#281 the Honorary Consul

I’m still approaching Graham Greene with a hint of caution but I think after this I can probably trust any future works I read, since this is the third (I think) book I’ve read by him in the space of a year and I’ve enjoyed them all equally. I think maybe the issue I had with the End of the Affair which I read years ago is that Greene’s narratives are not necessarily the most racy or dramatic: even in the Quiet American they remain quite consistent and calm, but this is something I’ve come to appreciate.

The Honorary Consul is set in Argentina about a kidnapping gone wrong: the childhood friends of main character Dr Eduardo Plarr now turned revolutionaries intend to kidnap the American Consul but instead end up with the British “honorary” (aka not real) Consul – an aging (well meaning) drunk worth no value to the authorities instead of the bargaining chip they were after. Plarr attempts to get the consul (with whom he is friendly, despite being in the midst of an affair with his wife, for whom he claims to hold no real feelings despite having impregnated her) released; but finds himself in a hopeless situation: no authorities care enough to engage in negotiations and the kidnappers do not want to be seen to lose face and set him free. Instead they find themselves waiting in the squalid hut where they’re keeping the Consul (eventually with Plarr joining them) trying to psyche themselves into making the next move.

I think the way this was written is well suited to the drawn out process of their waiting and deliberating: it paradoxically lends an air of hopelessness and hope. This puts me halfway through the eight Graham Greene novels on the list so it’s a good job I’ve decided I like his style because I still have a few more to get through !


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