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The third man Bookreport - by Graham Greene




 

The third man

by Graham Greene

A classic tale of friendship and betrayal

 

The author:



Henry Graham Greene was born on 2.10.1904 in Berkhamsted, England, and was one of six children. At the age of eight he attended the Berkhamsted school, where his father Charles was the head teacher. As a teenager he was under so immense pressure, that he got psychological problems and suffered a nervous breakdown. In 1922 Greene was enrolled on the Balliol College, Oxford and in 1926, after graduation, he started to work for the "London Times" as sub-editor and for the "Nottingham Journal" as journalist, where he met his later wife Vivien Dayrell-Browning. In February 1926, before marring his wife, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church, which influenced him and his writings (moral, religious, social themes). In 1929 Greene's first novel "The Man Within"  was published, so he became a freelance writer in 1930, but his popularity wasn't sealed before "Stamboul Train" was published in 1932. In 1935 he became the house film critic for "The Spectator". In 1938 Greene published "Brighton Rock" and visited Mexico to report on the religious persecution there, as a result he wrote "The Lawless Roads" and "The Power and the Glory". In 1940 he was promoted to literary editor for "The Spectator". In 1941 - World War Two - he began to spy voluntarily for the British Foreign Office in Sierra Leone, western Africa and resigned in 1943, because of being accused of collusion and traitorous activities.                                                      

In 1950 "THE THIRD MAN" was published, which was written as a film treatment. So the book became famous after the movie had been released in 1949. Greene states: "The Third Man was never to be read but only to be seen".

In 1975 he separated from his wife, and on 3 April 1991 he died in Vevey, Switzerland.

Some other novels of the author:

The Man Within - The Name of Action - Rumour at Nightfall - Stamboul Train - It's a Battlefield - England Made Me - A Gun for Sale - Brighton Rock - The Confidential Agent - The Power and the Glory - The Ministry of Fear - The Heart of the Matter - The Third Man - The End of the Affair - Loser Takes All - The Quiet American - Our Man in Havana - A Burnt-Out Case - The Comedians - Travels with my Aunt - The Honorary Consul - The Human Factor - Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party - Monsignor Quixote - The Tenth Man - The Captain and the Enemy

The characters:

Rollo Martins alias Buck Dexter:                 He's an English author of cheap westerns.

                                                                       When he arrives in Vienna after the World                                                                        World War II, he finds out that his best friend                                                                       Harry Lime's dead. Martins thinks he has   been murdered, so he starts to investigate on       his own. During his abidance he falls in love                                                                        with Anna Schmidt, Lime's girlfriend. But the                                                                       girl still loves Harry, even after his death. In                                                                        the end, Martins finds out about Harry Lime's                                                                       real character...

Harry Lime:                                                   He's an old school friend and idol of Martins. Harry Lime invites the author to Vienna to report on international refugees. But when his friend arrives, Harry's supposed to be dead. Everybody thinks he has been run over by a car, but as time goes on, Rollo Martins finds out the frightening truth...  

Colonel Calloway:                                        He's an English police officer, who narrates                                                                       the story by reconstructing his police files.                                                                       During the story, the Colonel often admits the                                                                       mistakes of their police work.

Anna Schmidt:                                               She's an actress, and  Harry Lime's girlfriend.                                                           Anna Schmidt's Hungarian, but she                                                                        masquerades as an Austrian girl. Because of                                                            that, she gets arrested by the four powers in                                                            Vienna. She always remains loyal to Harry                                                           Lime, even when she hears about his real                                                            character, because she really loves him.



Mr. Koch:                                                      He's Lime's caretaker and witness of his                                                                           accident. Mr. Koch introduces "the third                                                                            man", whom he has seen, but couldn't                                                                                identify. Because of that (he simply knows too much!) he gets a lot of troubles...

Dr. Winkler:                                                  He's Lime's friend and present doctor at the                                                                        accident.

Colonel Cooler:                                            He's a friend of Harry Lime

Herr Kurtz:                                                    He's also a friend of Lime

Joseph Harbin:                                              Also a friend of him

Mr. Crabbin:                                                 The representative of the fictitious British      Cultural Relations Society

Benjamin Dexter:                                          He's a fictional novelist

The summary:

 

The story is narrated by Colonel Calloway, who reconstructs his police files.

Rollo Martins (alias Buck Dexter) travels after the World War II to the into four zones (the Russian, the British, the American and the French one) divided Vienna to visit his old school friend Harry Lime, who has invited him to Austria to report on international refugees. When arriving, Martins finds out that his friend has been run over by car and has died. At Lime's funeral the author of westerns meets Colonel Calloway, who states that Lime was the worst racketeer in Vienna, who would have been arrested if he had not been killed. Martins dissents from Calloway, because he has always regarded Lime as a hero and as an idol. He cannot prove it, because Martins has to leave Vienna the next day for lack of money. Fortunately, at his hotel Martins is taken for Benjamin Dexter, a very famous author, by Mr. Crabbin, a representative of the fictitious British Cultural Relations Society. Therefore he gets a hotel room for one week plus expenses, but he must host a lecture and literary discussion.

