From: Robison Michael R CNIN ( Robison_M@crane.navy.mil)
Date: 09 Nov 2002

Graham Greene, born in Hertfordshire in 1904, was a shy and sensitive boy who disliked sports. Harassed as the son of the headmaster, he skipped school to read adventure stories, and was treated by an analyst at the age of 15 after several suicide attempts.

Although he described his experience at Balliol College as drunken and debt-ridden, it was here that he gained his first writing experience on the school paper. He graduated in 1925 and took a job at a paper in Nottingham.He converted to Catholicism in 1926, saying that he needed a religion to "measure my evil against." In 1927 he married and took a job in London with The Times. He found literary success with his second novel, THE MAN WITHIN. He quit his job and wrote two more novels, both failures. In dire economic straits, he took on his next novel with the sole motive of it being a crowd-pleaser. Published in 1932, STAMBOUL EXPRESS (ORIENT EXPRESS) was exactly this.

For many years Greene traveled as a reporter and correspondent, and many of his novels are based on his travels. His JOURNEY WITHOUT MAPS is based on a 400 mile trek through the jungles of Liberia. He had a particular weakness for the hot spots of political and religious turbulence. He traveled to Mexico in 1938 during the religious purges, and turned the experience into one of his best known novels, THE POWER AND THE GLORY. He spent time in Saigon in 1955, a few years before the Vietnam war began, and produced THE QUIET AMERICAN, an anti-American novel that made him popular in Russia. In the last days of pre-Castro Cuba Greene met Hemingway in Havana in 1958, and visited him at his house. From this experience came OUR MAN IN HAVANA. Greene died in 1991.

Greene's ORIENT EXPRESS follows the legendary train and a group of travelers on their eastern journey towards Constantinople. Political intrigue, love, and sex combine to interweave the travelers' fates. There's a washed-up old Communist revolutionary, a thief turned murderer, a Jewish businessman, a chorus girl, and a couple lesbians thrown in for good measure. A sad and ironic drama unfolds as the train speeds east.

Many of Greene's novels examined religious themes in a political setting. A common plot is a failed man looking to right matters and, failing again, Greene measures this in a religious light, ruminating on fallen grace and God's mercy. Greene's Catholicism is not a tool for the righteous, but rather a creed for the desperate.
  True to form, ORIENT EXPRESS involves a confused and burnt-out former Communist revolutionary on his way back home. Unfortunately, this man's affairs are not particularly interesting, and Greene's attempt to bond together a cohesive story out of a disparate band of travelers never fully succeeds. However, Greene does a fine job of portraying most of the characters, and there are moments of excellence in his writing. A serious flaw in the novel is his constant stereotyping of Myatt, the Jew. Although Greene was accused of anti-Semitism by biographer Michael Sheldon, in fairness, it should be noted that Greene was invited to Israel in 1967 and awarded the Jerusalem prize.

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