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MONSIGNOR QUIXOTE by Graham Greene

MONSIGNOR QUIXOTE

By Graham Greene

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1982
ISBN: 0143105523
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The theological shade of Greene--in a wispy, undramatic, but charming modern-day fable, loosely paralleling the Cervantes classic. Quixote here is Father Quixote, a Spanish village-priest and a supposed descendant of the original Don. But while Don Q. defiantly stayed true to the Old Chivalry, Father Q. clings to the Old Theology--"just having faith." And, after rather accidentally becoming a Monsignor, aging Father Quixote is virtually forced out of his beloved El Toboso parish by the cruel Bishop--so he sets off on some travels in his beloved, senile Fiat (called "Rocinante," of course), with the Communist ex-Mayor of El Toboso as his Sancho Panza. Much of this small book, then, consists of the witty yet weighty theological/political dialogues between Catholic and Communist: sipping wine, they compare the relative evils of Stalin and Torquemada; they contrast faith in God with faith in Marx; Monsignor Q. reads the Manifesto, finding some unlikely spirituality in it; matters of doctrine (e.g., birth control) are debated; and they'll eventually agree that Quixote is a "Catholic in spite of the Curia" while the Mayor is a "Communist. . . in spite of the Politburo." But meanwhile, on their raggedy travels to Madrid and the countryside, this ideologically pure duo attracts repressive attention from the State and the Church. They are harassed by the post-Franco Guardia. The utterly innocent priest's wayward behavior en route--allowing the Mayor to try on his collar, mistakenly going to a dirty movie (even worse, chuckling at it!)--leads to his Bishop-ordered abduction, virtual house arrest, and clerical suspension. And finally, after the Mayor rescues the Monsignor, there'll be a final journey--to a literal confrontation with the Church's commerciality (Quixote is furious over a money-covered statue of Our Lady) and a final, fatal runin with the State. An unsubtle parable? Indeed--especially when compared with the fuller version of similar themes (and the far richer central characterization) in The Power and the Glory. But Greene mixes village-comedy with philosophical repartee in a unique, grave-yet-sparkling fashion--and, while his usual fiction audience may find this even less satisfying than Dr. Fischer of Geneva, theologically-oriented readers (not to mention Comp. Lit. aficionados) will be quite steadily, amusingly engaged.