Stephen Gallup's Reviews > The Confidential Agent

The Confidential Agent by Graham Greene
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's review
Jan 01, 2011

really liked it
Read in December, 2010

D. is on a special mission to England from a country that's in the throes of civil war to buy desperately-needed coal for his faction and to ensure that his opponent, L., does not succeed at the same task. Throughout the story, L. appears to have the situation well in hand while D. is the underdog, distrusted even by his own people and making such dismal progress that their suspicion is understandable.

There are points at which I can see that this must have been source material for Ian Fleming when he later wrote the James Bond novels, but D. is a far cry from 007 (neither the suave movie version nor the soulless killing machine that Fleming intended). Early on, for example, he finds himself stuck at a roadhouse because the girl he'd been traveling with is too busy partying with other people to continue their journey. Desperate to keep to his timetable, he takes her car--and is pursued as a thief, beaten up by self-righteous louts, and left to make his way on foot with fewer teeth in his mouth.

Before long, D. is not so much a confidential agent as he is a fugitive, likely to be shot by his own superiors or jailed by the English police if they catch him first. In that respect, it more closely resembles The Power and the Glory. It's not as powerful as that other work, but it did have the effect of making me dream that I too was on the run. Not surprising, as (aside from a couple pages of comic relief) it's a nightmarish or even Kafkaesque situation.

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