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The Tenth Man (1985)

de Graham Greene

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In a prison in Occupied France one in every ten men is to be shot. The prisoners draw lots among themselves - and for rich lawyer Louis Chavel it seems that his whole life has been leading up to an agonizing and crucial failure of nerve.Graham Greene wrote THE TENTH MAN in 1944, when he was under a two-year contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and the manuscript lay forgotten in MGM's archives until 1983. It was published two years later._x0007_… (mais)
  1. 10
    No Man's Land de Graham Greene (g026r)
    g026r: Another unfilmed screenplay by Greene that was lost for a significant period of time.

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Your life for his wealth
fair deal for a dying man
they'll be rich back home.
( )
  Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
This novella by Graham Greene was written in 1944 (first conceived in 1938) as a screen play that was somehow discarded and lost in the MGM archives. Greene was unable to make a living from writing books and took a contract with MGM to write screenplays, and before the main story, the book includes a couple of screen sketches. In 1983, the story was found and MGM sold the rights to a publisher, hence this book.

Reading other's unfinished work is a great learning experience, and it is useful to see how the plot and structure of creative writing emerges from different authors. Scott Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon is a book I wish I had read while writing my PhD - the thought process is clear, but the details are still being threshed out. Seeing how Fitzgerald did this has left a powerful impression on me.

In the first part of Greene's book, he tells the story of what he was doing before and after the war, and how the story came about. He then introduces two film sketches that remained unfinished. It is interesting that in just a few pages, the outline of a movie appears. Greene added the film sketches because he had largely forgotten about The Tenth Man, thinking it was only (p. 10):...two pages of outline but [it was] a complete short novel of thirty thousand words.He then went through his own archives and found two other sketches - although less complete - that he had also forgotten about. (Wouldn't it be lovely to have written so much one had forgotten some of it?)

The main text, The Tenth Man, reads as a complete novella - there is certainly nothing undeveloped there. But the introduction sets out how the novella began as a few sentences outlining an idea. The two film sketches, which are incomplete, provide a bridge to Greene's process from a few sentences to a complete story.

As for the story, the cover blurb says it all: a rich man in a German prison draws lots to see who will die. (The Germans are going to execute 1 in 10 prisoners, and the prisoners have to decide who it will be.) The rich man loses, but offers all of his wealth to stay alive. Another prisoner, thinking of his family, takes up the rich man's offer.

I recall from reading Hemingway's letters and various articles how he developed a story out of a simple idea. For example, The Sun Also Rises is a story to answer the question, What would happen if your penis was shot off during the war? Greene's story follows a similar process: What would it be like to pay somebody else to die for you, if you gave up everything to live?

The story isn't so much Faustian, for the poor prisoner insists that the rich man sticks to the deal (after the rich man has an attack of conscience), and there is much more to the story after that.

In many ways, it addresses questions of life and death, and whether we control our fate or whether it matters or not. Or indeed, if we think we can thwart destiny, think again. Maybe the moral of the story is amor fati?

I've been reading and thinking a lot about death lately, especially the idea that all fear can be reduced to a fear of death, and, because we all die, there is nothing to be afraid of - it is a given. Perhaps it is not a topic Australians discuss in any philosophical sense, unlike what I have read by the Stoics, Albert Camus or what is explored in Mexico's Festival of the Dead.

I think this aversion to thinking about death is philosophically limiting. But rather than Camus, which might be a little confronting for the uninitiated, Graham Greene deals with the topic in a way that makes it hard not to reflect on one's values, the purpose of life, and, I suppose, that death accompanies life.

It is certainly macabre, but there is much to learn from this novella. The story was made into a TV movie starring Sir Anthony Hopkins in 1988.
1 vote madepercy | Dec 26, 2018 |
From humble origins – a short, perfunctory film treatment which was forgotten about for decades – we find a fine little thriller from Graham Greene. A group of thirty French prisoners during the Nazi occupation are scheduled for decimation: one in every ten is to be executed as an example to the Resistance. The men draw lots, and one of the three condemned – a wealthy man – bargains away all his money and property for someone to take his place. The second part of the novella comes after the liberation of the country and sees the reprieved man returning to his old property under a pseudonym to take stock of the unintended consequences for the now-wealthy family of the man who took his place.

