Yngvild's Reviews > The Human Factor

The Human Factor by Graham Greene
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Mar 11, 10

bookshelves: espionage

The Human Factor is a spy story on a very small canvas, more Men from the Ministry than Ian Fleming or John le Carré. There is the same well-meaning little man who does tremendous harm as in The Quiet American, but The Human Factor sees the situation through the eyes of the little man himself. Unlike most popular fiction, where all the right is on one side and all the evil on the other, Graham Greene presents a morally ambiguous situation.

Here is a loving husband and father, a conscientious employee, a man with enough integrity to marry the pregnant black South African he saved from the security forces and take her home to his family. His downfall comes from his sense of gratitude towards those who helped them, not from greed or lust for power.

Graham Greene believed he could undermine those government institutions protected by secrecy laws or tradition by gentle derision. Evelyn Waugh in Sword of Honour and Joseph Conrad in The Secret Agent, even Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels, mocked their targets and we enjoyed the entertainment without protest. Ridicule is much more enduring than rancour.
What Castle could never bring himself to forgive was this smooth, educated officer of BOSS. It was men of this kind, men with the education to know what they were about, that made a ‘Hell in Heaven’s despite’. – The Human Factor, Graham Greene (1978)

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