppelganger and Greene was working out some of his own issues). But my takeaway is that Maurice is a person in a process, on a path, and that while he started and ended the story somewhat arbitrarily as he himself said, using the timeline of the affair itself to define it, his own story is not done. Who can but believe that Maurice will be a reluctant convert himself?

I agree with Bookpossum on liking the book and finding Greene's prose marvelous.
I have trouble with the idea of a path, unless it is a circle and Bendrix keeps coming back to where he started? He doesn't appear to have learned anything. I mean, he's on the way to the funeral and he has this thought about the girl who is assisting him:
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In the taxi I let my hand lie on her leg like a promise, but I had no intention of keeping my promise.
Quite a piece of work is Bendrix.

And I have trouble with the idea that the prose as marvellous. So much of this read like teenage self-obsessive angst to me - but angst I was being told about, I never actually felt it. Bendrix says again and again how he hates Sarah, but we never feel hate. That, I acknowledge, is probably intentional, but I don't feel love at all either. No, I feel Bendrix is disconnected from Sarah, she is an idea in his mind, not a person.

And much the same with Sarah. I kept feeling as if I was being merely told she loved Bendrix, and perhaps loved God, but I never felt that love. Indeed, it seemed very much to me like Sarah was in sway to an abusive relationship, not love but something meekly submissive:
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I felt the fear for a moment I always felt in the old days, that something would happen to spoil the day, that he would be angry with me.
(The parallel between this and fearing an angry God is not lost on me, it's one of the few things Greene didn't overwork.)

The only person in this story that seemed (to me) to show any genuine affection (as opposed to us being simply told that it was supposed to exist) was Henry for Sarah. He even showed considerable care for Bendrix. I am sure Greene meant something by this, but it's not obvious to me what that was.

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Playing Devil’s Advocate to deliberately undermine religious experience is an interesting perspective - I need to try it on for a while. But deliberate or just misguided, to me Greene sells religious experience woefully short by reducing it, like all the relationships in the book, to just a series of transactions. All sacrifice, no enrichment, no joy. Just tick the right boxes and you’re saved, but from what and to what?

In the same way, he equates sex with love - as though that’s all love is. Maurice didn’t love Sarah; he wanted to possess her. No tenderness, no attentiveness. He didn’t even notice that she was ill. To me, there was very little heartfelt depth in the book. And perhaps you’re right - that’s exactly what Greene wanted to portray. If so what was the point of the book - lives of quiet desperation?
Yes. Just ... yes. That is the book I read.
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Old 12-16-2019, 06:29 PM   #28
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I’m sorry you’re cold, but it’s a bit surprising to hear jury duty is boring. I’ve always wiggled out of it, for fear it would go too far in the other direction.
The waiting around doing nothing is what's boring, boring, boring. Five hours of waiting before we were even called for a voir dire, which continues tomorrow.
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Old 12-16-2019, 07:00 PM   #29
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Here are some articles that discuss the autobiographical details of the affair with Catherine based on his letters to her and other writings in his archives.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-...eart-64876424/

https://www.theguardian.com/books/20...n.grahamgreene
Thanks for those links. The events of that affair parallel the book much more closely than I would have imagined ... and yet even those brief snippets from Catherine and Harry give a sense of much stronger character than Sarah and Henry. The parallels between Bendrix and Greene also seem much stronger than I would have thought - which is not to Greene's credit.
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Old 12-16-2019, 07:13 PM   #30
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...The only person in this story that seemed (to me) to show any genuine affection (as opposed to us being simply told that it was supposed to exist) was Henry for Sarah. He even showed considerable care for Bendrix. I am sure Greene meant something by this, but it's not obvious to me what that was.
I saw Henry that way too. Yet multiple synopses and reviews of the book dismiss him in a single sentence - “boring civil servant”.

Speaking of what Greene intended, what was the point of having Sarah’s mother ‘touch’ everyone for money, when it turns out she had enough of her own? It seemed odd, and wasn’t necessary to the story of Sarah’s young Catholic christening.
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