Friday, April 29, 2016

The Honorary Consul [1973]

The Honorary Consul holds a special place in “Greene-land” – while on one hand he called this his most personal work (reserving the tag ‘best’ for The Power and the Glory), on the other he’d found it one of the most difficult to complete – he faced a severe block two-thirds down the book that had nearly compelled him to quit. Fortunately he did succeed in completing it, and what he produced was a moody, gripping and trenchant political drama with deep moral ambiguities, making this an exciting companion piece to The Comedians, with strong traces of The Quiet American. What happens when a political crime, intended to bring the state to its knees, fails to elicit a commensurate response? – this question formed the key tenet for this tale set in the grimy and human corruption-ridden ambience of a provincial Argentinian town on the banks of the Paraná River. The book’s protagonist Eduardo Plarr, like Brown and Fowler in the latter novels, is a cynical, morally detached and conflicted loner of English descent, with deep-set political and Catholic dilemmas. When the town’s alcoholic Honorary Consul Charles Fortnum is mistakenly abducted by a group of political terrorists led by the troubled former priest Rivas, Plarr is automatically sucked into the murky affair – not just because Rivas was a childhood friend, but more so on account of the recurrent memories of his father who’d disappeared into the Paraguayan prisons for his seditious activities. Meanwhile, Plarr’s growing obsession with Clara, a prostitute from a local brothel who Fortnum has recently married, added a charged atmosphere of tension in sync with Greene’s panache for concocting complicated love stories amidst political muck. His irony-laden acquaintance with a novelist in whose works the idea of ‘machismo’ forms a central component, and the shrewd police chief in charge of diffusing the standoff, further catalyzed the proceedings. The tale, filled with characters that brilliantly evolved over its arc, was imbued with a brooding tragi-comic tone, bleak world-view and a dash of pulp.

Author: Graham Greene
Genre: Drama/Political Thriller/Religious Drama
Language: English
Country: UK

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