Famous Quotes & Sayings

Graham Greene Quotes & Sayings

Enjoy the top 100 famous quotes, sayings and quotations by Graham Greene.

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The influence of early books is profound. So much of the future lies on the shelves. Early reading has more influence than any religious teaching. — Graham Greene

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I've caught belief like a disease. I've fallen into belief like I fell in love. — Graham Greene

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The thought of retirement set his nerves twitching and straining: he always prayed that death would come first. — Graham Greene

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He had received already a larger dose of life than he had bargained for, and he was scared. — Graham Greene

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One can go back to one's own home after a year's absence and immediately the door closes it is as if one had never been away. Or one can go back after a few hours and everything is so changed that one is a stranger. — Graham Greene

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You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God. — Graham Greene

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It's always the same wherever one goes- it's not the most powerful rulers who have the happiest populations — Graham Greene

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I had very good dentures once. Some magnificent gold work. It's the only form of jewelry a man can wear that women fully appreciate. — Graham Greene

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Nothing in life now ever seems to end. Chemists tell you matter is never completely destroyed, and mathematicians tell you that if you halve each pace in crossing a room, you will never reach the opposite wall, so what an optimist I would be if I thought that this story ended here. — Graham Greene

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We mustn't complain too much of being comedians - it's an honorable profession. If only we could be good ones the world might gain at least a sense of style. We have failed - that's all. We are bad comedians, we aren't bad men. — Graham Greene

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That was the worst period of all: it is my profession to imagine, to think in images: fifty times through the day, and immediately I woke during the night, a curtain would rise and the play would begin: always the same play, Sarah making love, Sarah with X, doing the same things that we had done together, Sarah kissing in her own particular way, arching herself in the act of sex and uttering that cry like pain, Sarah in abandonment. I would take pills at night to make me sleep quickly, but I never found any pills that would keep me asleep till daylight. — Graham Greene

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Its typical of Mexico, of the whole human race perhaps - violence in favour of an ideal and then the ideal lost but the violence just going on. — Graham Greene

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But she wouldn't pray, she took what comfort and credit she could for not praying; it wasn't that one disbelieved in prayer; one never lost all one's belief in magic. It was that she preferred to plan, it was fairer, it wasn't loading the dice. — Graham Greene

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When I began to write our story down, I thought I was writing a record of hate, but somehow the hate has got mislaid and all I know is that in spite of her mistakes and her unreliability, she was better than most. It's just as well that one of us should believe in her: she never did in herself. — Graham Greene

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Tea. He watched her while she made it, made it, of course, all wrong: the water not on the boil, the teapot unheated, too few leaves. She said, I never quite understand why English people like teas so. — Graham Greene

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The problem of pretending to be alive. — Graham Greene

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I became aware that our love was doomed; love had turned into a love affair with a beginning and an end. I could name the very moment when it had begun, and one day I knew I should be able to name the final hour. 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. It was as though our love were a small creature caught in a trap and bleeding to death; I had to shut my eyes and wring its neck. — Graham Greene

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Death will come in any case, and there is a long afterwards if the priests are right and nothing to fear if they are wrong. — Graham Greene

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Suddenly I realized she was asleep. Exhausted by her flight she had fallen asleep against my shoulder as so many times, in taxis, in buses, on a park-seat. I sat still and let her be. There was nothing to disturb her in the dark church. The candles napped around the virgin, and there was nobody else there. The slowly growing pain in my upper arm where her weight lay was the greatest pleasure I had ever known. — Graham Greene

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Sometimes I see myself reflected too closely in other men for comfort, and then I have an enormous wish to believe in the saints, in heroic virtue. — Graham Greene

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It is you who are old fashioned with your machine-guns and your gas and your talk of country. — Graham Greene

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Oh,' the priest said, 'that's another thing altogether - God is love. I don't say the heart doesn't feel a taste of it, but what a taste. The smallest glass of love mixed with a pint pot of ditch-water. We wouldn't recognize that love. It might even look like hate. It would be enough to scare us - God's love. It set fire to a bush in the desert, didn't it, and smashed open graves and set the dead walking in the dark. Oh, a man like me would run a mile to get away if he felt that love around. — Graham Greene

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You are lovely, brilliant, witty ... the incredible words which would relieve her of any need to repay him or refuse his gifts; loveliness and wit were priced higher than any gift he offered, while if a girl were loved, even old women of hard experience would admit her right to take and never give. — Graham Greene

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She was like a landscape you see from the train, and you want to stop just there. — Graham Greene

