You may notice that there are two books on the shelves of your local bookstore (unless your bookseller has good taste in which case there may remain only one) entitled The Third Man. To avoid any confusion as to which you should read I thought I would publish a brief guide here on my blog. In one book the protagonist is a vile, egomaniacal sleaze who will do anything and tread on anyone to serve his own purpose save his own skin, the other protagonist is black marketer Harry Lime.
Yes, Peter Mandelson, the man who revels in the nickname ‘The Prince of Darkness’, has decided to call his memoir The Third Man. Quite what the late, great, Graham Greene – a man we must recall who won the Jerusalem Prize for his commitment to the freedom of the individual in society – would think of a man like Mr. Mandelson appropriating the title of his screenplay and novella is hard to say but I don’t think he’d universally approve of it; perhaps, of course, Greene would realise that Mr. Mandelson’s career so accurately holds a harsh light to the realities and immoralities of modern politics that it will do far more than a roman-a-clef could ever manage.
Greene’s novella was written while writing the screenplay for the film, arguably one of the greatest films of all time, and while Harry Lime may be a murderer and a racketeer he’s far more likeable as a character than the leering prince of darkness presented by Mr. Mandelson. Greene is a fantastic writer and his style is great to read.
In an ideal world I’d love to see a facebook campaign get the Graham Greene novel to top the bestseller lists instead of the memoir but, logically speaking, while its easy to get people to buy a 79p song to get it to chart it’s somewhat more difficult to do the same with a £7.99 book. Still, this summer I encourage everyone who considers Mandelson’s memoirs to pick up a copy of The Third Man by Graham Greene instead.