(Author: Graham Greene) + (Year: 1951) + (Goodreads)
“I am a jealous man – it seems stupid to write these words in what is, I suppose, a long record of jealousy, jealousy of Henry, jealousy of Sarah and jealousy of that other whom Mr Parkis was so maladroitly pursuing. (…) Sometimes I think [Henry] wouldn’t even recognise me as part of the picture, and I feel an enormous desire to draw attention to myself, to shout in his ear, ‘You can’t ignore me. Here I am. Whatever happened later, Sarah loved me then.”
At first I did not know what kind of a book I will be reading. It was a recommendation which I took without inquiring as to the nature of the genre. Once I found out it was a romance, I became unsure, because The End of the Affair came right after The Sorrows of Young Werther and it was entirely too close, story-wise.
Bendrix, the main hero of this book, claims that he is writing about hate. Hate for Sarah, his former lover, dead by the time of this recollection, hate for her husband, hate for all of the lovers she might have had in her past, or in her future, had she not died.
The relationships between the characters are much more complicated than that, however. This is, surely, an account of love. Romantic love, love in marriage, love between friends, and last, but not least, love toward God. And while this might not be one of the more publicised sides of the book, it is a book about belief and religion.
Bendrix and Sarah have a very complicated feelings toward each other. But whatever those might be, God is the thing that stands between them. As the result of what happens to be a tragedy of errors, they are separated by the hand of God. The book follows in depth the question of belief, the mistrust toward religion and the desire to belong to something higher than the self. While Bendrix does not know it, religion plays the central part of his relationship with Sarah. Therefore, it is her narration that unfolds this entire side of the novel for the reader and in an interesting, yet somewhat confusing way, because, for example, I do get the struggle to believe, but I do not see how it can turn somebody’s world so upside-down that it would but make them lose their mind.
“Let me forgive me. Dear God, I’ve tried to love and I’ve made such a hash of it. If I could love you, I’d know how to love them. I believe the legend. I believe you were born. I believe you died for us. I believe you are God. Teach me to love. I don’t mind my pain. It’s their pain I can’t stand. Let my pain go on and on, but stop theirs. Dear God, if only you could come down from your Cross for a while and let me get up there instead. If I could suffer like you, I could heal like you.”
The question of love and jealousy is the more mundane side of this book. It is a part of every line, every word, every dot. It is Bendrix’ sole fixation. His entire being is dedicated to either loving or being jealous.
“When she left the house I couldn’t settle to work: I would reconstruct what we had said to each other. I would fan myself into anger or remorse. And all the time I knew I was forcing the pace. I was pushing, pushing the only thing I loved out of my life. As long as I could make-believe that love lasted, I was happy – I think I was even good to live with, and so love did last. But if love had to die, I wanted it to die quickly.“
Bendrix thinks that what he is saying is wrong. But what I think is that, first, if it necessarily has to end, it is probably not love. More likely than not, it is fixation, a mania. Second, if one is caught in a bad romantic situation, there is no point to drag it out. The problem with the characters of this book is that they never let anything go. They continue fixating. They know that what they are doing is wrong. They fully realise that they are mistaken. And they, only for appearance’s sake, let it go, yet continue to think and rethink it.
In my opinion, this is not really a love story. By saying that this is a book of love, I was implying that all of them are searching for it and analysing it. I do not, however, believe that they are in love.
“Wouldn’t you want me to be happy, rather than miserable?” she asked with unbearable logic.
“I’d rather be dead or see you dead,” I said, “than with another man.”