The heart of the matter

by Graham Greene

Hardcover, 1948

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York : The Viking Press, 1948

Description

Scobie, a police officer in a West African colony, is a good and honest man. But when he falls in love, he is forced into a betrayal of everything that he has ever believed in, and his struggle to maintain the happiness of two women destroys him.

Media reviews

A policeman's lot is not a happy one. The white (and dark) man's burden must always be heavy. And man's debt to man will be forever in arrears -- from West Africa to the West End, from Brooklyn to Bucharest. Generations of novelists have wrestled with these melancholy truisms. It is a pleasure to report that Graham Greene, in "The Heart of the Matter," has wrestled brilliantly with all three -- and scored three clean falls. Mr. Greene (as a well-earned public knows) is a profound moralist with a technique to match his purpose. From first page to last, this record of one man's breakdown on a heat-drugged fever-coast makes its point as a crystal-clear allegory -- and as an engrossing novel.
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One thing I admire with the Heart of the Matter is the introduction of several other characters that in a way or another adds up to the genuine plot. They all seem to have a story to tell and each story affects and adds up to the conflict that has been surfacing within the inner self of Scobie.

User reviews

LibraryThing member akfarrar
About three weeks ago I picked up ‘The Heart of the Matter’ – Greene’s novel of 1948 set in West Africa during the Second World War.

I first read it over 30 years ago, and it has everything I remember – but a lot more.

Perhaps because I’ve been working on ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ at the same time – elements of religion, marriage and identity have stood out in focus in a way I don’t remember. The Shrew is a play all about seeking salvation through appropriate partnering – The Heart of the Matter, how salvation is individual and not to be found in others.

This was a pretty dismal, depressing read the first time – it touched on the meaning of existence and right way to live – on lovelessness and the unforgivable: What I hadn’t tasted then was the existential angst, the deepness of the despair and the strength of individual choice.

Major Scobie, our everyman, is a policeman with a wife – respectability personified. He is hated by the ex-pats because he isn’t corrupt – and loved by the Syrian dealer in corruption for the same reason. His lack of corruption perversely makes him untrustworthy to his own kind – and his career suffers as a consequence. The only true friendship comes from the Syrian, Yusef – very not British – and it is a friendship Scobie can never accept.

It is Scobie’s fall from grace we follow – in the true meaning of the words: He is not ruined in any earthly way – but his spiritual existence is, at least in his own mind, spiraling ever further down through the circles of hell.

In one of the more frighteningly understandable images of the book, Scobie sees himself as fisting god – not fighting in the abstract, but physically punching and damaging the flesh: It is an image which horrifies in its very physicality – and in the clarity of self-knowledge Scobie exhibits.

Around this dying light flutter a whole cast of shadow-dwelling characters.

Scobie’s wife is damaged goods – her husband’s incorruptibility has driven her to this god forsaken land so she has plunged into the superficialities of Catholic dogma – the ritual and the literal making her empty life fuller. She reads books and poetry – replacing any real inner life with printed words and borrowed sounds.

She is not a fool – but it is her needs that keep what is left of their marriage alive – most of it died with a young daughter back in England. Her leaving to live in South Africa opens the gap needed for a replacement ‘needer’ – and the final human dilemma that shatters Scobie’s relationship with the divine.

Wilson, spy-on-his-own-kind, and writer of trash poetry; driving Scobie no more than a mosquito could - tolerated as a fact of the environment – in ‘love’ with Scobie’s wife and emptying the word of all depth.

Helen, fallen woman and siren – who is no more than a vessel the fates use to trap Scobie – from her very first appearance as love-less, dried-skin of a girl clutching a stamp-album to near-whore for the ex-pat wild boy.

A priest who knows he serves no one well – least of oll Scobie; a priest who needs to confess as much as to listen to confession – but perhaps the only one who sees the real relationship of Scobie to his god – who appreciates the complexities and ultimate unknowability of any meaning in life.

