Home > Uncategorized > Graham Greene: He carried the war in his heart, infecting everything

Graham Greene: He carried the war in his heart, infecting everything


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

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Graham Greene
From The Confidential Agent (1939)


He carried the war in his heart: give me time, he thought, and I shall infect anything…I ought to wear a bell like the old lepers…

He had indeed brought the war with him: the infection was working already. He saw beyond the lounge – sitting with his back turned at the first table inside the restaurant – the other agent. His hand began to shake just as it always shook before an air raid…

It had not been an unexpected day: this was the atmosphere in which he had lived for two years. If he had found himself alone on a desert island, he would have expected to infect even the loneliness with violence. You couldn’t escape a war by changing your country; you only changed the technique – fists instead of bombs, the sneak thief instead of the artillery bombardment. Only in sleep did he evade violence; his dreams were almost invariably made up of peaceful images from the past…

He went over to the window and looked down: the buses moved slowly along Oxford Street like gigantic beetles. Across the top of the opposite building a sky-sign spelt out slowly the rudimentary news: 2 goals to one. Far away, foreshortened on the pavement, a squad of police moved in single file towards Marlborough Street. What next? The news petered out and began again. ‘Another advance reported…5,000 refugees…four air raids…’ It was like a series of signals from his own country…His territory was death; he could love the dead and dying better than the living…

You had to have something in common with people you killed, unless death was dealt out impersonally from a long-range gun or a plane.

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