Wednesday, 27 January 2016
Reading Europe: The Third Man by Grahame Greene (Vienna)
I didn't finish the only other book by Grahame Green I attempted to read. I think it was The Power & the Glory, but it was a while ago so I'm not certain. I just remember I didn't like it much at the time and didn't bother finishing it.
When I saw an audiobook of The Third Man in the library, a title I hadn't heard of before, I thought I maybe...possibly, I could give the author another shot. Then I saw that it was narrated by Martin Jarvis, one of my all time favourite Dicken's narrators, so I grabbed it.
The Third Man is a thriller set in Vienna just after WW2 when the city was divided into four allied zones which were administered by Britain, USA, Russia & France. A fifth zone in the inner city was administered by all four powers.
Rollo (Holley) Martins flys into Vienna with the intention of visiting Harry Lime, a friend from his school days, but he arrives just in time to see his burial. As Martins sets about his own investigations into his friend's death, he becomes suspicious and believes that Lime has been murdered.
A confrontation with British officials reveals some aspects of Harry's life that Martins had been unaware of, but he refuses to believe the information at first. Gradually, he begins to see that the boyhood friend he had always admired so much had clay feet. But surely Harry would never have been involved in anything like the police have suggested? A larrikin, perhaps, but not a murderer. This is not the Harry he knew...
The Third Man is a novella on which Grahame Greene based a movie script, so the story was originally never meant to be read (see the author's explanation here). Martin Jarvis does an excellent job as narrator (no surprise there), and creates just the right mood in the telling.
If you Google 'The Third Man,' it's the movie that always comes up on the search.
This made me curious about the movie, so I did a search and found it could be viewed on STAN. For those of you who have no idea what this is (and I didn't until my son told me), it's similar to Netflix. I don't watch many movies but when I do I like them to be EPICS (like six hours of Pride & Prejudice, for example) but all the reviews I read were positive so I decided to watch it anyhow.
The Third Man was filmed in 1949 and the atmosphere of the decay and uncertainty that pervaded Vienna after the close of WW2 was wonderfully captured - old bombed buildings, the underground sewer system, an old-fashioned Ferris wheel, the fear and general cynicism among the populace. Then there was the background zither music throughout (also on the audio) that painted the city in sound. The movie is a great history lesson in itself and spawned the Third Man Museum.
For some history & a look at life in post-war Vienna see here
For some great photos of the actual locations mentioned in The Third Man see here (scroll down the page).
The soundtrack played by one man on one instrument - the zither: