Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene is a delightful read, both because of the simplicity of the language and honesty of the tale. Scobie is a middle aged Police Deputy Commissioner, obsessively sincere to his duty, and particularly useless to his book reading wife Louise. The tale is set in a West African colony, where it rains for six months, and apart from loneliness, bugs, roaches, malaria and third world struggles oppress the few white men who reside in the colony. Wilson appears in the colony and takes a liking to Louise. Before he can get anywhere, she leaves for South Africa.

A plot of circumstances makes Scobie's life a mesh where he needs to be the friend of very Yusef he despises and fall in love with twenty years younger, Mrs Rolt, or Helen. By the time his wife decides to return, he is tangled in a desperate struggle between two women, good and bad, his principles and everything he must do to compromise them, and the story proceeds into a realm of beautiful tragedy, leaving the reader spellbound.

There are few most memorable chapters in the novel. One is the description of a game Wilson and Harris invent and play, where they compete to hunt roaches. Other is the last one, where the Heart of Matter leaves you stunned and silenced in its sincere description for how little people matter once they are dead.

There are many sentences that I invariably will remember for a long time. Examples: 1) Virtue, the good life, tempted him in the dark like a sin. 2) Men become twins with age: the past was their common womb: the six months of rain and the six months of sun was the period of their common gestation. They needed only a few words and a few gestures to convey their meaning. 3)The word "pity" is used as loosely as the word "love": the terrible promiscuous passion which so few experience. 4) He listened with the intense interest one feels in a stranger's life, the interest the young mistake for love. AND LAST, but not the least 5) 'Of two hearts one is always warm and one is always cold: the cold heart is more precious than diamonds: the warm heart has no value and is thrown away.'

1 comment:

Praveen said...

This is one of my favorite books and greene is my favorite writer, i remember one sentence something like "The truth, has never been of any real value to any human being - it is a symbol for mathematicians and the philosophers to pursue. In human relations kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths", great article.