The End of the Affair


I have just finished this novel by Graham Greene. It’s one my husband has been urging me to read ever since I met him. It’s taken me a few years, but I’m glad I got there. It’s a very beautiful, truthful story about a love affair, revisited two years after its tumultuous ending. I found it to be one of those books I wanted to dog ear pages and underline passages as I read (but as it’s M’s copy, gifted to him by an ex-girlfriend with a personal inscription, I thought that might be a bit rude). So here, instead, are just a few of the passages that spoke to me, noted here for no other reason than my own inspiration and posterity.


Narrator Maurice Bendix on writing his novel…

I was trying to write a book that simply would not come. I did my daily five hundred words, but the characters never began to live. So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one’s days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow, undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends.

On grief…

This is to play act, talking about revenge and jealousy: it’s just something to fill the brain with, so that I can forget the absoluteness of her death. A week ago I had only to say to her ‘Do you remember that first time together and how I hadn’t got a shilling for the meter?’, and the scene would be there for both of us. Now it was there for me only. She had lost all our memories forever, and it was as though by dying she had robbed me of part of myself. I was losing my individuality. It was the first stage of my own death, the memories dropping off like gangrened limbs.

On friendship/solidarity…

I opened the door softly and looked in at Henry. He lay asleep with the light on and his arm shielding his eyes. With the eyes hidden there was an anonymity about the whole body. He was just a man – one of us. He was like the first enemy soldier a man encounters on a battlefield, dead and indistinguishable, not a White or a Red, but just a human being like himself. I put two biscuits by his bed in case he woke and turned the light out.

I just love that last detail – the two biscuits left at the bedside. Perfection.