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The Honorary Consul Paperback – 7 Oct 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; Centenary Ed edition (7 Oct. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099478382
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099478386
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 122,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Perhaps the most enduring novel that even he has give us" (Daily Mail)

"The tension never relaxes and one reads hungrily from page to page, dreading the moment it will end" (Auberon Waugh Evening Standard)

"Greene's work attempts to link the serious moral imagination with the spirit of adventure and romance and to extend the remapping of imaginative geography first undertaken by Conrad" (Times Higher Education Supplement)

"A superb storyteller with a gift for provoking controversy" (New York Times)

"Greene had the sharpest eyes for trouble, the finest nose for human weaknesses, and was pitilessly honest in his observations... For experience of a whole century he was the man within" (Norman Sherry Independent)

Book Description

A gripping tragicomedy of a bungled kidnapping in a provincial Argentinean town, considered to be one of Greene's finest novels.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book typifies what many people have labelled as `Greeneland': a tragi-comic world (usually more tragic than comic) in which people are confronted by awkward choices which require them to examine or re-examine their values and which often lead them to behave in ways which they would previously have rejected. The book is set in Argentina, where the British honorary consul, Charles Fortnum, is kidnapped by a group who threaten to kill him unless a group of Paraguayan political prisoners is released. Unfortunately for Fortnum, he is so unimportant that none of Britain, Argentina and Paraguay cares about his fate. His only ally is Eduardo Plarr, a half-British doctor who has been friendly with Fortnum but who has also been having an affair with Fortnum's much younger wife Clara. Clara is pregnant; the baby is Plarr's but Fortnum knows nothing of the affair and so assumes that it is his. Plarr pleads Fortnum's case with the kidnappers, whose leader, Leon Rivas, is a lapsed Catholic priest with whom Plarr used to be friendly. Both Plarr and Rivas find themselves in `Greeneland': Plarr is a cold, unemotional man who is forced to re-evaluate his feelings for both Fortnum and Clara; as for Rivas, the prospect of having to murder Fortnum brings his religious faith increasingly into conflict with his political objectives. Lighter moments are provided by some of the more minor characters, especially Saavedra, a mediocre but self-important Argentinian author.

This is one of my favourite Greene novels. It is a clever mix of an adventure story about a kidnapping that goes wrong, and a literary novel about love, faith and moral values.
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Format: Hardcover
South America in the 1970s. A group of revolutionaries plan to highlight their cause by kidnapping the American ambassador. Unfortunately, they get it wrong and kidnap instead Charley Fortnum, a boozy expatriate Briton whose quasi-official status as an honorary consul amunts to little more than the right to import and sell a car every two years. Dr Plarr, one of only two other Britons in the city, is involved from the start: not only was it he who provided the revolutionaries with their information, but he is also having an affair with Fortnum's young wife. Though this is more sombre in tone than some of Greene's other 'entertainments', there is much wry humour in these pages, but what struck me most was the degree of emotional involvement Greene manages to produce in what could easily have been a cynical tale of unprincipled behaviour and bungling. The novel takes us down a dark road, and I found some of the later scenes really quite sad, but I hope I'm not giving too much away by saying that the road leads eventually to redemption - of a kind.
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Format: Paperback
With all due respect to the in house reviewer I would like to assure all potential readers of this fine novel that it is in no way a political book. The politics referred to serve to bring the characters together. At no point in the novel does Greene investigate any of the characters' politics. Nor does he analyse the political situation in Paraguay and Argentina where the novel is set.

It is a novel about love; about the inability to love and the nature of love. It's about the nature of god and how the protagonists have to come to terms with the difficult idea that god is both good and evil. It's about the nature of the catholic church; the complicated nature of human beings. It's about that favourite paradox of Green's that very often those seemingly furthest from redemption, humanity and god are in fact the closest to them.

It's a beautiful book aching with humanity- our foibles, our goodness and our badness. But please don't call it a political book. Greene would have had a fit. It is after all the novel he most preferred of all those he wrote.
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Format: Paperback
Unlike most Greene books, I did not detect a morally-uplifting ending here, although some argue that Dr. Plarr, the central character, died for a purpose.

The book is set in an obscure part of N.Argentina in the 1970's. The honorary British consol, Charlie Fortnum, is kidnapped by a bungling group of Paraguayan guerillas, in mistake for an American diplomat. Plarr knows the leader of the rebels (a former Catholic priest) and has previously agreed to help them. To confuse matters, Fortnum's wife is Plarr's mistress, and she is pregnant with his child. The rebels had intended to use the American hostage as ransom for the release of imprisoned colleagues back home, but, naturally, the British consol has no bargaining weight.

Eventually, the rebels are surrounded and dealt with, Fortnum being freed unharmed. Plarr, having voluntarily left the safety of their hut to try to negotiate, was executed. Was Plarr offering himself to provide Fortnum and his wife with a future?

The ending is unsatisfactory, but it is a good story, marred by over-long religious discussions(and symbolism) on the meaning of love, life etc. between Plarr and the priest. Such discussions are commonplace in Greene books, but, somehow seem unnecessary and incongruous here.
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