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It was like having a box of chocolates shut in the bedroom drawer. Until the box was empty it occupied the mind too much. — Graham Greene

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You don't bless what you love ... It's when you want to love and you can't manage it. You stretch out your hands and you say God forgive me that I can't love but bless this thing anyway ... We have to bless what we hate ... It would be better to love, but that's not always possible. — Graham Greene

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If ash-trays could speak, sir.' 'Indeed, yes. — Graham Greene

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Fame is a powerful aphrodisiac. — Graham Greene

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To all pimps and whores a merry syphilis and a happy gonorrhea. — Graham Greene

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Innocence must die young if it isn't to kill the souls of men — Graham Greene

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Fear is easily experienced, but fun is hard to come by in old age, so I already felt a sense of gratitude to General Omar Torrijos. — Graham Greene

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There is a point of no return, unremarked at the time, in most lives. — Graham Greene

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So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one's days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends. — Graham Greene

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What distant ancestors had given me this stupid conscience? Surely they were free of it when they raped and killed m their palaeolithic world. — Graham Greene

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Suddenly watching her feet, so light and precise and mistress of his shuffle, I was in love again. — Graham Greene

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Hope was an instinct only the reasoning human mind could kill. An animal never knew despair. — Graham Greene

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If you live in a place for long you cease to read about it. — Graham Greene

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When a train pulls into a great city I am reminded of the closing moments of an ouverture. — Graham Greene

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These are touchy times. National sensitivities are on permanent alert and it's getting harder by the moment to say boo to a goose, lest the goose in question belong to the paranoid majority (goosism under threat), the thin-skinned minority (victims of goosophobia), the militant fringe (Goose Sena), the separatists (Goosistan Liberation Front), the increasingly well organised cohorts of society's historical outcasts (the ungoosables, or Scheduled Geese), or the the devout followers of of that ultimate guru duck, the sainted Mother Goose. Why, after all, would any sensible person wish to say boo in the first place? By constantly throwing dirt, such boxers disqualify themselves from serious consideration (they cook their own goose). — Graham Greene

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One has no talent. I have no talent. It's just a question of working, of being willing to put in the time. — Graham Greene

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The Church is in the world, it is part of the suffering in the world, and though Christ condemned the disciple who struck off the ear of the high priest's servant, our hearts go out in sympathy to all who are moved to violence by the suffering of others. The Church condemns violence, but it condemns indifference more harshly. Violence can be the expression of love, indifference never. One is an imperfection of charity, the other the perfection of egoism. — Graham Greene

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He couldn't tell that this was one of those occasions a man never forgets: a small cicatrice had been made on the memory, a wound that would ache whenever certain things combined - the taste of gin at mid-day, the smell of flowers under a balcony, the clang of corrugated iron, an ugly bird flopping from perch to perch. — Graham Greene

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People change,' she said
'Oh, no they don't. Look at me. I've never changed. It's like those sticks of rock: bite it all the way down, you'll still read Brighton. That's human nature. — Graham Greene

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It's strange how the human mind swings back and forth, from one extreme to another. Does truth lie at some point of the pendulum's swing, at a point where it never rests, not in the dull perpendicular mean where it dangles in the end like a windless flag, but at an angle, nearer one extreme than another? If only a miracle could stop the pendulum at an angle of sixty degrees, one would believe the truth was there. — Graham Greene

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I had been afraid of the primitive, had wanted it broken gently, but here it came on us in a breath, as we stumbled up through the dung and the cramped and stinking huts to our lampless sleeping place among the rats. It was the worst one need fear, and it was bearable because it was inescapable. — Graham Greene

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I was afraid like a virgin of the act. I would have liked death to come with due warning, so that I could prepare myself. For what? I didn't know, nor how, except by taking a look around at the little I would be leaving. — Graham Greene

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Childhood was the germ of all mistrust. You were cruelly joked upon and then you cruelly joked. You lost the remembrance of pain through inflicting it. — Graham Greene

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It was a superstition among them that a lover who smoked would always return, even from France. A man's sexual capacity might be injured by smoking, but they would always prefer a faithful to a potent lover. — Graham Greene

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You cannot love without intuition. — Graham Greene

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I couldn't have thought of her more. Even vacancy was crowded with her. — Graham Greene

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Love had turned into "love affair" with a begining and an end. — Graham Greene

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Was the secret of lasting youth known only to the criminal mind? — Graham Greene

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When he was young, he had thought love had something to do with understanding, but with age he knew that no human being understood another. Love was the wish to understand, and presently with constant failure the wish died, and love died too perhaps or changed into this painful affection, loyalty, pity ... — Graham Greene

