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Graham Greene on The Human Factor:

My ambition after the war was to write a novel of espionage free from the conventional violence, which has not, in spite of James Bond, been a feature of the British Secret Service. I wanted to present the Service unromantically as a way of life, men going daily to their office to earn their pensions, the background much like that of any other profession — whether the bank clerk or the business director — an undangerous routine, and within each character the more important private life. When I had spent a few years in the Service during the war, first in West Africa and then in London, I had certainly found little excitement or melodrama coming my way.

…I began The Human Factor more than ten years before it was published and abandoned it in despair after two or three years' work…I abandoned it mainly because of the Philby affair. My double agent Maurice Castle bore no resemblance in character or motive to Philby, none of the characters has the least likeness to anyone I have know, but I disliked the idea of the novel being taken as a roman a clef. I know very well from experience that it is only possible for me to base a very minor and transient character on a real person. A real person stands in the way of imagination. Perhaps a trick of speech, a physical trait may be used, but I can write no more than a few pages before realizing that I simply don't know enough about the character to use him, even if he is an old friend. With the imaginary character I am sure — I know that Doctor Percival in The Human Factor admires the painting of Ben Nicholson, I know that Colonel Daintry will open a tin of sardines when he returns from the funeral of his colleague.

…I sent a copy of the book to Moscow, to my friend Kim Philby, and his reply interested me. His criticism was valid. I had made Castle's circumstances in Moscow, he wrote, too bleak. He himself had found everything provided for him, even to a shoehorn, something he had never possessed before.

from Ways of Escape, pp.255-258


Melody Yiu
Email me: greeneland -at- gmail . com

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