“The God I believe in must be responsible for all the evil as well as for all the saints. He has to be a God made in our image with a night-side as well as a day-side.”
The Honorary Consul is somewhat heavier fare than Graham Greene’s “entertainments”. The justification of man’s actions based on faith or based on the conflict created by the expectations of religious instruction and the reality of life features heavily in this book.
Charley Fortnum is an elderly, worn out diplomat, a British Honorary Consul based in northern Argentina who has been largely forgotten by the Foreign Office until he becomes inadvertently entangled in a plot to kidnap the American ambassador.
Unfortunately for Charley, the kidnapping goes horribly wrong. Even more unfortunate, the Foreign Office don’t like the idea of being reminded about Charley.
The only ones who do care about Charley are his wife and his doctor – two by-standers. Except of course, that this is Greene-land where soon enough things turn out different from what they appear.
‘It’s not how I intended things,’ Doctor Plarr repeated. He had no anger left with which to defend himself. ‘Nothing is ever what we intend. They didn’t mean to kidnap you. I didn’t mean to start the child. You would almost think there was a great joker somewhere who likes to give a twist to things. Perhaps the dark side of God has a sense of humour.’ ‘What dark side?’ ‘Some crazy notion of León’s. You should have heard that – not the things you did hear.’
So, what we get in The Honorary Consul, is a tense thriller capturing the moral dilemma created by kidnapping and the desperate attempts of atonement by everyone involved.
And all of it in Greene’s very dark and ironic style:
“Free Will was the excuse for everything. It was God’s alibi.”
5* (out of 5*)