‘End of Innocence’: born out of a love of Portugal and Lisbon


I’ve always loved Portugal and Lisbon in particular; an elderly aristocratic lady, slightly down on her luck, with fading memories of past splendour; not quite European, a hint of something exotic about her. At the beginning of the Second World War Portugal was neutral, the dictator Salazar sitting on the fence waiting to see which way the winds of war might blow; and the city, on the far south-western corner of Europe the focal point for all sorts of intrigue. It seemed a good time and place to set a story of a man and a woman wrestling with notions of right and wrong.

Clerical celibacy is a subject that still bugs the Catholic Church. Or is it marriage itself they can’t quite get to grips with? Here’s a man who’s been dedicated to a celibate priesthood since the age of twelve. He’s intelligent but his experience of the world doesn’t go far, cloistered by the walls that surround the college where he teaches. In End of Innocence we follow Michael Harrington as his natural impulses conflict with the law of his Church. He’s not the only one facing life-changing problems: Harrington’s encounter with the fugitive Duke of Windsor introduces him to someone else setting desires against convention.

Heinz Koenig, Harrington’s nemesis, is a fictional creation but there were many of his kind: Lisbon was a hotbed of spies – British, German, American, and possibly a half-dozen other nationalities – cheek-by-jowl, all on the lookout for anyone who could be manipulated, who might offer a scrap of information that could be turned into military intelligence.


K. J. Hartley