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Graham Greene's Biography

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(Henry) Graham Greene was born in Berkhamsted, England on 2 October 1904.

Graham Greene's father was headmaster of Berkhamsted School. It appears that in his childhood Greene felt isolated and disliked. Reportedly, Graham Greene tried to saw open his own knee and swallowed various substances in an attempt to poison himself. Amongst other attempts at self-harm Graham Greene took 14 aspirin and swam in the school pool.

Graham Greene's father sent him to a psychoanalyst, Kenneth Richmond, who had a profound effect on him. In 1922 Graham Greene went to Balliol College. Greene's fascination with espionage was symbolised by his founding of the Mantichorean Society, where members conducted themselves in disguise. At university he also played Russian Roulette several times.

In 1925 Graham Greene fell in love with Vivien Dayrell-Browning and sent her 2000 letters over just two and a half years.

After a short spell with British American Tobacco Company, Graham Greene joined the Nottingham Journal as a trainee. Simultaneously he received instruction from Father Trollope that led to his conversion to Catholicism, which may have been inspired by his love for Vivien.

In March 1926, Graham Greene moved to The Times. He had started writing in his undergraduate days and still continued in spite of his first two novels being continually rejected. He started his third, The Man Within.

Graham Greene and Vivien Dayrell-Browning married on 15 October 1927.

The Man Within was accepted and became a huge success. Greene left The Times and started writing for Heinemann full-time. His next couple of efforts were commercial flops, however; but then Stamboul Train was published and proved a critical and sales success.

Notable Graham Greene novels include Brighton Rock (1938), The Third Man (1950), Our Man in Havana (1958) and The Honorary Consul (1973).

Our Man In Havana is to a large extent based on Greene's activities as an intelligence officer during World War II. Greene worked with the infamous Kim Philby and they used to drink together at The King's Arms behind St James's Street. Just prior to the Allied invasion of Europe, Graham Greene resigned from MI6. His departure was a surprise, but Greene later explained:

"I moved out of MI6 because Philby wanted to promote me and I didn't wish to be promoted, and I also wished to go abroad if I could..."

On 20 November 1947, Graham Greene left Vivien. He had been having an affair with Dorothy Glover, but seems to have been obsessed with Catherine Walton, with whom he also had an affair.

In 1966 Graham Greene, who had always been a traveller and indeed written several travel books, settled in Antibes.

Recommended further reading: The Life of Graham Greene by Norman Sherry, and The Quest for Graham Greene by W.J. West.


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