So, he starts his own inquiry, at first with Mr. Kurtz, a friend of Harry, who explains that he, Colonel Cooler and, of course, the driver have seen the accident. But Martins is not satisfied, he thinks Harry Lime has been murdered. Visiting Anna Schmidt, who's an actress and has been Lime's girlfriend, she tells the same as Kurtz has told, but mentions that even the driver has been a friend of Lime. After that, Martins visits Dr. Winkler to question him, but gets no information. At Lime's flat he meets Mr. Koch, who reveals that he is a witness who hasn't given evidence. He claims that there has been a third man (beside Kurtz and Cooler, the driver has stayed in the car), whom he could not identify. Martins wants Koch to give evidence but he refuses to do it and outrages. So Martins visits Cooler, who tells the same story as Kurtz, and asks him about the "third man", but he has seen nobody else. Then he visits Anna Schmidt again and tells her about his latest investigation, so they decide to question Koch again. As they arrive, Koch has been murdered, therefore they flee, and Martins walks back to his hotel, where Calloway is waiting for him. He tries to escape from this conversation, but outside of the hotel he's awaited by a friend of Mr. Crabbin, who drives hi to a literary discussion. After that, Martins is brought back to Calloway. Martins tells him about the "third man", then Calloway informs him about Lime's rackets: In those days, only military hospitals have been supplied with Penicillin in Austria, thus no civilian doctor or hospital owns it. As a result, Penicillin has been stolen and  has been sold to Austrian doctors for much money. Finally, an organisation has been founded and penicillin has been diluted. The consequences have been, that it has caused venereal diseases and meningitis.




Then he shows evidences that Lime, Kurtz, Cooler, Winkler and Harbin, a friend of Lime who has vanished, have been involved. So Martins gets disillusioned and disappointed about Lime and wants to leave Vienna, but he can't, because of the Austrian police. He thinks that Kurtz or the "third man" has killed Lime, so he tries to find this mysterious "third man". He visits Anna Schmidt to tell her all about Lime, and as leaving her, he finds out that someone's following him. He quickly turns around, and can fortunately see the face of the "third man": Harry Lime. He pursues him to an iron kiosk where he vanishes, so he informs Colonel Calloway about all that. In the meantime Schmidt has been arrested by the four powers because of her falsified papers. Martins and Calloway find a door in the kiosk with stairs to the sewer system, which has been used for smuggling. Knowing that Lime is alive, Martins makes an appointment with him at the Prater´s Great Wheel. There, he realises that Lime's character has totally changed, that he has become a man with no scruples, that he betrays and uses persons, but that he still has certain principles. He is godless man, possessed by evil and tempted by money. Visiting Schmidt again, she remains loyal to Lime, because she still loves him. So Martins, who has fallen in love with her, is a little bit disappointed.

At Calloway`s office, he is informed that  it's Harbin who has been in Limes´s coffin, and that Winkler and Cooler will be arrested, but not Lime and Kurtz. Martins decides to be used for bait, because he has lost his faith in Lime's friendship. So he makes another appointment with Lime. At the meeting, Lime realises the trap and flees. The police and Martins persecute him through the sewer system, and in the end Martins wounds and shoots Lime, his former best friend.

About the topic:

The novel deals with the main theme of friendship and betrayal. Martins betrays Harry Lime, Lime betrays himself and Anna Schmidt, only the girl remains loyal. The characters also use each other, so that there can't be a happy ending. Martins has lost his idol and in the end he even shoots him, but why? For the sake of justice or revenge? The "good" Martins assimilates in the end to the "evil" Lime. Perhaps in the end, Martins sees Lime as a rival concerning Anna Schmidt, because throughout the book the girl loves Lime instead of him. Martins is also in a discord and an inner conflict. He can be regarded as a hunter and Lime as the prey. The investigation of the protagonist does not find an individual culprit, but reveals political crimes in which children are the victims. Rollo Martins can also be compared with Graham Greene, because his friend and boss in Sierra Leone, Kim Philby, was a betrayer, but Greene took no measures.

My opinion:

Reading that story was a pleasure for me. It wasn't very difficult, because the language that has been used is rather easy to understand. Of course, I was also very interested in the background, Vienna after World War II.

Greene also uses some metaphors: The destroyed Vienna can show the destroyed friendship of Lime and Martins, and also the lost of any value. First Martins believed in friendship, but then killed Lime with mixed emotions. It is a perversion of values.

Greene changes between first-person narrator, omniscient narrator, observer-narrator and camera eye. It is "a new habit of narrative" in which stage directions are integrated.

All in all, I think the story's worth reading, it's unimportant which genre you prefer.

"The third man" offers parts of all kinds of fiction, and (crime, history.), and that's what I really like about it. 










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