Home > Uncategorized > Graham Greene: None of us can hate any more – or love. You have to feel something to stop a war.

Graham Greene: None of us can hate any more – or love. You have to feel something to stop a war.


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

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Graham Greene
From The Confidential Agent (1939)


He was filled with a sense of amazement at these people; you could never have told from their smoky good fellowship that there was a war going on – not merely a war in the country from which he had come, but a war here, half a mile outside Dover breakwater. He carried the war with him. Wherever D. was, there was a war. He could never understand that people were unaware of it.


He turned up the collar of his macintosh and went up on the cold and foggy deck where the gulls were mourning, blowing over his head toward Dover. He began to tramp – up and down beside the rail – to keep warm, his head down, the deck like a map marked with trenches, impossible positions, salients, deaths: bombing planes took flight from between his eyes, and in his brain the mountains shook with shell-bursts.


D. found himself at a standstill. A very gentle man with a fair mustache said, ‘But do you mean that this photograph is – yours?’

D. said, ‘Of course.’ He looked down at it; it had never occurred to him to look at his own passport for – well, years. He saw a stranger’s face – that of a man much younger and, apparently, much happier than himself: he was grinning at the camera. He said, ‘It’s an old photograph.’ It must have been taken before he went to prison, before his wife was killed, and before the air raid of December 23 when he was buried for fifty-six hours in a cellar. But he could hardly explain all that to the passport officer.


‘You see, I come from two years of war. I should go along a road like this very slowly, ready to stop and get into a ditch if I heard a plane.’

‘Well, I suppose you’re fighting for something,’ she said. ‘Or aren’t you?’

‘I don’t remember. One of the things which danger does to you after a time is – well, to kill emotion. I don’t think I shall ever feel anything again except fear. None of us can hate any more – or love. You know it’s a statistical fact that very few children are being born in our country.’

‘But your war goes on. There must be a reason.’

‘You have to feel something to stop a war. Sometimes I think we cling to it because there is still fear. If we were without that, we shouldn’t have any feeling at all. None of us will enjoy the peace.’

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