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End of the Affair, The

The Good Soldier

sarah bendrix greene apparent

a novel by Graham Greene, published in 1951. Like much fiction concerned with wartime experience, it juxtaposes present loss and remembered fulfilment. These contrasts are sharpened by complexities of structure and point of view unusual in Greene's writing and owed, he suggests, to the influence of The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. Chapters in the first section enact the wish of the narrator—the novelist Maurice Bendrix—to ‘turn back time’: each opens with an account of his London life after the Second World War, then resumes memories of his affair with Sarah Miles which began before it and ended during a V-I raid in 1944. A later section presents another version of the affair in Sarah's diaries, passed on to Bendrix by the private detective, Parkis, whom he hires to find the cause of her apparent desertion. They are a record of love and growing religious faith, in sharp contrast to Bendrix's hatred and envy, and reveal Sarah's promise to renounce their adulterous affair if God returns Bendrix to life after his apparent death in the raid. Later, after Sarah's own death and the miraculous events which seem to surround it, Bendrix tries to resist yet another version of events—the possibility that they were ‘plotted’ by a God whom he begins to see as a rival not only for Sarah's love, but in his craft as a novelist. This possibility adds to frequent self-reflexive discussion of his writing and the relation of fiction to reality. Despite revisions which emphasize mundane explanations for the apparent miracles, the novel has often been criticized as too influenced by Greene's Catholicism. In one way, its disparate narratives provide the fullest dramatization of his conflicting allegiances, around the time of the war, to the spiritual as well as the secular; to transcendence through religion as well as romance. Yet in another way, Sarah's religion functions simply as further confirmation of the problem Bendrix encounters in discovering her diaries—that ‘no human being can really understand another’; that another individual is ultimately inaccessible, even when loved most intimately.

‘End of the Tether, The’ - Blackwood's Magazine, Youth, A Narrative; and Two Other Stories [next]

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