Greene, Graham: The Human Factor
(researched by Shawn Gilmore)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Graham Greene. The Human Factor. Simon and Schuster, New York, New York 1978. Copyright 1978 Graham Greene (source: 1st ed.)
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
First edition published in hardcover, staggered release with paper edition. Copyright page of the first editions states that "A limited edition of this book has been privately printed." A Book Club edition (published in 1978 by Simon & Schuster) was also released in hardcover, as was a large print eiditon (1978, published by G.K. Hall). (source: WorldCat; 1st ed.; Book Club ed.)
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
176 leaves, pp. [1-14] 15-52 [53-54] 55-99 [100-102] 103-195 [196-198] 199-232 [233-234] 235-297 [298-300] 301-347 [5] (source: 1st ed.)
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Author?s note on [unnumbered] p. 7: "A novel based on life in any Secret Service must necessarily contain a large element of fantasy, for a realistic description would almost certainly infringe some clause or other in some official secrets Act. Operation Uncle Remus is purely a product of the author?s imagination (and I trust it will remain so), as are all the characters, whether English, African, Russian or Polish. All the same, to quote Hans Andersen, a wise author who also dealt in fantasy, 'out of reality are our tales of imagination fashioned.'" Author?s dedication on [unnumbered] p. 9: "To my sister Elisabeth Dennys, who cannot deny some responsibility" Epigraph on [unnumbered] p. 11: I only know that he who forms a tie is lost. The germ of corruption has entered into his soul. --Joseph Conrad (source: 1st ed.)
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
Unillustrated main text. Unnumbered p. 1 and title page (unnumbered p. 5) feature the Simon & Schuster logo, "the sower" (image). (source: wikipedia article; 1st ed.)
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
The first edition is printed on relatively thick, sturdy off-white paper (15.4 by 23.5 cm). The book is set in two variants on the Bodoni typeface (perhaps Bodoni Antiqua), one for the main text (95R), and a slightly closer kerned variant for section and chapter titles. Each page of text has the following margins: 2.0 cm (top), 3.3 cm (bottom, from page number), 2.7 cm (sides). (sources: WhatTheFont; visual comparison to font samples; 1st ed.)
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The paper has held up well [as of Spring 2006]; there is little evidence of deterioration. (source: 1st ed.)
11 Description of binding(s)
Straightforward hardcover binding: black cover with red end-paper. Spine reads (in silver embossing): THE HUMAN FACTOR | Graham Greene | Simon and Schuster. Stamped (in black ink) on the exterior bottom of the book's pages is the Simon & Schuster logo (image). (source: 1st ed.)
12 Transcription of title page
recto: Graham Greene | [rule line] | THE | HUMAN | FACTOR | [publisher?s logo] | Simon and Schuster ? New York verso:

Copyright © 1978 by Graham Greene All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form First U.S. trade edition Published by Simon and Schuster A Division of Gulf & Western Corporation Simon & Schuster Building Rockefeller Center 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, New York 10020 Manufactured in the United States of America 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A limited edition of this book has been privately printed. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Greene, Graham, date. The human factor. I. Title. PZ3.G8319Hu 1978 [PR6013.R44] 823?.9?12 77-17169 ISBN 0-671-24085-4

(source: 1st ed.)