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A man becomes trustworthy when you trust him. — Graham Greene

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From childhood I had never believed in permanence, and yet I had longed for it. Always I was afraid of losing happiness. This month, next year ... death was the only absolute value in my world. Lose life and one would lose nothing again forever. — Graham Greene

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All the emotions have something in common. People are quite aware of the sorrow there always is in lust, but they are not so aware of the lust there is in sorrow. — Graham Greene

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The sense of a small courageous community barely existing above the desert of trees, hemmed in by a sun too fierce to work under and a darkness filled with evil spirits - love was an arm round the neck, a cramped embrace in the smoke, wealth a little pile of palm-nuts, old age sores and leprosy, religion a few stones in the centre of the village where the dead chiefs lay, a grove of trees where the rice birds, like yellow and green canaries, built their nests, a man in a mask with raffia skirts dancing at burials. This never varied, only their kindness to strangers, the extent of their poverty and the immediacy of their terrors. Their laughter and their happiness seemed the most courageous things in nature — Graham Greene

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The pouches under his eyes were like purses that contained the smuggled memories of a disappointing life. — Graham Greene

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Nobody here could ever talk about a heaven on earth. Heaven remained rigidly in its proper place on the other side of death, and on this side flourished the injustices, the cruelties, the meanness that elsewhere people so cleverly hushed up. Here you could love human beings nearly as God loved them, knowing the worst: you didn't love a pose, a pretty dress, a sentiment artfully assumed. — Graham Greene

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Despair is the price one pays for setting oneself an impossible aim. It is, one is told, the unforgivable sin, but it is a sin the corrupt or evil man never practices. He always has hope. He never reaches the freezing-point of knowing absolute failure. Only the man of goodwill carries always in his heart this capacity for damnation. — Graham Greene

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Most things disappoint till you look deeper. — Graham Greene

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They haven't left us much to believe in, have they?
even disbelief. I can't believe in anything bigger than a home or vaguer than a human being. — Graham Greene

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There are small bits of useless knowledge which stick to one's brain like barnacles to a boat. — Graham Greene

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Switzerland is only bearable covered with snow," Aunt Augusta said, "like some people are only bearable under a sheet. — Graham Greene

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Point me out the happy man and I will point you out either extreme egotism, selfishness, evil
or else an absolute ignorance. — Graham Greene

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It infuriated him to think that there were still people in the state who believed in a loving and merciful God. There are mystics who are said to have experienced God directly. He was a mystic, too, and what he had experienced was vacancy
a complete certainty in the existence of a dying, cooling world, of human beings who had evolved from animals for no purpose at all. — Graham Greene

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Insecurity twists meanings and poisons trust. In a closely beleaguered city every sentry is a potential traitor. — Graham Greene

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A romantic is usually afraid in case reality doesn't come up to expectations. — Graham Greene

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I was an only child. It's a great disadvantage being an only child. — Graham Greene

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We are all of us resigned to death: it's life we aren't resigned to. — Graham Greene

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What will we care for the why and the wherefore? — Graham Greene

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A police photograph is like a passport photograph: the intelligence which casts a veil over the crude common shape is never recorded by the cheap lens. No one can deny the contours of the flesh, the shape of nose and mouth, and yet we protest, This isn't me. — Graham Greene

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Friendship is something in the soul. It is a thing one feels. It is not a return for something. — Graham Greene

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The soap-box orators talked in the bitter cold at Marble Arch with their mackintoshes turned up around their Adam's apples, and all down the road the cad cars waited for the right easy girls, and the cheap prostitutes sat hopelessly in the shadows, and the blackmailers kept an eye open on the grass where the deeds of darkness were quietly and unsatisfactorily accomplished. — Graham Greene

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The Captain turned away from the mirror and said, 'Thank God, I'm not in danger of prison here. I'm only in danger of death. — Graham Greene

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The great advantage of being a writer is that you can spy on people. You're there, listening to every word, but part of you is observing. Everything is useful to a writer, you see - every scrap, even the longest and most boring of luncheon parties. — Graham Greene

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Insecurity is the worst sense that lovers feel; sometimes the most humdrum desireless marriage seems better. Insecurity twists meanings and poisons trust. — Graham Greene

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Perhaps we are all fictions, father, in the mind of God. — Graham Greene

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What I've done is far worse than murder - that's an act, a blow, a stab, a shot: it's over and done, but I'm carrying my corruption around with me. It's the coating of my stomach.' He threw her wrists aside like seeds towards the stony floor. 'Never pretend I haven't shown my love. — Graham Greene

