Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Third Man [1949]

An interesting aspect about The Third Man is that, though it formed the basis for the Carol Reed masterpiece, it was written by Greene as a source text for his screenplay. This information, combined with the fact that I’d loved the British Noir, makes disassociating the two a rather tricky proposition. In itself, the book reminded me of his masterpiece The Quiet American in the way both dealt with personal dilemmas against murky post-WWII socio-political backdrops in his captivating style wherein the bitter cynicism, rich moodiness and a deep sense of fatalism deftly masked the underlying melancholia that formed the link between the personal and the political. Set in war-ravaged Vienna, with the majestic yet defeated city having become a playground for the 4 Allied powers, the tale kick-starts with Rollo Martins, a writer of pulpy Westerns, arriving at the behest of his childhood friend Harry Lime, only to discover that he has died under mysterious circumstances. That, combined with allegations of black market racketeering, and his hero-worship towards the maverick and enigmatic man who he considered his best friend, compels him towards an amateur investigation on his own. Not only does this lead to reinforcement of certain ugly truths and revelation of a neat twist, he also finds himself falling for Lime’s sad-eyed mistress. Though there were very few departures from the film, the one most noteworthy was Greene’s choice of narrator – the story here was chronicled by the cynical yet fair-minded Major Calloway, and was presented as his best efforts in putting together pieces through his logical interpretations. The brisk pacing, strong atmospherics, pulpy characterizations, staccato prose and Greene’s mastery in finding deep romanticism in the most desolate of scenarios, made me glad that I’d decided to read this novella despite, as the author made it amply clear in the preface, it “was never written to be read but only to be seen.”

Author: Graham Greene
Genre: Thriller/Political Thriller/Romantic Noir/Crime Thriller
Language: English
Country: UK

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