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Manuscript materials held by the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Materials related to the The Human Factor contained in boxes 17.1-18.4: 17.1 Notes, holograph, 11pp, nd 17.2 Introduction and author's message, holograph and typescript, 5pp, 1977 17.3 "The Cold Fault," typescript with author revisions, 59pp, nd 17.4-5 "Sense of Security," holograph and typescript with author revisions, 206pp, 1966-67 17.6 "The Human Tie," holograph with author revisions, 85pp, 1976 17.7 Typescript with author revisions, 220pp, 1975 17.8 Typescript with author revisions, 406pp, 1976-77 18.1-2 Typescript with author revisions, 402pp, 1977 18.3 Galley proofs with author revisions, 219pp, 1977 18.4 Page proofs with author revisions, 339pp, 1977 (sources: Graham Greene collection; Graham Greene folders list)
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Simon & Schuster also released a Book Club eiditon in 1978 (smaller in size, though retaining the same dust jacket art and typefaces; 243 pages) (WorldCat; Book Club edition)
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
Unable to determine. (thorough review of ProQuest and Publishers Weekly)
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Boston: G.K. Hall, 1978 (large print edition) London: Bodley Head, 1978 Franklin Center, Pa.: Franklin Library, 1978 Harmondsworth; New York: Penguin, 1978 Taipei, Taiwan: Min-Huei Cheng, 1978 Toronto: Bodley Head (Canada); Toronto; Vancouver: Clarke, Irwin, 1978 New York: Avon, 1979 (paperback) Geneva: Edito-Service, 1981 London: Heinemann, 1982 London: Heinemann, 1982 New York: Viking, 1983 New York: Pocket Books, 1988 (320 pages) New York: Knopf: Distributed by Random House, 1992 London: Everyman's Library, 1992 London: Vintage, 1999 New York: Knopf, 2000 (272 pages) (source: WorldCat)
6 Last date in print?
The most recent edition is the Knopf (Vintage International edition, from 2000. (source: Bowker's Books in Print Professional)
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
Unable to find specific sales figures. (thorough review of ProQuest and Publishers Weekly)
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
Unable to find specific sales figures. (thorough review of ProQuest and Publishers Weekly)
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
THE HUMAN FACTOR by Graham Greene There has never been a "spy novel" like this one. The Human Factor marks Graham Greene's triumphant return to the ambiguous world of deceit, illusion, treachery, faith and loneliness that is espionage. It is a novel of compelling drama and compassion proving once again that Greene is still the Master. List $9.95 ? Now $7.95 (source: ProQuest)
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
A210191060301213745.jpg
11 Other promotion
N/A
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
audiobooks London: BBC Enterprises, 1991 Petaluma, CA: The Mind's Eye, 1992 Bath, [England]: Chivers Audio Books; Hampton, NH: Chivers North America, 2002 film The Human Factor: dir. Otto Preminger; screenplay: Tom Stoppard; Richard Attenborough, Iman, etc. (IMDb entry) (source: WorldCat)
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Catalan El factor humà ? trans. Helena Valentí; Barcelona: Edhasa, 1988 Croatian Ljudski faktor - Zagreb: Znanje, 1979 Danish Den menneskelige faktor ? trans. Mogens Cohrt; [Odense] : Gyldendal, 1978 Dutch De privé-factor ? trans. Bert Koning; Amsterdam: Bakker, 1978 (reprinted in 1986) Finnish Inhimillinen tekijä ? trans. Eila Pennanen; Hki: Suuri Suomalainen Kirjakerho, 1978 French Le facteur humain: roman ? trans. Georges Belmont, Hortense Chabier; Paris: Laffont, 1978 German Der menschliche Faktor: Roman ? trans. Luise Wasserthal-Zuccari, Hans W Polak; Wien, Hamburg: Zsolnay, 1978 Hungarian Az emberi tényezo - Budapest: Magveto, 1980 Az emberi tényezo ? trans. Tamás Ungvári; Budapest: Európa, 1988 (reprinted by Esély Kiadó, 1994) Italian Il fattore umano ? trans. Bruno Oddera; Milano: A. Mondadori, 1978 (reprinted in 1995) Japanese Hyuman fakuta ? Toshiyasu Uno; Tokyo: Hayakawashobo, 1983 Norwegian Den menneskelige faktor ? trans. Ebba Haslund; Oslo: Cappelen, 1978 Polish Czynnik ludzki - Torun: C & T, 1998 Portugese O fator humano ? trans. A. B. Pinheiro de Lemos; Rio de Janeiro: Editora Record, 1978 O factor humano ? trans. João Belchior Viegas; Amadora: Livraria Bertrand, 1979 Slovenian Cloveski faktor - Ljubljana: Mladinska knjiga, 1981 Spanish El factor humano ? trans. Iris Menéndez, Iris, Enrique Sordo; Barcelona: Editorial Argos Vergara, 1979 (reprinted in 1982) El factor humano - Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1984 Factor humano - México: Editorial Artemisa, 1985 El factor humano - Chile: Seix Barral: Cochrane Planeta, 1985 Swedish Den mänskliga faktorn - trans. Aida Törnell; Stockholm: P.A. Norstedt, 1978 (reprinted in 1988) (source: WorldCat)