These moths flicker in and out of the life that is Scobie – contrasting their weaknesses with the immense strength he is using in his ‘psychomachia’ – his soul-struggle.

Scobie is ultimately heroic – in his choice and in facing of the consequences of that choice. He is very much a 20th Century man – having both the consciousness and anxiety William Golding identified as hallmarks in the work of Graham Greene.
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LibraryThing member gbill
A British officer stationed in West Africa is in an unloving marriage, has had his only child die, and is passed over for promotion. What to do, what to do. I know. Have a passionate affair with a nineteen year old that reminds him of his daughter. The primary themes seem to be failure and pity, I don’t understand why this book is as highly regarded as it is; it’s not awful but is far from great. As a forewarning, the racism starts a couple of pages in as well.

Quotes:
On happiness:
“Point me out the happy man and I will point you out either extreme egotism, evil – or else an absolute ignorance.”

On love vs. pity:
“Did my lies really start, he wondered, when I wrote that letter? Can I really love her more than Louise? Do I, in my heart of hearts, love either of them, or is it only that this automatic pity goes out to any human need – and makes it worse?”

And this one:
“Why, he wondered, does one ever begin this humiliating process: why does one imagine that one is in love? He had read somewhere that love had been invented in the eleventh century by the troubadours. Why had they not left us with lust? He said with hopeless venom, ‘I love you.’ He thought: it’s a lie, the word means nothing off the printed page. He waited for her laughter.”

On marriage:
“He never listened while his wife talked. He worked steadily to the even current of sound, but if a note of distress were struck he was aware of it at once. Like a wireless operator with a novel open in front of him, he could disregard every signal except the ship’s symbol and the SOS.”

On relationships, an interesting inversion:
“There is a Syrian poet who wrote, ‘Of two hearts one is always warm and one is always cold: the cold heart is more precious than diamonds: the warm heart has no value and is thrown away.’”

On youth (and age):
“He listened with the intense interest one feels in a stranger’s life, the interest the young mistake for love. He felt the security of his age sitting there listening with a glass of gin in his hand and the rain coming down.”
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LibraryThing member Arctic-Stranger
This is a heartbreaker of a novel. Scobie, and man of duty if there ever was one, falls in love while his wife is away. He is torn by guilt; the guilt of being a poor husband, and knowing he cannot do better, the guilt of finding love, the guilt of standing "poor in spirit" before God. One can only hope there is redemption for him.

It is only sad until the last few pages, where it turns tragic.
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LibraryThing member kaitanya64
This is a great psychological novel. Scobie is an honest officer in the British Colonial administration in West Africa. His honesty makes him suspect by many, both British and African, but his religious faith and sense of duty to others, including his wife and his sense of law and order, insulate him from ordinary temptations. But when Scobie falls in love, his sense of personal responsibility for others leads him farther and farther from the open, simple morality he has followed all his life and gradually he becomes enmeshed in the crime and corruption that permeates colonial culture.… (more)
LibraryThing member gypsysmom
I've never read anything by Graham Greene before but this book was chosen by the LT 1001 Books Group as the August 2017 read and it seemed like a good place to start. I found the subject matter difficult but Greene's writing is quite wonderful.

Henry Scobie is a policeman in a British colony on the west coast of Africa. World War II is on and ships in the Atlantic are regularly sunk. Scobie has been in the colony for fifteen years so he is quite a veteran. He oversees a number of black policeman and takes on difficult cases himself. His wife, Louise, is dissatisfied with life in the colony and when Henry is passed over for the head police job she is very disappointed. She is seen by other ex-pats as rather aloof because she likes literature and poetry. A new man in the colony, Edward Wilson, likes poetry himself and he forms a passion for Louise. Although Wilson is nominally a clerk he actually is a spy for the British government trying to find collaborators with the Germans. He sets his sights on Scobie and soon has evidence of wrongdoing in that Scobie is having an affair with a woman who was shipwrecked and lost her husband. Louise, at this time, was sent to South Africa at her request and at considerable cost. Scobie, with virtually no savings, had to borrow the money from one of the Syrians in town which also brings him under suspicion. Scobie's Catholic faith means he should confess and stay away from his mistress but he cannot bring himself to do so. Then when his wife returns he takes Communion with her which is another sin. Scobie is on the horns of a dilemma and doesn't know how to extricate himself.

Greene's description of life in an African colony are based upon his own experiences in Sierra Leone during the war. It sounds dreadful and so when Scobie says that he likes living there I found it hard to believe. I also found it hard to believe that he had such a commitment to his mistress because he seems like a textbook stiff-upper-lip sort of Brit the reader has a hard time believing he has any emotions. But as the saying goes "Still waters run deep" so there are many emotions roiling around under the surface. I felt very sorry for Scobie because he seemed like such a decent person. He really wanted to do what was best for both the women in his life and he wanted to be a good Catholic. There was just no way for him to reconcile his faith with his feelings for his women.
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LibraryThing member leslie.98
Not a review, just some random thoughts upon completing this novel. Scobie is such a tragic figure! And I can't help wondering how autobiographic his struggles with love & religion were since both Scobie & Greene converted to Catholicism. The broken rosary Scobie kept meaning to have repaired is a symbol that sticks in my mind... Another thing that struck me was the encapsulated in the phrase:
" - that no human being can really understand another, and no one can arrange another's happiness."
Despite the religious aspects running through this book, it seemed almost existentialist in tone.
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LibraryThing member lucybrown
I shall say from the outset The Heart of the Matter does not make for comfortable reading. However, for anyone who wants to be challenged, not necessarily intellectually, but deeper down this is an excellent. Scobie, a man of honor in a climate which expects corruption, which seethed with jealousies, gossip and spying, is put under Greene's relentless microscope. His greatest quality, caring too much, is also his greatest failing. Watching the disintegration of an good man is not an easy thing to witness. As I read the latter fourth I kept thinking, "this doesn't have to end this way; there are so many ways this could be resolved. If I were Scobie, I would..." And that is the heart of the matter. I am not Scobie. I am not remotely like Scobie. I cannot ever fully understand Scobie. What I can do is hope for eternal mercy for all the Scobies of the world. For all the world. And that is where Greene leaves it.

Like many of Greene's books, The Heart of the Matter is shadowed by the author's faith. Like his schoolmate and writing contemporary Evelyn Waugh Catholicism is a continuing theme; however, with Greene it goes beyond a theme; it is nearly a haunting. I can't believe the stringency of his faith and how he portrayed it won many converts for the church. At times reading the book seemed an act of masochism in the name of art; a spiritual tormenting like self flagellation and wearing a hair shirt. Now this may not seem much of a recommendation for a book, in an odd way it his. It will get under your skin and flail its way through the corridors of your brain and heart. At least it did mine.

Throughout Greene masterfully manipulates scenes, details and characters producing subtle doubles, haunting metaphors, smalls clues, and well-conceived symbols (the broken rosary, the rusted handcuffs). But beyond the artistry, which is nothing if the book lacks a soul, is the lonely, responsibility-ridden Scobie, a man worthy of the reader's concern and love.

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LibraryThing member TerrapinJetta
Not as good as The End of the Affair I don't think, but outstanding even so.
LibraryThing member amerynth
I was somewhat surprised that I thought Graham Greene's novel "The Heart of the Matter" was a decent read. I've read some of Greene's nonfiction work and couldn't abide this attitude toward native people. Knowing this book was set in Africa, I had misgivings about it to start, but I found the story to be interesting and flowed well.

The story focuses on Scobie, a police investigator who is mostly looking for smuggled diamonds. There are plenty of not-so-secret secrets floating around and a good helping of Catholic guilt to move the story along.

The characters were interesting, even though they were mostly unlikeable people. I'm not sure this is really a must-read book, but it was pretty enjoyable.
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LibraryThing member tommi180744
Greene piles angst on angst with the religiosity he's known for - it could be tedious - however, this author's eloquent style coupled with sharp observation of the human condition keeps the reader involved and whilst the story is somewhat dated by modern, contemporary tomes written on the same issues it still stands up as a good, thoughtful read.… (more)
LibraryThing member richardderus
Book Circle Reads 35

Rating: 4* of five

The Book Description: Graham Greene's masterpiece The Heart of the Matter tells the story of a good man enmeshed in love, intrigue, and evil in a West African coastal town. Scobie is bound by strict integrity to his role as assistant police commissioner and by severe responsibility to his wife, Louise, for whom he cares with a fatal pity.

When Scobie falls in love with the young widow Helen, he finds vital passion again yielding to pity, integrity giving way to deceit and dishonor—a vortex leading directly to murder. As Scobie's world crumbles, his personal crisis makes for a novel that is suspenseful, fascinating, and, finally, tragic.

Originally published in 1948, The Heart of the Matter is the unforgettable portrait of one man, flawed yet heroic, destroyed and redeemed by a terrible conflict of passion and faith.

My Review: An excellent book. Simply magnificent writing, as always, but more than that the story is perfectly paced (a thing Greene's stories aren't always) and deeply emotional (another thing Greene's stories aren't always, eg Travels With My Aunt).

Greene himself didn't like the book, which was a species of roman à clef. I suspect, though I don't have proof, that he was simply uncomfortable at how much of his inner life he revealed in the book. Scobie's infidelity and his fraught relationship with the wife he's saddled with must have been bad reading for Mrs. Greene. But the essential conflict of the book is man versus church, the giant looming monster of judgment and hatred that is Catholicism. Greene's convert's zeal for the idiotic strictures, rules, and overarching dumb "philosophy" of the religion are tested here, and ultimately upheld, though the price of the struggle and the upholding aren't scanted in the text.

Stories require conflicts to make them interesting, and the essential question an author must address is "what's at stake here?" The more intense and vivid the answer to that question is, the more of an impact the story is able to make. Greene was fond of the story he tells here, that of an individual against his individuality. He told and retold the story. The state, the colonial power whose interests Scobie/Greene serves, is revealed in the text to be an uncaring and ungrateful master; the rules of the state are broken with remarkably few qualms when the stakes get high enough. It is the monolith of the oppressive church, admonishing Scobie of his "moral" failings and withholding "absolution of his sins", that he is in full rebellion against...and in the end it is the church that causes all parties the most trouble and pain.

Greene remained a believing Catholic. I read this book and was stumped as to why. The vileness of the hierarchy was so clear to me, I couldn't imagine why anyone would read it and not drop christianity on the spot. But no matter one's stance on the religion herein portrayed, there's no denying the power of the tension between authority and self in creating an engaging and passionate story. A must-read.
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
A sad story if ever there was one, but one of the finest ever written about the white men in West Africa.
LibraryThing member eglinton
Morose and melancholy, an outpost of the mind or perhaps soul in an outpost of the Empire. The clipped and weighted dialogue, like a Golden Age movie script, reeks of some unvoiced emotion - weary despair in this case. A brothel visit is inserted, for example, simply to evoke the "sadness of the after-taste," which moreover "fell upon his spirits beforehand". The heart and the matter of Scobie, the lead character, are implausible (as Orwell's early review noted), and getting real world motives to fit in with the doctrines of religion, as Greene seeks to do, is always a struggle.… (more)
LibraryThing member stillatim
As good as The Power and the Glory? Nope. As good as The Quiet American? Yeah. I read some other peoples' reviews, and along with the usual 'oh, i didn't like any of the characters' (really? how many people do you like outside of books?) and 'it's just depressing' (yes. If only all books could fill my life with joy and ice-cream sprinkles, I would be so happy), I realized that any fiction written before, say, 1970, can't win. If it's set in the colonies, then it's being imperialistic and anti-feminist. If it's not sent in the colonies, it's ignoring the problems of the third/developing/dependent world. If the protagonist is white, it's racist. If he's a male, it's sexist. And so on. Even if the book in question - like this one, or Heart of Darkness and so on - is explicitly and rigidly anti-colonialist, it's never good enough. Graham Greene, so far as I can tell, is absolutely incapable of writing a book about a woman. So? It's a limitation, but that doesn't mean he's furthering the interests of the patriarchy. Aaaaaaaarghhhhhhhh...

