GRAHAM GREENE by Graham Greene
Kirkus Star

GRAHAM GREENE

A Life in Letters

KIRKUS REVIEW

A revealing portrait of a fascinating life emerges gradually from nearly 70 years’ worth of the great British author’s letters to family members, lovers, literary peers, readers and others.

Greene (1904–91) was a highly educated and ultra-sophisticated literary artist who dabbled compulsively in political engagement and thrill-seeking; a thoughtful Catholic communicant with a pronounced agnostic strain and a querulous skepticism; and a frequently overemotional romantic too easily tempted away from the theoretical ideal of fidelity. He worked irregularly as a film reviewer, publisher’s executive, journalist and, briefly, for the British Secret Intelligence Service in wartime. At the same time he produced a impressive enormity of work, including classic novels (The Heart of the Matter, The Power and the Glory), memorable film scripts (“The Third Man,” “The Fallen Idol”), superlative political commentary (including a heartfelt memoir of his friendship with Panamanian strongman Omar Torrijos) and thousands of letters, from which British scholar Richard Greene (English/Univ. of Toronto)—no relation—has chosen wisely. Few writers since Marco Polo have written so incisively about countless faraway places visited: Europe, Africa, the Far East, “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s Haiti, Vietnam during the war he rigorously opposed, Central and South America in his later years. Letters to his first wife Vivien and his primary (and favorite) mistress Catherine Walston evince a moral instability for which it seems Greene tried to atone by putting himself in perpetual danger. Generous exchanges with contemporary writers—notably Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark and R.K. Narayan—show that he never lost his keen interest in the more rarefied air of the literary world. As Greene grew older and increasingly enfeebled by leukemia, he still maintained the energy to take up a cause (e.g., the Soviet Union’s mistreatment of dissident intellectuals), lambaste America’s global naïveté during the Reagan years or put an overweening biographer in his place.

A key addition to Greene’s matchless oeuvre.

Pub Date: Dec. 8th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-393-06642-5
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2008




BOOKS ON GRAHAM GREENE:

Nonfiction GRAHAM GREENE by Graham Greene
by Graham Greene
Nonfiction A WORLD OF MY OWN by Graham Greene
by Graham Greene
Nonfiction GRAHAM GREENE by Michael Shelden
by Michael Shelden
Nonfiction THE LIFE OF GRAHAM GREENE by Norman Sherry
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