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
"A Wedding Among the Owls": an extract from The Human Factor (privately printed and distributed by the author and publisher ; 250 copies) (source: I. D. Edrich booksellers)
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
N/A
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
There are two previous database entries that contain Greene's biographical information [as of Spring 2006]: a general biography in the entry for The Honorary Consul (link), and a book-specific biography in the entry for Travels with My Aunt (link). Below, I will focus on the details of Greene's life most connected to The Human Factor, as well as the historical context that influenced the novel's construction and publication. Greene, British Intelligence, and The Human Factor The Human Factor's protagonist, Maurice Castle, is an aging British intelligence officer, once stationed in Africa, who, having returned to England, serves as a double agent for both the British and the Russians. Greene joined the Secret Intelligence Service (also known as MI6) in 1941, after his sister Elisabeth?also an intelligence officer?put in a good word for him. By the end of 1941, he was in Sierra Leone (where his 1948 novel, The Heart of the Matter would be set): his main station during World War II, though he traveled throughout West Africa. He was stationed in Africa for two years, returning to England mid-War in 1943, but he met a number of notable young agents who would later prove to be important Cold War operatives, including his initial recruiter and colleague Kim Philby (Sherry, v2: 83-155). Kim Philby and A Sense of Security Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby (nicknamed for the subversive secret agent in Rudyard Kipling's novel Kim!) had been one of Greene's directors at MI6. Philby made a name for himself during the Spanish Civil War, then helped oversee a variety of Britain's anti-Germany operations during World War II. In the late 1940s, Philby liaised with America's newly-formed Central Intelligence Agency, and in the 1950s he was variously involved with exposing and facilitating the trade of nuclear secrets. Importantly for Greene and The Human Factor, Philby?working out of Beirut?was exposed as a high-level double agent, working for both the British and the Russians; he defected to Russia, officially resurfacing in Moscow in 1968. Greene would go to visit Philby on a number of occasions, prompting speculation that Philby might actually be a triple agent, or that Greene might not have left his espionage past that fully behind him (Wikipedia article on Philby). Greene had begun a version of The Human Factor in 1967, under the working title A Sense of Security, writing about 25,000 words before abandoning the project in 1968 (Pritchett, 121):
I started a novel fairly recently called A Sense of Security in which the hero was a member of the [British] Secret Service who was spying for Russia and the villains of the piece were the MI5 types who were pursuing him, and the excitement at the end was whether he would escape in time from England. I was overtaken too much by the Kim Philby case and when Mrs. Philby wrote her account of life in Moscow [...] she did it so much better from her experience than I could possibly do it, and I had to abandon the book. (Bryden, 89)
In a 1978 interview, Greene remarked of Philby: "his sympathies were obviously to the left, as mine were. He was a good drinking companion and he was a very nice and agreeable boss. And at the time he was fighting the same war I was" (Emerson, 133). Finishing The Human Factor Greene resumed The Human Factor in 1975, having finished two bestsellers after abandoning A Sense of Security in 1968: Travels With My Aunt (1969, database entry) and The Honorary Consul (1973, database entry). Greene seems to have returned to his abandoned project in part to further advance a pointed (though fictional) critique of contemporary politics?as he had in his 1955 novel The Quiet American?and capitalize on the late 1970s popularity of Cold War espionage narratives (Sherry, v3: 601-627). The novel was released in 1978 in the midst of a number of similar projects by a variety of authors with the same type of narrative, including John le Carré's The Quest for Karla trilogy (1974, 1977, 1980), Ira Levin's The Boys from Brazil (1976), Jerzy Kosinski's Cockpit (1978), etc. (Cawelti and Rosenberg, 231). The film version of The Human Factor directed by Otto Preminger, with a screenplay by Tom Stoppard, seems to have excluded Greene from most of the production; Greene later called the film "outstandingly bad" ("Greene Criticizes"). Print Sources
  • Bryden, Ronald "Graham Green Discusses Collected Edition of His Novels." Conversations with Graham Greene. Ed. Henry J. Donaghy. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1992. p. 85-89.
