This story was read to me at that same boarding school by our Headmaster, Mr Gilbert Wheat. In both my home world and my school world, I had already noticed that appalling tragedy was often greeted with jokes and laughter. These strange emotional distortions made the world difficult to navigate. But in this story Graham Greene seemed to take these contradictions and celebrate them. How could he move so smoothly from laughter to pain? Forty years later, Greene remains one of my favourite writers and I continue to admire his ability to use shifts in tone to devastating effect.
First published in May We Borrow Your Husband?, The Bodley Head, 1967; Collected in Collected Stories, The Bodley Head, 1973 and now Penguin Classics, 2000