The Tenth Man (novel)

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The Tenth Man
Tenth Man crop small (2).jpg
First edition cover
AuthorGraham Greene
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreThriller novel
PublisherThe Bodley Head and Anthony Blond
Publication date
1 January 1985
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages158 pp
823/.912 19
LC ClassPR6013.R44 T4 1985b

The Tenth Man (1985) is a short novel by the British novelist Graham Greene.


In the introduction to the first edition of his novel,[1] Greene states that he had forgotten about this story until receiving a letter about it from a stranger in 1983. Greene had first suggested it as an idea for a film script in 1937, set during the Spanish Civil War, and later developed it whilst working for MGM during the 1940s. Nothing came of it and the rights were offered for sale by MGM in 1983. The buyer (Anthony Blond) allowed Greene to revise and subsequently publish the work. Greene also writes of this novel that "I prefer it in many ways to The Third Man"[2].

Plot summary[edit]

The story begins in a prison in occupied France during the Second World War. It is decreed that one in every ten prisoners is to be executed; lots are drawn to decide who will die. One of the men chosen is a rich lawyer. He offers all his money to anyone who will take his place. One man agrees. Upon his release from prison the lawyer must face the consequences of his actions.

The story comprises four parts. In Part I, set in prison, the occupying German guards issue a decimation order to the thirty inmates. One of the three chosen by drawing lots is a rich lawyer named Chavel. Chavel becomes hysterical and desperately offers his entire wealth to any man willing to die in his place. A young man, known as Janvier, accepts his offer and is executed.

In Part II, the war is over and Chavel is alive and free, but virtually destitute. He returns to the house he sold for his life and finds it occupied by Janvier’s mother and sister, Thérèse. Assuming the false name Charlot, he becomes their servant.

Part III sees the arrival of an impostor, named Carosse, who claims to be Chavel. Carosse attempts to denounce Charlot, win the favour of Thérèse and stake a claim on the property.

Finally in Part IV, Charlot, having fallen in love with Thérèse, must save her from Carosse, as a means of redemption from his earlier cowardice.

Main characters[edit]

  • Chavel - A Paris lawyer who in exchange for all his assets persuades Janvier to take his place in front of the firing squad and, when released penniless and homeless, goes back to his old house as a servant under the name of Charlot.
  • Janvier – A fellow prisoner suffering from terminal tuberculosis who achieves his lifelong goal of dying rich.
  • Thérèse - Janvier's sister who inherits Chavel's house, and with it a hatred of the man who by his wealth and cowardice caused her brother's death, but starts to fall for Charlot.
  • Carosse - A collaborationist and murderer on the run who comes to the house pretending to be Chavel and tries to displace Charlot in the affections of Thérèse.

Film, television and theatrical adaptations[edit]

The book was turned into a 1988 television movie starring Anthony Hopkins as Chavel and Kristin Scott Thomas as Therese in the Hallmark Hall of Fame series.[3] Derek Jacobi was Carosse. It was also adapted by Kate Brooke for the stage at the New End Theatre in 1994.


  1. ^ Greene, Graham (1985). The Tenth Man (hardcover). United Kingdom: The Bodley Head and Anthony Blond. ISBN 0-370-30831-X.
  2. ^ Greene 1985, p. 10.
  3. ^ The Tenth Man, IMDb. Retrieved 15 June 2015.[unreliable source?]