  • Cawelti, John G. and Bruce A. Rosenberg. The Spy Story. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987.
  • Emerson, Gloria. "Our Man in Antibes: Graham Green." Conversations with Graham Greene. Ed. Henry J. Donaghy. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1992. p.123-138.
  • "Greene Criticizes Film Adaptations of His Books." New York Times. 6 September 1984, p. C17.
  • Pritchett, V. S. "The Human Factor in Graham Green." Conversations with Graham Greene. Ed. Henry J. Donaghy. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1992. p.107-122.
  • Sherry, Norman. The Life of Graham Greene. 3 volumes. New York: Viking, 1989, 1995, 2004.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The Human Factor was fairly well received by its initial critical audience. Most reviewers note the thematic and topical parallels between Greene's 20th novel, The Human Factor, and his previous works, noting that "he goes back over the same ground in order to dig deeper, and he can dig deeper because he has lived longer" in a work that could be classified as "autoplagiarism" (James, 359; Flower, 352). Many note that "as usual, the workmanship is superb" and that the work serves as "a culmination of all Greene's themes" (Sheppard, 84; Kirsch, H3). The moral and ethical concerns of the novel?oft-addressed in reference to Greene's works?also take center stage: "the book is unsurpassed as an exploration of good and evil and the depiction of a world which long ago completely abandoned ethical behavior" (Klausler, 399). The most positive reviews cast the novel's "somber and magnificent end"?which tapers off with a disconnected phone call between Castle, the defected spy in Moscow, and his wife (possibly permanently stuck in London)?as a pinnacle of Greene's moral writing (Wheatcroft, 18). However, some critics were not won over by the novel: "It doesn't work. Mr. Greene, I am sorry to say, has done a lazy job" (Leonard, C17). The novel is said to fail on questions of both empathy ("If the book has a serious flaw, it lies in the fact that Castle is too complacent about the fate [death in Castle's place] of [Castle's fellow spy] Davis") and ethics (the ending "does not do justice to the grandeur of man's ethical aspirations") (James, 359; Sloan, G5).In the most damning review, Richard Jones writes:
There are so many things off key in The Human Factor that it is difficult to know where to begin. The Castle household is wrong; the setting in Berkhamsted is not right; the handling of the details of the child's education is clumsy; the impact of such a strangely assorted couple in a conservative community is misjudged. Then, London is inaccurately placed. [...] In the end, so perfunctory is Greene's English setting that one wonders why he bothered, after so many years living abroad, to return home for a fictional enterprise. (Jones, 348)
On the whole, the reviews each acknowledge sentiments similar to Denis Donoghue's: this is "the work of an old master in a genre congenial to his interest and talent. [...] This is the kind of book he could now write with one hand tied behind his back. But he has chosen to use both hands and to do it with finesse" (43). Selected List of Reviews
  • Brudnoy, David. "The Human Factor." The Saturday Evening Post. December 1978. p. 86.
  • Donoghue, Denis. "A Novel of Thought, Action and Pity." The New York Times Book Review. 26 February 1978. p. 1, 43.
  • Flower, Dean. "The Way We Live Now." The Hudson Review. 31.2 (Summer 1978): 343-55.
  • James, Clive. "Birthmarks, Chess Games and Wise Policemen." New Statesman. 17 March 1978. p. 359-60.
  • Jones, Richard. "The Improbably Spy." The Virginia Quarterly Review. 55.2 (Spring 1979): 338-49.
  • Kirsch, Robert. "A Culmination of Greene Themes." Los Angeles Times. 1 May 1978. p. H3, H9.
