THE CONFIDENTIAL AGENT (1939) is a problematic work. In it the mysterious Forbes/Furstein, a rich Jew, plans to destroy traditional English culture from within. However, in 1981 the author was invited to Israel and awarded the Jerusalem Prize. He had visited Israel in 1967 for the first time, and spent some of the time lying against a sand dune under Egyptian fire, and thinking that the Six Day War "was a bit of misnomer. The war was too evidently still in progress." Greene's religious convictions did not become overtly apparent in his fiction until THE BRIGHTON ROCK (1938), which depicted a teenage gangster Pinkie with a kind of demonic spirituality. Religious themes were explicit in the novels THE POWER AND THE GLORY (1940), THE HEART OF THE MATTER (1948), which Greene characterized as "a success in the great vulgar sense of that term," and THE END OF THE AFFAIR (1951), which established Greene's international reputation. The story, partly based on Greene's own experiences, was about a lover, who is afraid of loving and being loved. These novels were compared with the works of such French Catholic writers as Georges Bernanos and Fran?ois Mauriac. "At a stroke I found myself regarded as a Catholic author in England, Europe and America - the last title to which I had ever aspired," Greene later complained.
Greene returned constantly to the problem of grace. In his review of The Heart of the Matter George Orwell attacked Greene's concept of 'the sanctified sinner': "He appears to share the idea, which has been floating around ever since Baudelaire, that there is something rather distingu? in being damned; Hell is a sort of high-class nightclub, entry to which is reserved for Catholics only." The novel was set in Sierra Leone where the author had spent a miserable period during the war. Major Scobie, the hero of the story, dies saying: 'Dear God, I love...' The rest is silence.
The End of the Affair was drew partly on Greene's affair with Catherine Walston, whom he had met in 1946. She was married to one of the richest men in England, Henry Walston, a prominent supporter of the Labour Party. Catherine was the mother of five children. Greene's relationship with her continued over ten years and produced another book, AFTER TWO YEARS (1949), which was printed 25 copies. Most of them were later destroyed. In The End of the Affair Catherine was 'Sarah Miles' and the writer himself the popular novelist 'Maurice Bendix', who narrates the story and tries to understand why Sarah left him. Maurice discovers that when he was injured in a bomb blast during the war, Sarah promised God that she would end the affair if Maurice is saved. Sarah dies of a pneumonia. Maurice's response to his divine rival is: "I hate you as though You existed.'
The Third Man is among Greene's most popular books. The story about corruption and betrayal gave basis for the film classic under the same title. Successful partners on The Fallen Idol (1948) and Our Man in Havanna (1960), Graham Greene and the director Carol Reed achieved the peak of their collaboration on this film. "I am getting terribly bored with... everybody except Carol who gets nicer and nicer on acquaintance," Greene wrote to Catherine Walston from Vienna in 1948. In The Third Man Holly Martin (Joseph Cotten) arrives in Vienna to discover that his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) has died in a car accident. It turns out that Lime was involved in criminal activities, and Lime's girlfriend Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) suspects that his death may not have been accidental. A porter recalls a mysterious third man at the scene of the death. One evening Martins sees a man obscured by the shadows, who suddenly disappears - he is Lime. The meet and Lime rationalizes his villainy in a speech at a fairground Ferris wheel: "In Italy for 30 years the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed. They produced Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace. And what did that produce. The cuckoo clock." Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) threatens to deport Anna and Martins betrays Lime to secure her freedom. In a chase through the sewers Martins kills Lime, and Anna leaves him after the funeral. - Music, composed by Anton Karas, became highly popular. "The reader will notice many differences between the story and the film, and he should not imagine these changes were forced on an unwilling author : as likely as not they were suggested by the author. The film in fact is better than the story because it is in this case the finished state of the story." (Greene in Ways of Escape) The character of Harry Lime inspired later a series on American radio, performed by Welles, short stories published by the News of the World, and the TV series of The Third Man, starring Michael Rennie. And in PeterJackson's Heavenly Creatures (1994) Kate Winslet fantasized about Harry.
Greene's ability to create debate and his practical jokes brought him often into headlines. He recommended Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita as his 'Book of the Year' in the Sunday Times and praised the men involved in the Great Train Robbery. In a letter to the Spectator he proposed a scheme to bankrupt the British postal system. In the 1950s Greene's emphasis switched from religion to politics. He lived at the Majestic hotel in Saigon and made trips to Hong Kong and Singapore. In 1953 he was in Kenya, reporting the Mau Mau upraising, and in 1956 he spent a few weeks in Stalinist Poland, and tried to help a musician to escape to the West. In Ways of Escape Greene told a story about the Other, who called himself Graham Greene, but whose real name was perhaps John Skinner or Meredith de Varg. In the 1950s the Other lost his passport in India, and was sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment. A decade later he was photographed in a Jamaican paper with "Missus drink", an attractive woman. "Some years ago in Chile, after I had been entertained at lunch by President Allende, a right-wing paper in Santiago announced to its readers that the President had been deceived by an impostor. I found myself shaken by a metaphysical doubt. Had I been the impostor all the time? Was I the other? Was I Skinner? Was it even possible that I might be Meredith de Varg?"
The Asian setting stimulated Greene's THE QUIET AMERICAN (1955), which was about American involvement in Indochina. The story focuses on the murder of Alden Pyle (the American of the title). The narrator, Thomas Fowler, a tough-minded, opium-smoking journalist, arranges to have Pyle killed by the local rebels. Pyle has stolen Fowler's girl friend, Phuong, and he is connected to a terrorist act, a bomb explosion in a local caf?. The Quit American was considered sympathetic to Communism in the Soviet Union and a play version of the novel was produced in Moscow. OUR MAN IN HAVANNA (1958) was born after a journey to Cuba, but Greene had the story sketched already much earlier. On one trip he asked a taxi driver to buy him a little cocaine and got boracic powder. The novel was made into a film in 1959, directed by Carol Reed. During the filming Greene met Ernest Hemingway, and was invited to his house for drinks. THE COMEDIANS (1966) depicted Papa Doc Duvalier's repressive rule in Haiti, and THE HONORARY CONSUL (1973) was a hostage drama set in Paraguay. THE HUMAN FACTOR (1978) stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for six months. In the story an agent falls in love with a black woman during an assignment in South Africa. The book did not satisfy Greene and he planned to leave it in a drawer - it hung "like a dead albatross" around his neck. Interested to hear what his friend Kim Philby thought of it he sent a copy to Moscow, but denied that his double agent Maurice Castle was based on Philby. TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT (1969), which was filmed by George Cukor, took the reader on on journey round the world with an odd couple, a retired short-sighted bank manager and his temperamental Aunt Augusta, whose two big front teeth gives her "a vital Neanderthal air."