The Captain and the Enemy

The Captain and the Enemy

3.41 (1,029 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

Victor Baxter is a young boy when a secretive stranger known simply as "the Captain" takes him from his boarding school to live in London. Victor becomes the surrogate son and companion of a woman named Liza, who renames him "Jim" and depends on him for any news about the world outside their door. Raised in these odd yet touching circumstances, Jim is never quite sure of Liza's relationship to the Captain, who is often away on mysterious errands. It is not until Jim reaches manhood that he confronts the Captain and learns the shocking truth about the man, his allegiances, and the nature of love. This Penguin Classics edition features an introduction by John Auchard.show more

Product details

  • 12-17
  • Paperback | 192 pages
  • 109.22 x 175.26 x 12.7mm | 90.72g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • 0140113045
  • 9780140113044

Author information

Graham Greene (1904-1991), whose long life nearly spanned the length of the twentieth century, was one of its greatest novelists. Educated at Berkhamsted School and Balliol College, Oxford, he started his career as a sub-editor of the London Times." "He began to attract notice as a novelist with his fourth book, Orient Express," "in 1932. In 1935, he trekked across northern Liberia, his first experience in Africa, told in A Journey Without Maps (1936). He converted to Catholicism in 1926, an edifying decision, and reported on religious persecution in Mexico in 1938 in The Lawless Roads," "which served as a background for his famous The Power and the Glory, one of several "Catholic" novels (Brighton Rock," "The Heart of the Matter," "The End of the Affair"). "During the war he worked for the British secret service in Sierra Leone; afterward, he began wide-ranging travels as a journalist, which were reflected in novels such as The Quiet American," "Our Man in Havana," "The Comedians," "Travels with My Aunt," "The Honorary Consul," "The Human Factor," "Monsignor Quixote," "and The Captain and the Enemy." "As well as his many novels, Graham Greene wrote several collections of short stories, four travel books, six plays, two books of autobiography, A Sort of Life and Ways of Escape, two biographies, and four books for children. He also contributed hundreds of essays and film and book reviews to The Spectator and other journals, many of which appear in the late collection Reflections." "Most of his novels have been filmed, including The Third Man, which the author first wrote as a film treatment. Graham Greene was named Companion of Honour and received the Order of Merit among numerous other awards. John Auchard is a professor of English at the University of Maryland at College Park, and the editor of The Portable Henry James.show more

Review Text

This truly odd and strangely affecting love story by the modern master begins as a quirky narrative of life in the English demimonde and ends pure Greene - a tale of modern espionage, marked by unclear alliances and shadowy double-dealing. The 22-year-old narrator of all but the final few pages here came into the world as Victor Baxter - a "mistake," his long-absent father tells him later in life. Well after his mother's death, Victor finds himself in the custody of a peculiar pair of lovers. The Captain (a.k.a. Colonel Claridge, Carver, Cardigan, Mr. Smith, J. Victor) appears unannounced at Victor's boarding school, claiming to have won the boy in a game of backgammon with his father. An outcast at school, and never much thrilled by his own name, Victor gratefully changes to Jim and becomes the Captain's ward, seen after by Liza, a woman half the Captain's age who can't have children of her own due to a botched abortion (that child was also sired by Victor/Jim's biological father, himself a nasty piece of work). Despite the Captain's best intentions of his beloved Liza, he's seldom around. And Jim's endless questioning only makes the old faker dissemble all the more, though he learns that the source of the checks to Liza is the Captain's bounty as a thief. An enigma to the boy-turned-journalist, the charming liar fancies himself a character from Kipling; and, after Liza's death, Jim heads to Panama as part of "getting to know the Captain," which could easily be the title of this intriguing little novel. As Jim figures out, the Captain has been running guns to revolutionaries in Central America, with the covert approval of the Panamanian government. A suspicious Mr. Quigly, clearly a spook for the US, slithers around Jim's hotel, pretending to be a journalist, and most likely causes the Captain's failed heroic death. A coda to the novel, until this point a found manuscript by Jim, details his own mysterious death in pursuit of his own wild dream. Expert and fluent prose flawlessly evokes a world of British eccentricity and international political madness. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Review quote

The master s hand is clearly at work ("The New York Times")show more

Rating details

1,029 ratings
3.41 out of 5 stars
5 11% (109)
4 33% (339)
3 46% (471)
2 9% (92)
1 2% (18)
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