  • Klausler, Alfred P. "No Honor Among Spies." The Christian Century. 12 April 1978. p. 398-99.
  • Leonard, John. "Books of the Times." New York Times. 27 February 1978. p. C17.
  • Sheppard, R. Z. "A Separate Disloyalty." Time. 6 March 1978. p. 84, 86.
  • Sloan, James Park. "A Cunning Moral Thriller from a Master Storyteller." Chicago Tribune. 5 March 1978. p. G1, G5.
  • Wade, Rosalind. "Literary Supplement." Quarterly Fiction Review. 232:1347 (April 1978): 213-16.
  • Wheatcroft, Geoffrey. "Spinning the Chamber." Spectator. 18 March 1978. p. 18.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The Human Factor was fairly well received by its initial critical audience. Most reviewers note the thematic and topical parallels between Greene's 20th novel, The Human Factor, and his previous works, noting that "he goes back over the same ground in order to dig deeper, and he can dig deeper because he has lived longer" in a work that could be classified as "autoplagiarism" (James, 359; Flower, 352). Many note that "as usual, the workmanship is superb" and that the work serves as "a culmination of all Greene's themes" (Sheppard, 84; Kirsch, H3). The moral and ethical concerns of the novel?oft-addressed in reference to Greene's works?also take center stage: "the book is unsurpassed as an exploration of good and evil and the depiction of a world which long ago completely abandoned ethical behavior" (Klausler, 399). The most positive reviews cast the novel's "somber and magnificent end"?which tapers off with a disconnected phone call between Castle, the defected spy in Moscow, and his wife (possibly permanently stuck in London)?as a pinnacle of Greene's moral writing (Wheatcroft, 18). However, some critics were not won over by the novel: "It doesn't work. Mr. Greene, I am sorry to say, has done a lazy job" (Leonard, C17). The novel is said to fail on questions of both empathy ("If the book has a serious flaw, it lies in the fact that Castle is too complacent about the fate [death in Castle's place] of [Castle's fellow spy] Davis") and ethics (the ending "does not do justice to the grandeur of man's ethical aspirations") (James, 359; Sloan, G5).In the most damning review, Richard Jones writes:
There are so many things off key in The Human Factor that it is difficult to know where to begin. The Castle household is wrong; the setting in Berkhamsted is not right; the handling of the details of the child's education is clumsy; the impact of such a strangely assorted couple in a conservative community is misjudged. Then, London is inaccurately placed. [...] In the end, so perfunctory is Greene's English setting that one wonders why he bothered, after so many years living abroad, to return home for a fictional enterprise. (Jones, 348)
On the whole, the reviews each acknowledge sentiments similar to Denis Donoghue's: this is "the work of an old master in a genre congenial to his interest and talent. [...] This is the kind of book he could now write with one hand tied behind his back. But he has chosen to use both hands and to do it with finesse" (43). Selected List of Reviews
  • Brudnoy, David. "The Human Factor." The Saturday Evening Post. December 1978. p. 86.
  • Donoghue, Denis. "A Novel of Thought, Action and Pity." The New York Times Book Review. 26 February 1978. p. 1, 43.
  • Flower, Dean. "The Way We Live Now." The Hudson Review. 31.2 (Summer 1978): 343-55.
  • James, Clive. "Birthmarks, Chess Games and Wise Policemen." New Statesman. 17 March 1978. p. 359-60.
  • Jones, Richard. "The Improbably Spy." The Virginia Quarterly Review. 55.2 (Spring 1979): 338-49.
  • Kirsch, Robert. "A Culmination of Greene Themes." Los Angeles Times. 1 May 1978. p. H3, H9.
  • Klausler, Alfred P. "No Honor Among Spies." The Christian Century. 12 April 1978. p. 398-99.
  • Leonard, John. "Books of the Times." New York Times. 27 February 1978. p. C17.
  • Sheppard, R. Z. "A Separate Disloyalty." Time. 6 March 1978. p. 84, 86.
  • Sloan, James Park. "A Cunning Moral Thriller from a Master Storyteller." Chicago Tribune. 5 March 1978. p. G1, G5.
  • Wade, Rosalind. "Literary Supplement." Quarterly Fiction Review. 232:1347 (April 1978): 213-16.
  • Wheatcroft, Geoffrey. "Spinning the Chamber." Spectator. 18 March 1978. p. 18.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
The Human Factor was released early in 1978, sold fairly well for most of the year, and finished as the year's #11 bestseller. Its success rested upon a number of factors external to the book's content?Graham Greene's sales record and popular reception in the US in the 1970s, a late-1970s resurgence in a specific kind of spy thriller, a highly publicized movie adaptation?and to some within the novel?elements of the exotic eroticand the novel's focus on a non-American Cold War setting. Graham Greene in the 1970s Three of Greene's works from the 1970s appear on the year-end bestsellers lists: Travels with My Aunt (1969, #9 in 1970, database entry), The Honorary Consul (1973, #10 in 1973, database entry), and The Human Factor (1978, #11 in 1978). Importantly, these three novels are Greene's only entries on year-end bestsellers lists. The first two of these clearly primed the way for the success of The Human Factor. Greene, by this point a noted British author?The Human Factor was his twentieth novel?also benefited from the success of other "literary" authors whose books sold well in the 1970s. As a quick survey of the database reveals, the bestseller lists of 1970s fiction (link) are full of these authors: John Fowles, Ernest Hemingway, Herman Wouk, John Updike, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Joseph Heller, EL Doctorow, Saul Bellow, John Irving, William Styron, etc. This climate, receptive to literary novelists, definitely eased the way for Greene's 1970s novels, which eased the way for The Human Factor. Though this was by no means the only decade in which "literary" authors sold well, those in the 1970s that sold well are those that often made repeat appearances. It's worth noting, then, that name recognition and "literary" status seem to be important influences on what books sold well in the late 1970s, including The Human Factor. In addition, as mentioned above (in the "reception history" entry), the novel's reviewers helped situate it as a morally inflected, literary novel, and noted that the novel took up some typical Greene tropes. They also stressed heavily that Greene was not only a literary master but also master of the spy and espionage genre. This multiple positioning allowed the novel access to multiple genres and their associated sales. The Human Factor, then, was well-positioned with a number of key markers that gave it a wider range of buyers than if it had been "just another literary novel," "just another Greene novel," or even "just another spy novel." This last category, though, definitely counted for something. The 1970s spy novel and the Cold War As mentioned above (in the entry for "biography"), The Human Factor is in some ways similar to a number of late-1970s spy/espionage novels that have similar narratives and themes, not all of which appear on year-end bestseller lists. However, many notable novels in this genre do, notably Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal (#4 in 1971, #4 in 1972) and The Odessa File (#3 in 1972, #4 in 1973), John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (#4 in 1974), The Honourable Schoolboy (#4 in 1976) and Smiley's People (#10 in 1979), and Robert Ludlum's The Holcroft Covenant (#8 in 1978) and The Matarese Circle (#1 in 1979). While earlier spy novels?like Ian Fleming's James Bond novels (and their associated films)? often employed the rogue-hero model and were only superficially concerned with contemporary politics, many of these 1970s thrillers focus on a more troubled, conflicted character embroiled in a more complex geo-political setting (Cawelti and Rosenberg, 34-54). The Human Factor is happy to oblige in this vein. Castle and his officemate, Arthur Davis, often joke that they are nothing like James Bond, much to the consternation of Castle's son. The novel's main plot?in which a mole is suspected, wrongly detected, wrongly eliminated, after which Castle must quickly defect to Moscow?is notably low-tech; for example, the toxin used to dispense with the erroneous mole is derived from moldy peanuts, the mole having been "found out" through a series of dinner-and-a-drink conversations, speculation, and slightly illogical conclusions. Even the limited nuclear "final solution," which serves as the novel's ostensible geo-political/technological threat contains no specifics, which both guarantees the universality of the threat, while shifting the novel's focus away from a Bond-style narrative. In short, The Human Factor, as its title implies, examines the moral centers of its characters and their relationships within a tightly-woven international political