The Last Word and Other Stories

The Last Word and Other Stories

These twelve stories, dating from 1923 to 1989, represent the quintessential Graham Greene.

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The Man Who Stole the Eiffel Tower stands out the most as it is a delightful piece of whimsy, a short story designed to entertain the author as much as the reader, whereas the titular story reflects the direction of Greene's mind in his later years as he battled with his conflicted religious beliefs and mortality.

I particularly liked the title story "The Last Word", "The News in English" and "The Lieutenant Died Last".

The Last Word - Set in the future, after religion has been abolished, this story explains why an elderly man with no memory of his past is taken to meet The General, and his vague but comforting relationship with God. 4/5 The News in English - Set during the second world war, Lord Haw-Haw is off the air, and a new man is broadcasting from Germany in his place. 4/5 An Old Man's Memory - A terrorist attack on the opening of the Channel Tunnel train changes the future of the rail link. 1/5 Overall far more hits than misses, but some of it felt a little dated.

Showing a definite 20th Century Tone. Having just read some D.H.Lawrence short stories the contrast in tone was sharp.

The last of Graham Greene's books published in his lifetime was this collection of stories. His preface ends with this paragraph: The earliest story in this volume, "The New House", was published in 1929 in the OXFORD OUTLOOK. (His novel from that year, THE MAN WITHIN, is pastoral, and I recommend it.) Two stories published at the height of World War Two, "The News in English" and "The Lieutenant Died Last" are quite good. (For one of the best themed volume of short stories ever published, read MAY WE BORROW YOUR HUSBAND?) Though some of these stories are not quite what they could be, they are the work of a very congenial writer.

As the story progresses we find out who this lonely man is and why the dictator wants to see him. He doesn't want the money and is embarrassed that he should take money from such an impoverished province, so he donates it back to the state to use for good works. Finally, the last story is about an arrogant French journalist for a socialist magazine that goes to a Latin American country to interview the general who runs the country. All the stories are fascinating to read made all the more so by Graham's fluid writing.

"The Man Who Stole the Eiffel Tower" is an almost Roald Dahl-esque sort of play of fancy, spurred by the narrator's desire and decision to give the long hard-working landmark a bit of a vacance a la campagne, a farce of taxi-drivers, drunk tourists blitzing the "sites," and tower staff, none of whom are "fool enough to admit that their place of employment has ceased to exist until the week has come around and the money has been earned." "A Branch of the Service" combines the genre of the spy-story, at which Greene excels, with an excursion into gastronomy and epicurianism whose demands the narrator would so badly like to escape. Purves, a Boer War veteran, drunk, living in a shanty, slips by the soldiers, loads his Mauser, and then begins to ambush the Germans, doing most of them in, including the wounded Lieutenant. For that reason I wanted to honor you at the end.'" The reader is left to puzzle over the meaning and implications of the last supper, the final moments, and "a strange and frightening doubt that crossed the General's mind." Those are, of the twelve, my favorite four stories contained in this volume -- and perhaps the best recommendation I can give of the set is that, even if those four were torn out page by page, the book would still be worth the time of reading.

Graham Greene was a writer who had a lot of stories, and this book does a good job at showing the wide variety of his work and his mastery at painting worthwhile and interesting situations. "The Man Who Stole The Eiffel Tower" gives a compelling story of a dramatic and clever work in Paris by the narrator. "Work Not In Progress" provides an example of Greene's writing that attempts to be suitable for little ones, and is certainly a humorous tale. This attention to character shows itself in dialogue, in the character's thoughts and flashbacks and the way that Greene is able to provide compelling back stories for many of his protagonists, even in the form of short stories. Likewise, a few of the stories play on the author's interest in religion, which serves as a compelling reminder of Greene's larger cultural importance, in that he considered the fate of Christianity in the modern world to be a subject worthy of a noir tale of intrigue and violence, showing how even without political power religion has the way of inspiring doubts among those who hold civil authority and who cannot help but wonder if there is some secret truth that defies all of their attempts to coerce the world into their own liking.

Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenplay writer, travel writer and critic whose works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world.

  • English

  • Short Stories

  • Rating: 3.45
  • Pages: 160
  • Publish Date: March 1st 1999 by Penguin Classics
  • Isbn10: 0141181575
  • Isbn13: 9780141181578