When I was in high school, the Neil Jordan version of The End of the Affair came out at the local arthouse theater. I think I had already watched a bunch of his movies or this one set me on a tear of watching Michael Collins, The Crying Game, and others I could get my hand on. In addition, I remember watching this and immediately becoming infatuated with Graham Greene and reading a handful of his books, including this one.
I re-listened to this one, read by Colin Firth, whose performance was great, truly.
I guess what strikes me as being so much different this time around is a few points. One, I didn’t realize at the time how much of this has to do with sin, the wages of sin, guilt, religion, and the cosmos. Graham Greene is really trying to grapple with how guilt plagues someone and what happens when that person doesn’t really have religion to fall back on to process that guilt. Also, he’s not trying to make anyone out to be the villain of this novel. People are flawed and fallen and they make mistakes and usually feel bad about them.
Another thing that strikes me as different is that I only knew infatuation and endings. I didn’t know what it was to have something sour over time or fade or become something less than what it was but still alive in its own way.
It’s a different way of understanding how love or at least affairs work.
Also, my first two childhood loves worked along these lines. One, I pined for someone I couldn’t have and was a third body in her lifelong romance. She had an on-again/off-again boyfriend and I was always around as a friend who wanted to be with her. She and I saw this movie in 11th grade and we felt so big and adult.
Second, I was the third with someone who was trying to branch out. I helped someone cheat on her boyfriend, and again, the pattern was the same.
It’s not always the best thing to have one’s fuck-ups be the same at literature.