situation, but one that is mostly devoid of all but the most bland technical detail. This shift in the genre (which seems quite marked in the late-1970s) is tied to the increasing banality of the Cold War, and the increasing sense of impenetrability of the inner mechanism of a "war" then thirty years old. Increasingly, these novels also seem to focus on conspiracy, defection, with characters who are in the know, even as we watch them duped and destroyed by the very system in which they should be expert. The novel shifts these aspects to Castle and Davis' home lives?Davis is a drinker and a gambler, who cannot keep even the simplest inter-personal relationship together; Castle has a distant marriage that he feels moves without him. These are characters who attempt to move through the everyday issues in their lives, and when they treat their intelligence job the same way, it of course turns against them. The realist aspect of novels like The Human Factor neatly plays across multiple genres, and allows a variety of readers access through the novel's focalizer, Castle, who is equally bumbling and adept in both his marriage and his convoluted world. The Human Factor (dir. Otto Preminger) As mentioned in other entries, the film version of The Human Factor was in the works and publicized as early as July 1978 (Buckley). Rumors and articles about the upcoming film?particularly focused on the notable cast and crew?could only have helped raise interest in and sales of the novel. With Otto Preminger and Tom Stoppard attached early as director and screenwriter, then Richard Attenborough, Nicol Williamson, and Iman attached as stars, the film seemed quite promising (though it wouldn't actually be released until 1980). This might help explain the novel's sales throughout the year: the novel was released in February and sold well early in the year; prominent articles about movie deals in the late summer and fall probably helped keep the book selling through the year's close. Publicity for the film is also notable for often referring to the upcoming film as "Graham Greene's", highlighting not just the story in The Human Factor, but Greene's name as a selling factor. The exotic erotic and The Human Factor's setting A number of aspects within the novel itself also helped the novel's reception and sales. Some of the reviewers of the novel note with interest the exotic other-ness of the South African aspects of the novel's plot. Maurice Castle, our protagonist, is married to a black South African, Sarah, whom he helped escape from South Africa before the novel's main action. Sarah is a statuesque beauty, who in part helps "sell" the complex moral position of the novel (as well as being presented as an icon stemming directly from the African continent in conjunction with the excerpt printed in Playboy, image). Sarah and her son?by another South African, not by Castle?represent the morally unambiguous position against which we read Castle's ambiguities. She also stays out the novel's main plot, though much of it revolves around her original escape from South Africa. This distance is definitely idealized by reviewers and the way the novel was marketed. Also, the novel's non-US setting might have helped the novel's success in the US. Since the novel's main plot involves a defecting British intelligence officer, it might have been a harder sell if set in the US with a defecting American. The novel is in part a critique of British nationalism and misplaced morality in a fading British world power. That kind of critique wouldn't be popular in US spy fiction for some time. It also helps to maintain a distance between the novel's moral tone and the sense of realism. American readers might tend to exoticize and feel a sense of separation from the novel's London/Moscow setting, which in turn allows the novel a less specific mode of address. An attack on, say, middle-aged, bumbling CIA agents living in Falls Church, VA, would not have quite the same appeal. The late 1970s spy genre mixed with the novel's setting and exoticism allowed The Human Factor a much larger place in the book market of 1978 than it might have had if any one of those factors had been removed. Sources
  • Buckley, Tom. "At the Movies." New York Times. 14 July 1978. C6.
  • Cawelti, John G. and Bruce A. Rosenberg. The Spy Story. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987.
  • Greene, Graham. "The Human Factor." Playboy. February 1978. 88-90, 178-82.
  • Sedlak, Valerie. "Espionage, Murder, and the Moral Vision in The Human Factor." CEAMagazine: A Journal of the College English Association, Middle Atlantic Group. 11 (1998): 33-46.
  • Serry, Norman. The Life of Graham Greene. 3 volumes. New York: Viking, 1989, 1995, 2004
Supplemental Material
Playboy exerpt (Feb 1978, p 88-89)
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