Anyway, you should read this if you have the slightest tinge of idealist in you. If you hate religion, just pretend that Scobie's real problem is that his adultery doesn't mesh with his Marxism, or his capitalism, or whatever ideology you want to throw in there. Point being, unlike a lot of books, you get a picture of someone who chooses his ideology over messy real life, and it's both depressing as hell and crazy inspiring. And for god's sake: fiction is no sociology, nor political theory.
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LibraryThing member lucybrown
I shall say from the outset The Heart of the Matter does not make for comfortable reading. However, for anyone who wants to be challenged, not necessarily intellectually, but deeper down this is an excellent. Scobie, a man of honor in a climate which expects corruption, which seethed with jealousies, gossip and spying, is put under Greene's relentless microscope. His greatest quality, caring too much, is also his greatest failing. Watching the disintegration of an good man is not an easy thing to witness. As I read the latter fourth I kept thinking, "this doesn't have to end this way; there are so many ways this could be resolved. If I were Scobie, I would..." And that is the heart of the matter. I am not Scobie. I am not remotely like Scobie. I cannot ever fully understand Scobie. What I can do is hope for eternal mercy for all the Scobies of the world. For all the world. And that is where Greene leaves it.

Like many of Greene's books, The Heart of the Matter is shadowed by the author's faith. Like his schoolmate and writing contemporary Evelyn Waugh Catholicism is a continuing theme; however, with Greene it goes beyond a theme; it is nearly a haunting. I can't believe the stringency of his faith and how he portrayed it won many converts for the church. At times reading the book seemed an act of masochism in the name of art; a spiritual tormenting like self flagellation and wearing a hair shirt. Now this may not seem much of a recommendation for a book, in an odd way it his. It will get under your skin and flail its way through the corridors of your brain and heart. At least it did mine.

Throughout Greene masterfully manipulates scenes, details and characters producing subtle doubles, haunting metaphors, smalls clues, and well-conceived symbols (the broken rosary, the rusted handcuffs). But beyond the artistry, which is nothing if the book lacks a soul, is the lonely, responsibility-ridden Scobie, a man worthy of the reader's concern and love.

… (more)
LibraryThing member daizylee
One of Greene's "Catholic" books. A little bit of oversimplification goes on here with big issues like suicide and redemption, but it's definitely worth reading. Although if you're unfamiliar with Greene, I'd recommend starting with Our Man in Havana or The Quiet American.
LibraryThing member redbudnate
The Quiet American was my first book by Mr. Greene, and is now one of my favorite books. This was number three for me, and he has failed to disappoint. I did miss some of the sarcasm and dry humor that was more prevalent in American and Comedians, but I loved this book. In contrast to another reviewer, I liked the second half of the book the best.

I like to hunt for good quotes. Here is one from Heart of the Matter I found interesting:

"... of course one accepted the Church's teaching. But they taught also that God had sometimes broken his own laws, and was it less possible for him to put out a hand of forgiveness into the suicidal darkness than to have woken himself in the tomb, behind the stone? Christ had not been murdered - you couldn't murder God."
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LibraryThing member jmoncton
Henry Scobie is a British policeman, working in an unnamed country in Africa. He is honest, straightforward and honorable. But life changes when Scobie finds that he no longer can follow his own moral code trying to carry out his responsibility to his wife as he falls in love with a young shipwrecked woman Helen, and he is still trying to give his obedience to his Catholic God. This was an excellent story of internal conflict and the emotions of someone who is committing a sin, but really feels there are no alternatives.