It is a fascinating conceit for a story and Greene constructs a more-than-adequate approximation of it. Readers should rest assured that despite its origin it is well-written: at no point do you feel like you've been sold something shoddy under false pretences just because it has Graham Greene's name attached. It manages to touch upon a great many themes, including class (one of the other condemned men queries why the wealthy man should be allowed to buy his life back when they cannot), war guilt and the loss of identity ("At the end of a war all our portraits are out of date" (pg. 127)), and the relative merits of money vs. an intact family (the condemned man's family, despite their new wealth, would surely prefer their brother/son back).

Alas, none of these themes are ever explored with the vigour that the reader desires, due to the story's length and its discarding by the studio and the author. Ironically, given that it is a film treatment which finally saw the light of day in print form, this would look great on the screen. Regardless, there are many tangents for the reader to pursue, and beneath it all is a well-wrought story with good characters. The potential of this story deserves far better than it got. ( )
  Mike_F | Aug 18, 2017 |
"He envied Jules: to have been able to remain ‘correct’: to have saved his self-respect by small doses of rudeness or inattention. But for him— to have remained correct would have meant death."

The Tenth Man is not just a story but a moral experiment: A group of prisoners of war are told that as punishment for the killing of occupying forces by the local resistance movement, one in ten prisoners would be executed. It is up to the prisoners to draw lots.

From this Greene develops a tale of moral conflict, perceptions of heroism and cowardice, of pretense and being true to character, and it all starts, not with the draw, but with one of the chosen offering to buy his life in exchange for all his possessions.

I really enjoyed the premise of the story and - needless to say - Greene's writing. However, the introduction of the love story and ending of the book left me wanting more of a development of the original dilemma - Chavel having to deal with his conscience - rather than focusing the story on the ensuing love triangle and resolving all the issues in a rather convenient manner. Not that Greene does not often chose to resolve his characters' conflicts in the same manner, but in this book in particular, I felt the story itself would have offered a less clean-cut conclusion.

However, this story was written around the same time as the The Third Man, and Greene intended it to work as a screenplay, in which case a more ambiguous ending would not have worked. At least not if he needed to sell the story to a film studio.

Having read Greene's novels there is a distinct difference between early works written for film and later works, many of which were eventually turned into films. The early works, The Tenth Man included, tend to be limited in developing characters and ideas, whereas the later ones thrive on both and allow Greene's writing to develop another dimension.

"The paper lay on the floor beside him, scrawled over with almost illegible writing. He never knew that his signature read only Jean-Louis Ch … which stood of course as plainly for Charlot as for Chavel. A crowning justice saw to it that he was not troubled. Even a lawyer’s meticulous conscience was allowed to rest in peace."
( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
Indeholder "Introduktion", "Den 10. mand", "To filmsynopser".

"Introduktion" handler om historiens historie, som forfatteren selv havde svedt helt ud, indtil en filmatisering på et tidspunkt kom på tale.
"Den 10. mand" handler om ???
"To filmsynopser" handler om ???

Frankrig, 1945
En gruppe fanger på 30 får besked om at vælge tre, der skal dø. Jean-Louis Chavel er en af de tre der taber lodtrækningen.
, ( )
  bnielsen | Oct 11, 2014 |
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''The Tenth Man'' is melodrama, which is O.K. But Greene attempts to invest it with philosophical meaning, and, really, it does not work. The village priest, who is introduced with that nice worldliness with which Greene likes to treat Roman Catholicism on those odd days when he is not obsessed with it, enters the scene. '' 'Can I have your blessing, father?' 'Of course.' He rubber-stamped the air like a notary and was gone.''
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Most of them told the time very roughly by their meals, which were unpunctual and irregular: they amused themselves with the most childish games all through the day, and when it was dark they fell asleep by tacit consent - not waiting for a particular hour of darkness for they had no means of telling the time exactly: in fact there were as many times as there were prisoners.
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In a prison in Occupied France one in every ten men is to be shot. The prisoners draw lots among themselves - and for rich lawyer Louis Chavel it seems that his whole life has been leading up to an agonizing and crucial failure of nerve.Graham Greene wrote THE TENTH MAN in 1944, when he was under a two-year contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and the manuscript lay forgotten in MGM's archives until 1983. It was published two years later._x0007_

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