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Authors: Graham Greene

It’s a Battlefield

BOOK: It’s a Battlefield
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Graham Greene was born in 1904. On coming down from Balliol College, Oxford, he worked for four years as sub-editor on
The Times
. He established his reputation with his fourth novel,
Stamboul Train.
In 1935 he made a journey across Liberia, described in
Journey Without Maps
, and on his return was appointed film critic of the
In 1926 he had been received into the Roman Catholic Church and visited Mexico in 1938 to report on the religious persecution there. As a result he wrote
The Lawless Roads
and, later, his famous novel
The Power and the Glory. Brighton Rock
was published in 1938 and in 1940 he became literary editor of the
The next year he undertook work for the Foreign Office and was stationed in Sierra Leone from 1941 to 1943. This later produced the novel,
The Heart of the Matter
, set in West Africa.
As well as his many novels, Graham Greene wrote several collections of short stories, four travel books, six plays, three books of autobiography –
A Sort of Life, Ways of Escape
A World of My Own
(published posthumously) – two of biography and four books for children. He also contributed hundreds of essays, and film and book reviews, some of which appear in the collections
Mornings in the Dark.
Many of his novels and short stories have been filmed and
The Third Man
was written as a film treatment. Graham Greene was a member of the Order of Merit and a Companion of Honour.
Graham Greene died in April 1991.
The Man Within
A Gun for Sale
The Confidential Agent
The Ministry of Fear
The Third Man
The End of the Affair
The Quiet American
A Burnt-Out Case
Travels with my Aunt
Dr Fischer of Geneva
The Bomb Party
The Tenth Man
Stamboul Train
England Made Me
Brighton Rock
The Power and the Glory
The Heart of the Matter
The Fallen Idol
Loser Takes All
Our Man in Havana
The Comedians
The Human Factor
Monsignor Quixote
The Honorary Consul
The Captain and the Enemy
Short Stories
Collected Stories
The Last Word and Other Stories
May We Borrow Your Husband?
Journey Without Maps
The Lawless Roads
In Search of a Character
Getting to Know the General
Collected Essays
Yours etc.
Mornings in the Dark
Collected Plays
A Sort of Life
Ways of Escape
Fragments of an Autobiography
A World of my Own
Lord Rochester's Monkey
An Impossible Woman
Children's Books
The Little Train
The Little Horse-Bus
The Little Steamroller
The Little Fire Engine


It's a Battlefield


This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
Epub ISBN: 9781409040309
Version 1.0
Published by Vintage 2002
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
Copyright Graham Greene 1934
Copyright © Graham Greene 1962
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
First published in Great Britain by
William Heinemann 1934
Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road,
London SW1V 2SA
Random House Australia (Pty) Limited
20 Alfred Street, Milsons Point, Sydney
New South Wales 2061, Australia
Random House New Zealand Limited
18 Poland Road, Glenfield,
Auckland 10, New Zealand
Random House (Pty) Limited
Endulini, 5A Jubilee Road, Parktown 2193,
South Africa
The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 0 09 928222 4
‘In so far as the battlefield presented itself to the bare eyesight of men, it had no entirety, no length, no breadth, no depth, no size, no shape, and was made up of nothing except small numberless circlets commensurate with such ranges of vision as the mist might allow at each spot. . . . In such conditions, each separate gathering of English soldiery went on fighting its own little battle in happy and advantageous ignorance of the general state of the action; nay, even very often in ignorance of the fact that any great conflict was raging.'
Assistant Commissioner was careful of his appearance before meeting men younger than himself. It gave him the same kind of confidence as dressing for dinner had done in eastern forests. He opened the cupboard door and brushed his dark suit before the mirror, his narrow yellow face bent close to the glass. Young men had certain savage qualities; they moved quickly; they sometimes carried poisoned weapons. He brushed slowly in rhythm with the plodding jungle step of his mind. He said to his secretary: ‘I've put my telephone number on the desk. If there's anything urgent . . .' As usual before a sentence was finished he became lost in the difficulties of expression. Slowly, with a fateful accumulation of hesitant sounds, he hacked his way forward. ‘Er – urgent, you will please – er – ring up the number, and – er – ask for me.' Bowler-hatted, umbrella over the left arm, he passed down long passages lined with little glass cells. Telephone bells rang, electric buzzers whirred like cicadas along his route, but his thoughts stepped carefully on, undeflected, undelayed, certainly unhurried.
By the time he reached the courtyard, he had decided that he did not care for politics. In Northumberland Avenue he said to himself that justice was not his business.
All round Trafalgar Square the lights sprang out, pricking the clear grey autumn evening. The buses roared up Parliament Street and swung in a great circle. A policeman at the corner of the avenue recognized the Assistant Commissioner and saluted him. The Assistant Commissioner nodded and crossed carefully where the signs pointed. I've got nothing to do with justice, he thought, my job is simply to get the right man, and the cold washed air did not prevent his thoughts going back to damp paths steaming in the heat under leaves like hairy hands. One pursued by this path and that, and only as a last resort, when there was no other means of ensuring a murderer's punishment, did one burn his village. Justice had nothing to do with the matter. One left justice to magistrates, to judges and juries, to members of Parliament, to the Home Secretary.
The Assistant Commissioner paused for a moment before a shop window in Pall Mall filled with carpets. One could not live long in the east without learning something about them. The Assistant Commissioner was interested, but he had no idea whether the colouring was beautiful or coarse, whether the pattern pleased or repelled; he was interested because he could apply certain formulas to determine whether the carpet had been made in the east. He satisfied himself, as far as he was able without touching, that the carpets were genuine before he went on to the Haymarket corner. It never occurred to him to buy one; in his flat he had a few rugs on hardwood floors. A newspaper poster caught his eye: ‘Drover Appeal Result', and another further up the Haymarket, ‘Bus-Man's Appeal: Result'. An opportunity for investigation occurred to him, and he bought a paper, asking the man whether any particular interest had been shown in the news that night. The man shook his head and pointed to his mouth; he was dumb and the Assistant Commissioner walked on, frowning a little.
From Piccadilly he turned up a side street. He was not a man to waste a walk, even to an appointment. Women were coming out of offices on the ground floors of the tall blank buildings. He paused before one number. There had been an agitation recently in the Sunday press over brothels in London, and the police were paying particular attention to a certain flat. The Assistant Commissioner pursed lips which frequent fevers had drained of colour and left dry and pale. He considered morality no more his business than polities. It was impossible to keep the brothels closed. They sprang up like mushrooms overnight in the most unlikely places. One, he knew, had existed for years next door to a most respectable club. If you had them watched, your police were bribed; it was much better to let them be. At the top of the Burlington Arcade he noticed two policemen and another stood outside the Galleries on the opposite side of the street. Vine Street was posting its men in a new way, and he made a mental note to get Bullen to ring up the Inspector.
He entered the Berkeley suspiciously; he liked his appointments either at Scotland Yard or a Minister's house, and he could not understand why he had been brought to a restaurant. The pale leaf colours, the sofas, and the mirrors which flashed back from every side his own lined and jaundiced face irritated him as much as a bowl of flowers on a desk.
‘Dear Commissioner.' He saw the private secretary detach himself from two women. Tall, with round smooth features and ashen hair, he shone with publicity; he had the glamour and consciousness of innumerable photographs. His face was like the plate-glass window of an expensive shop. One could see, very clearly and to the best effect, a few selected objects: a silver casket, a volume of Voltaire exquisitely bound, a self-portrait by an advanced and fashionable Czechoslovakian. ‘Dear Commissioner.' He greeted the older man again with amusement, patronage, frankness and guile, putting his hand on his arm and guiding him to a remote corner. ‘A sherry?'
The Assistant Commissioner said slowly: ‘I should like a whisky and – er – soda.' He felt suddenly old and dusty; as if he had just returned from one of his torrid tedious marches, with a man left dangling in the jungle for the birds to peck, to find at headquarters a young cool messenger from the Governor. The secretary said: ‘The Minister's so sorry not to see you himself. It's the debate, you know, on licensing. He can't leave the House for a minute. Frankly, I'm worried about him. He'll knock himself up. First the town planning, then the juvenile offenders, and now the licensing.'
The Assistant Commissioner did not listen; he had learnt to husband his hearing; he cast his mind back over the work of the afternoon. The morning's work had already been docketed in his mind while he ate his lunch from a tray in his room. First the report of the finger-print experts on Ruttledge's marks and the knowledge that all the work on the Paddington Trunk Case must be done over again; whoever had murdered Mrs Janet Crowle it wasn't Ruttledge; then the report on the new wireless invention; and the exhibits in the Streatham Common murder and rape which he had wished to examine personally, the handkerchief rusty with blood and the piece of matted hair and the cheap wool béret.
BOOK: It’s a Battlefield
8.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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