Many of Graham Greene’s novels have a common theme of Catholicism in them. Although, this is something I am not personally familiar with, I love the way he describes the feeling of guilt and obligation when human desires come in direct conflict with the demands of the church. Another excellent story.
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LibraryThing member grheault
Another depressing but cinematic book, this one set in WW II, coastal Africa, probably Sierra Leone. Our hero Scobie is the anti-hero: perfect bureaucrat, police officer, dutiful husband, honest man, and terminally depressed Catholic. The life of Scobie: heat, tedium, colonial politics and intrigue. He dutifully does his duty until he doesn't, and in the end has an orgy of suicidal ideation, totally dosed up with Catholic nonsense and kills himself. Sad, but ridiculous. Makes you hate the Catholic Church, and feel sorry for people who take it seriously as indeed some people do. If you are depressed and Catholic, this book could send you off. Well written, but oh really, read it only when you are in a relentlessly positive, anti-deep thought frame of mind.… (more)
LibraryThing member john257hopper
Quite an interesting read, though not Greene's best. The central character as so often is a Catholic struggling with his conscience, obligations towards his fellow man and woman and the strict standards of his religion. The novel also reminded me a bit of Orwell's Burmese Days, though there is no real focus here in Greene's novel on the political backdrop to colonialism. The novel also takes place during the Second World War, though this hardly impinges on the plot.… (more)
LibraryThing member emmakendon
I picked this up because I hadn't yet read it, and fancied reading something set in Sierra Leone prior to a trip there in May 2011. However, as Orwell said, the whole thing might as well be happening in a London suburb. Well, nearly. The rats are as big as rabbits and vultures hop about, the Bedford Hotel was still standing (real name - the City Hotel, and sadly this post-colonial building was pulled down in 2010), corruption and lies are everywhere, and there are small boys as servants, mammies, a naked-breasted girl walking down the road, a shady brothel, jiggers and the rainy season. The Brits complain about the weather before and during the rains - though there's no insight into the locals' feelings on the matter.
As for the book itself and its plot, I found it touching, but Scobie was just that bit too elusive for me and I couldn't pin down his motivations. He was damned aggravating though. The death of poor Ali was a real shock and Yusef a fascinating character, but in a way I felt Louise, Scobie's wife, was dealt with rather brutally by Greene following that - although there, I didn't live in those times.
Some of Scobie's thoughts and observations I really did enjoy - finding God too accessible "Looking up at the cross he thought, He even suffers in public". It was at this point, in Book 2, Part 2, where for me the characters, especially Scobie, really started to take flight. His awful patronising view of Helen: "how could anyone lay the responsibility for any action, he thought, on this stupid bewildered child?", and the apparent need she had of him because "the beautiful and the graceful and the intelligent could find their own way" - a need he wasn't up to fulfilling - were really vivid, and chimed brilliantly with everyone else's view of Scobie who couldn't keep a secret to save his life.
I also enjoyed poor Harris, old Downham schoolfellow of Wilson's. As he reflects on his school years and begins to relive how miserable he was there, "He felt the loyalty we feel to unhappiness - the sense that that is where we really belong" - made me smile at us humans, especially at the young English schooled humans!
But it was agonising watching Scobie fail to sort out his affairs, struggling and confusing Helen as to whether to call it a day or not: "Virtue, the good life, tempted him in the dark like a sin", and the wonderful logic which means he can't 'abandon' her for goodness, for God: "Would a woman accept the love for which a child had to be sacrificed?" Depends what, or how long-lasting, sacrifice - the melodramatic ol' damnation-believing bugger doesn't ask himself! Great stuff! Especially as the pendulum swings and a few hours later a few aspirin are what he needs for his banal predicament.
And then the sad, inevitable crumbling of the affair: the confessional advice to stay away, which means leaving behind "that moment of peace and darkness and tenderness and pity 'adultery'". It's this that does make me wonder why I haven't read more Greene, or have hurried it.

