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WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY JAMES WOODScobie a police officer serving in a war time West African state is distrusted being scrupulously honest and immune to bribery But then he falls in love and in doing so he is forced to betray everything he believes in with drastic and tragic consequencesWITH AN INTRODUCTION BY JAMES WOODScobie a police officer serving in a war time West African state is distrusted being scrupulously honest and immune to bribery But then he falls in love and in doing so he is forced to betray everything he believes in with drastic and tragic consequencesWITH AN INTRODUCTION BY JAMES WOODScobie a police officer serving in a war time West African state is distrusted being scrupulously honest and immune to bribery But then he falls in love and in doing so he is forced to betray everything he believes in with drastic and tragic consequences


13 thoughts on “The Heart of the Matter

  1. says:

    Published in 1948 'The Heart of the Matter' was Graham Greene's first post war novel following his wartime service with MI6 under the supervision of one Kim Philby The novel is set in a West African country during World War 2 and drew on the author's experience as an intelligence officer based in Sierra Leone during the warThe country is an unnamed British protectorate bordering a French colony where the Vichy regime poses a constant threat of sabotage to the British war effort The central character is Major Henry Scobie the longtime police Deputy Commissioner charged with keeping the peace He conducts futile searches of ships entering the seaport as the British look for diamonds smuggled from South Africa and private letters destined for enemy cities His wife Louise a devout Catholic is with him although she hates the place Or is it her fellow countrymen who scorn her or the fact that they have overlooked her husband for the new Commissioner's post that she really hates?It is a marriage devoid of love kept going by Scobie's need to do the decent thing to stand by his wife through a sense of loyalty and responsibility for her even though much if not all of the feeling has gone His impossible aim was to bring her happiness in life and his failure to do so has destroyed his hopes of peace in a country he has come to love And so in his timid evasive way he keeps procrastinating making false promises to his wife to delay any resolution to their crisisThe colonial world they inhabit is characterised by the malice and snobbery of the small minded British officials governing the local people These are the remnants of an Empire in decline hanging on to its parochial values in the face of seismic changes in the world order Greene imbues his writing with imagery of decay and death The houses were white as bones in the moonlight the quiet streets stretched out on either side like the arms of a skeleton and the faint sweet smell of flowers lay on the air Giant rats infest the houses while vultures perch on the tin roofs and flying ants swarm towards the dim lightsInto this milieu comes Edward Wilson fresh from home ostensibly a United Africa Company clerk whose presence arouses the snobbery of the ranked members of the army club He immediately finds a kindred soul in Louise both outsiders in this social sphere But there is something strange about this seemingly naive bookish young man who appears shy and claims to know no one in the settlement The place is thick with gossip and rumour one of which is that London has sent someone to investigate the diamond trafficking that may be providing industrial diamonds to the German forcesThis book must appeal to students of Greene because his key themes are so clearly enunciated the allegorical elements are so strong Here Greene explores his own personal struggle with his adopted Catholic faith mirrored in Scobie's lapsed Catholicism as well as the author's views on the futility of political dogma and notions of national and racial superiority It takes a dark pessimistic view of the end of Empire an outdated regime complacent in its misplaced sense of innate superiority going out not with a bang but with a whimper The theme of failure runs strongly throughout the narrative in which every character is thwarted in their efforts to achieve whatever it is they think they desire Thus their individual failures reflect the historic failures of its timeI cannot say that I would rate 'The Heart of the Matter' as Greene's greatest work as some have proposed Greene himself did not like it much despite its popular success and critical approval I find some of his later works engaging their characterisations credible there are issues I think in reconciling Scobie's adultery with his isolation from others But with Greene there is always his way with words his easy command of the English language I love how Greene can throw in a single sentence here and there to describe a whole world or define a character indelibly The man kept on speaking of his heart but it seemed to Scobie that a long deep surgical operation would be required to find it He will deliver a perfect sentence at just the right point in the story crystallising the reader's view of person or placeI took my time with this novel reading it slowly part by part as though like Scobie I had come to love this outpost of the old Empire and hated the thought of leaving it Thus I procrastinated my arrival at its conclusion all the time knowing that matters could only end badly in Greene's Godless world of deceit duplicity and betrayal