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Media is just a word that has come to mean bad journalism. — Graham Greene

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They had been corrupted by money, and he had been corrupted by sentiment. Sentiment was the more dangerous, because you couldn't name its price. A man open to bribes was to be relied upon below a certain figure, but sentiment might uncoil in the heart at a name, a photograph, even a smell remembered. — Graham Greene

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I could never have been a pacifist. To kill a man was surely to grant him an immeasurable benefit. Oh yes, people always, everywhere, loved their enemies. It was their friends they preserved for pain and vacuity. — Graham Greene

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We are fools when we love. I was terrified of losing her. I thought I saw her changing
I don't know if she really was, but I couldn't bear the uncertainty any longer. I ran toward the finish just like a coward runs toward the enemy and wins a medal. I wanted to get death over. — Graham Greene

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What an unbearable creature he must have been in those days
and yet in those days he had been comparatively innocent. That was another mystery: it sometimes seemed to him that venial sins
impatience, an unimportant lie, pride, a neglected opportunity
cut you off from grace more completely than the worst sins of all. Then, in his innocence, he had felt no love for anyone; now in his corruption he had learnt. — Graham Greene

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Morality comes with the sad wisdom of age, when the sense of curiosity has withered. — Graham Greene

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Perhaps to the soldier the civilian is the man who employs him to kill, who includes the guilt of murder in the pay-envelope and escapes responsibility. — Graham Greene

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There are times when a lover longs to be also a father and a brother: he is jealous of the years he hasn't shared. — Graham Greene

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Fun ... human nature ... does no one any harm ... Regular as clockwork the old excuses came back into the alert, sad and dissatisfied brain
nothing ever matched the deep excitement of the regular desire. Men always failed you when it came to the act. She might just as well have been to the pictures. — Graham Greene

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She was proud of her power of prophecy, though she had not yet lived to see any of her prophecies fulfilled. — Graham Greene

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I wished I had been able to make her look that way, but it is the destiny of a lover to watch unhappiness hardening like a cast around his mistress. — Graham Greene

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And then beginning to go back to what you can't even remember. — Graham Greene

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They don't believe in anything either. You and your like are trying to make a war with the help of people who just aren't interested."
"They don't want communism."
"They want enough rice," I said. "They don't want to be shot at. They want one day to be much the same as another. They don't want our white skins around telling them what they want."
"If Indochina goes
"
"I know that record. Siam goes. Malaya goes. Indonesia goes. What does 'go' mean? If I believed in your God and another life, I'd bet my future harp against your golden crown that in five hundred years there may be no New York or London, but they'll be growing paddy in these fields, they'll be carrying their produce to market on long poles, wearing their pointed hats. The small boys will be sitting on the buffaloes. I like the buffaloes, they don't like our smell, the smell of Europeans. — Graham Greene

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He was filled with horror at the thought of what a child becomes, and what the dead must feel watching the change from innocence to guilt and powerless to stop it — Graham Greene

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She had often disconcerted me by the truth. In the days when we were in love, I would try to get her to say more than the truth - that our affair would never end, that one day we should marry. I wouldn't have believed her, but I would have liked to hear the words on her tongue, perhaps only to give me the satisfaction of rejecting them myself. But she never played that game of make-believe, and then suddenly, unexpectedly, she would shatter my reserve with a statement of such sweetness and amplitude — Graham Greene

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My second wife - I was still young then - she left me, and I made the mistake of winning her back. It took me years to lose her again after that. She was a good woman. It is not easy to lose a good woman. If one must marry it is better to marry a bad woman. — Graham Greene

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Oh, it's not done,' I said, 'but neither is adultery or theft or running away from the enemy's fire. The not done things are done every day, Henry. It's part of modern life. I've done most of them myself. — Graham Greene

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There I go again. I want. I don't want. If I could love You, I could love Henry. God was made man. He was Henry with his astigmatism, Richard with his spots, not only Maurice. If I could love a leper's sores, couldn't I love the boringness of Henry? But I'd turn from the leper if he were here, I suppose, as I shut myself away from Henry. I want the dramatic always. I imagine I'm ready for the pain of your nails ... Dear God, I'm no use. I'm still the same bitch and fake. Clear me out of the way. — Graham Greene

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I wouldn't like to be cremated', she said.
'You'd prefer worms?'
'Yes, I would. — Graham Greene

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I'm sick with life, I'm rotten with health. — Graham Greene

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It is the same in life: sometimes it is more difficult to make a scene than to die. — Graham Greene