Graham Greene was born October 2, 1904, at Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England, the fourth of six children. His exposure to books at an early age fueled his ambitions to travel and to write. After a troubled adolescence, during which he ran away from home and ended up in psychoanalysis, he enrolled at Oxford University, where he studied from 1922 to 1925 and wrote his only collection of poetry, Babbling April (1925). During that time, Vivien Dayrell-Browning, his future wife, wrote to him about an error concerning Catholic beliefs she had noticed in one of his film reviews; her letter triggered his examination of and eventual immersion in Catholic thought. Greene married Dayrell-Browning in 1927. He converted to Catholicism in 1926, and his religion greatly influenced his writing for the next 25 years. The End of the Affair (1951) marked his last novel written from a Catholic perspective.
After graduating from Oxford in 1925, Greene worked first In Nottingham as a reporter for the Journal and later as an editor for the London Times, a job he left in 1929 upon publication of his first novel, The Man Within. Intending to devote all of his time to writing, Greene soon realized that he could not support his wife and two children without a regular salary. He became a film critic but still managed to write a novel a year for the next six years. In 1938 he published Brighton Rock, his first novel with a strongly Catholic theme. He traveled to southern Mexico to learn about the repression of the Catholic church under the revolutionary government of General Lazaro Cardenas, a trip that spawned both The Lawless Roads (1939) and The Power and the Glory. Greene’s World War II service with the British Secret Intelligence Service provided him with material for novels of intrigue and politics such as The Ministry of Fear (1943), The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana, The Comedians (1969) and The Honorary Consul (1973).
Greene was a dedicated traveler all his life, consistently visiting parts of the world embroiled in turmoil and strife. Greene documented his fascinating life in his travel books, his autobiographies-A Sort of Life (1971) and Ways of Escape (1980)-and his extensive diaries and correspondence. As one of the most prolific, widely read, and critically acclaimed authors of the 20th century, Greene was considered time and again for the Nobel Prize for literature, but the very themes that made him so popular-violence and religion-also made him controversial, and the committee stated publicly that it would never award him the prize.