I bought a biography of Greene at the same time as buying "The Heart of the Matter", which I will plunge into later this year.

Next though,: an Osprey about The SAS and Operation Barras 2000 ,Raid No. 10 by Will Fowler, and Mariusz Kozik about the successful rescue of 11 British soldiers.
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LibraryThing member madhuri_agrawal
An interesting read by all means. A story of an honest man, caught under the weight of his sense of duty. It is touching to see his terrible loneliness, even amidst two women who loved him. In Graham's words, you can feel his hopelessness and isolation, and a desperate need to share his predicament.
LibraryThing member amareshjoshi
Scobie is an Assistant Commissioner of police in a British colony in west Africa during WW2. He is in a loveless marriage with Helen. They had a child who died several years before at the age of 12 in boarding school in England. Both Scobie and his wife are devout Catholics and take the issue of sin very strongly. Helen is unhappy with the way she is treated by the colony society and wants to go away for a time to live in South Africa. Scobie takes from a shady Syrian merchant (and possible diamon smuggler) named Yosuf.

That act is Scobie's first transgression, from his point of view, even though the money is a loan not a bribe but while Scobie doesn't try to keep it a secret he doesn't report it immediately either. Later he allows a Portugese ships captain to smuggle a letter to the captain's only daughter, even though the letter may have intelligence information in it. While Helen is away Scobie falls in love with a young woman, now a widow, who was one of the survivors of a liner that was attacked by the Germans.

Scobie, whom his boss calls Scobie the just, has a personality that feels sorry for those who are unhappy or suffering (``losers'' as he calls them). He stays with his wife because he feels sorry for her. He permits the Portugese captain's letter through because he empathizes with his love for his daughter. He falls in love with the Louise partly because he feels sorrow for her becoming a widow weeks after her marriage, just months out of boarding school.

It's Scobie's sense of justice conflicting and his willingness to do harm himself, even to commit illegal acts, to aid other people, to keep them from harm. This leads to consequences, both spiritual and physical, for Scobe and the people around him and inevitably final sacrifice of himself for others happiness.

Greene is one of my favorite authors and this book is one of his best. As with most of Greene's books the plot is not as important as the inner struggle the hero goes through. In this book we get to see Scobie's thoughts in great detail. However, as in many of the author's books, the other characters are much less developed. We never understand the motivations of Scobie's wife Helen or his lover Louise or of Yosuf the smuggler he gets entangled with or the accountant/spy Wilson who is in live with Helen. But it is Greene's focus on Scobie's increasing frustration and spiritual torment as he tries to help others and fails until his final solution that makes the book so interesting.
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LibraryThing member nmele
In the late 1970s, I worked in Freetown for several months. Before I went, a number of people told me to read this book as the best possible introduction to Freetown. Greene wrote this novel in the mid-1940s after assignment as an intelligence officer in Freetown during the early part of World War II. In 1977, many of the background details were still the same, like the menu at the British Club (no longer called that then) and even the waiters seemed to be the ones whom Greene described. Until rereading "The Heart of the Matter," I remembered nothing of the plot but the descriptions of Freetown.… (more)
LibraryThing member jcbrunner
The Heart of the Matter is quintessential Graham Greene: life in a colonial backwater bureaucracy, a burnt-out middle aged guy struggling with Catholic guilt, infidelity and distrust. The oppressive African heat and constrained lives of the protagonists is marvelously developed. As the story progresses, the unrelenting malaise leaves them few options that are not typically Greenian. Not his best but among his better works.… (more)

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