Doctor Fischer of Geneva Or The Bomb Party

BOOK: Doctor Fischer of Geneva Or The Bomb Party
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Graham Greene was born in 1904. On coming down from Balliol College, Oxford, he worked for four years as sub-editor on
The Times
. He established his reputation with his fourth novel,
Stamboul Train
. In 1935 he made a journey across Liberia, described in
Journey Without Maps
, and on his return was appointed film critic of the
. In 1926 he had been received into the Roman Catholic Church and visited Mexico in 1938 to report on the religious persecution there. As a result he wrote
The Lawless Roads
and, later, his famous novel
The Power and the Glory. Brighton Rock
was published in 1938 and in 1940 he became literary editor of the
. The next year he undertook work for the Foreign Office and was stationed in Sierra Leone from 1941 to 1943. This later produced the novel
The Heart of the Matter
, set in West Africa.
As well as his many novels, Graham Greene wrote several collections of short stories, four travel books, six plays, three books of autobiography –
A Sort of Life, Ways of Escape
A World of My Own
(published posthumously) – two of biography and four books for children. He also contributed hundreds of essays, and film and book reviews, some of which appear in the collections
Mornings in the Dark
. Many of his novels and short stories have been filmed and
The Third Man
was written as a film treatment. Graham Greene was a member of the Order of Merit and a Companion of Honour. He died in April 1991.
The Man Within
It's a Battlefield
A Gun for Sale
The Confidential Agent
The Ministry of Fear
The End of the Affair
The Quiet American
A Burnt-Out Case
The Tenth Man
Third Man
Stamboul Train
Brighton Rock
The Power and the Glory
The Heart of the Matter
Loser Takes All
Our Man in Havana
The Comedians
The Human Factor
Monsignor Quixote
The Honorary Consul
The Captain and the Enemy
The Fallen Idol
England Made Me
Short Stories
Collected Stories
The Last Word and Other Stories
May We Borrow Your Husband?
Twenty-One Stories
Journey Without Maps
The Lawless Roads
In Search of a Character
Getting to Know the General
Collected Essays
Yours etc
Mornings in the Dark
Collected Plays
A Sort of Life
Ways of Escape
Fragments of an Autobiography
A World of my Own
Lord Rochester's Monkey
An Impossible Woman
Children's Books
The Little Train
The Little Horse-Bus
The Little Steamroller
The Little Fire Engine


Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party


This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
Epub ISBN: 9781409020554
Version 1.0
Published by Vintage 1999
13 15 17 19 20 18 16 14
Copyright © Graham Greene 1980
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
First published in Great Britain in 1980 by The Bodley Head
Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road,
London SW1V 2SA
Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited can be found at:
set as
The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009
A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library
ISBN 9780099288497
The Random House Group Limited supports The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the leading international forest certification organisation. All our titles that are printed on Greenpeace approved FSC certified paper carry the FSC logo. Our paper procurement policy can be found at:
Printed and bound in Great Britain by
CPI Cox & Wyman, Reading RG1 8EX
To my daughter, Caroline Bourget
at whose Christmas table at Jongny
this story first came to me
‘Who has but once dined his friends,
has tasted whatever it is to be Caesar.'
Herman Melville
I think that I used to detest Doctor Fischer more than any other man I have known just as I loved his daughter more than any other woman. What a strange thing that she and I ever came to meet, leave alone to marry. Anna-Luise and her millionaire father inhabited a great white mansion in the classical style by the lakeside at Versoix outside Geneva while I worked as a translator and letter-writer in the immense chocolate factory of glass in Vevey. We might have been a world and not a mere canton apart. I would begin work at 8.30 in the morning while she would be still asleep in her pink and white bedroom, which she told me was like a wedding cake, and when I would go out to eat a hasty sandwich for my lunch, she was probably sitting before her glass in a dressing-gown doing her hair. From the sale of their chocolates my employers paid me three thousand francs a month which I suppose may have represented half an hour's income to Doctor Fischer who many years before had invented Dentophil Bouquet, a toothpaste which was supposed to hold at bay the infections caused by eating too many of our chocolates. The word Bouquet was meant to indicate the choice of perfume, and the first advertisement showed a tasteful bunch of flowers. ‘Which is your favourite flower?' Later glamorous girls in soft photography would be seen holding between their teeth a flower, which varied with every girl.
But it was not for his money that I detested Doctor Fischer. I hated him for his pride, his contempt of all the world, and his cruelty. He loved no one, not even his daughter. He didn't even bother to oppose our marriage, since he had no greater contempt for me than for his so-called friends who would always flock to him at a nod. Anna-Luise called them ‘Toads', her English not being perfect. She meant, of course, toadies, but I soon adopted the title which she had given them. Among the Toads was an alcoholic film actor called Richard Deane, a Divisionnaire – a very high rank in the Swiss army, which only has a general in time of war – called Krueger, an international lawyer named Kips, a tax adviser, Monsieur Belmont, and an American woman with blue hair called Mrs Montgomery. The General, as some of the others called him, was retired, Mrs Montgomery was satisfactorily widowed, and they all had settled around Geneva for the same reason, either to escape taxes in their own countries or take advantage of favourable cantonal conditions. Doctor Fischer and the Divisionnaire were the only Swiss nationals in the group when I came to know them and Fischer was by a long way the richest. He ruled them all as a man might rule a donkey with a whip in one hand and a carrot in the other. They were very well lined themselves, but how they enjoyed the carrots. It was only for the carrots that they put up with his abominable parties at which they were always first humiliated (‘Have you no sense of humour?' I can imagine him demanding at the early dinners) and then rewarded. In the end they learnt to laugh even before the joke was sprung. They felt themselves to be a select group – there were plenty of people around Geneva who envied them their friendship with the great Doctor Fischer. (Of what he was a doctor I don't know to this day. Perhaps they had invented the title to honour him, just as they called the Divisionnaire ‘General'.)
How was it that I came to love Fischer's daughter? That needs no explanation. She was young and pretty, she was warm-hearted and intelligent, and I cannot think of her now without tears coming to my eyes; but what a mystery must have lain behind her love for me. She was more than thirty years younger than I when we met, and there was certainly nothing about me to attract a girl of her age. As a young man I had lost my left hand when I was a fireman in the blitz – that night in December 1940 when the City of London was set ablaze – and the small pension which I received when the war was over just enabled me to settle in Switzerland where the languages that I knew, thanks to my parents, made it possible for me to make a living. My father had been a minor diplomat, so as a child I had lived in France, Turkey and Paraguay and learnt their respective tongues. By a curious coincidence my father and mother were both killed on the same night that I lost my hand; they were buried under the rubble of a house in West Kensington while my hand was left behind somewhere in Leadenhall Street close to the Bank of England.
Like all diplomats my father ended his days as a knight, Sir Frederick Jones – a name which with its dignified prefix no one found comic or unusual in England, though I was to find that a plain Mr A. Jones was ridiculous in the eyes of Doctor Fischer.
Unfortunately for me my father had combined diplomacy with the study of Anglo-Saxon history and, of course with my mother's consent, he gave me the name of Alfred, one of his heroes (I believe she had boggled at Aelfred). This Christian name, for some inexplicable reason, had become corrupted in the eyes of our middle-class world; it belonged exclusively now to the working class and was usually abbreviated to Alf. Perhaps that was why Doctor Fischer, the inventor of Dentophil Bouquet, never called me anything but Jones, even after I married his daughter.
But Anna-Luise – what could have attracted her to a man in his fifties? Perhaps she was seeking a father more sympathetic than Doctor Fischer, just as I may have been unconsciously engaged on a parallel pursuit, of a daughter rather than a wife. My wife had died in childbirth twenty years before, taking with her the child who doctors told me would have been a girl. I was in love with my wife, but I had not reached the age when a man really loves and perhaps there had not been the time. I doubt if one ever ceases to love, but one can cease to be in love as easily as one can outgrow an author one admired as a boy. The memory of my wife faded quickly enough and it was not constancy which stopped me looking for another wife – to have found one woman who accepted me as a lover in spite of my plastic imitation of a hand and my unattractive income had been a near miracle, and I couldn't expect a miracle like that to be repeated. When the necessity to have a woman became imperative I could always buy a copulation, even in Switzerland, after I had found my employment in the chocolate factory to augment my pension and the little which I had inherited from my parents (very little it was, but as their capital had been invested in War Loan, at least it paid no English tax).
BOOK: Doctor Fischer of Geneva Or The Bomb Party
9.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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