Title: The Third Man
Author: Graham Greene
My Rating: 4/5 stars
In 1948 the film The Third Man premiered. The director Carol Reed had asked Graham Greene to write the screenplay, and he agreed to do so. He quickly found out he could not write a film without first writing a novel. Although the concept (thus the book) was never meant to be published, it later was. This should be kept in mind when reviewing this novel. Greene knew he would be able to edit it when turning it into a script and thus may not have focussed too much on writing the perfect novel. I have to admit I've never read another novel by Greene, so I cannot agree nor disagree, but many other people think the novel can pass as a concept, but canot compare to Greene's other works which are said to be more complex and much better written. As I thought The Third Man was a very well-written and well developed novel, I am quite excited to be reading more by this author.
The Third Man follows Rollo Martins, an author of Westerns, who goes to Vienna to visit his old friend Harry Lime. Upon arrival, Rollo discovers Harry has been killed in an accident. The protagonist is suspicious about this, and tries to find out what really happened.
The narrator of the story is detective Calloway, who recounts the story Rollo told him. Although this is sometimes confusing, it also adds depth to the story in the sense that credibility is almost completely gone. Rollo probably was already biased telling the story to Calloway, who in his turn gave his own twist to it when informing us. Our job as a reader is to figure out to what extend the plot is to be believed.
Although a significant part of the novel is rather predictable, it does remain compelling until the very end. The characters are complex and we become interested in their fates. Greene elaborately shows how our characters end up. This may, however, be one of the flaws of the novel: it has such a closed ending that there's no space for interpretation for the reader (which is solved nicely in the film version).
An interesting feature of Greene's writing is the way in which he inserts humour. Everything is slightly exaggerated which makes the characters caricatures and the story less serious - which is positive in this case. The humour is also highlighted by the voice. The language used is simple yet highly entertaining, although at this point I cannot quite pinpoint exact quotes.
In short, I'd say go and read the novel. It's just over a hundred pages, and you will not regret having spent time on it. I'd also recommend seeing the film by Carol Reed, which is, in a very interesting way quite different from the novel.