GRAHAM GREENE by Michael Shelden


The Enemy Within
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 Trying to hunt down the controversial, complex Greene (190491) as the Harry Lime of the literary racket, Shelden (Orwell, 1991, etc.) succeeds less in decoding the deceptions of Greene's life than in creating a trail of false leads. In contrast to the meticulous Norman Sherry's multi-volume authorized biography (The Life of Graham Greene: Vol. II, 1995, etc.), Shelden not only braves the protective Greene estate, but also rummages for unreliable rumors and sloppily sourced gossip. Greene's penchant for prostitutes, his friendship with double agent Kim Philby, his provocative loose-cannon politics, and his heterodox (rather antinomian) Catholicism all entangled his enigmatic life; but Shelden adds unsupported claims of homosexuality and pedophilia, opportunistic political posturing, and religious hypocrisy to make Greene as villainous a character as any in his novels. Shelden uses such unreliable witnesses as a Jamaican maid, a Capri postal worker, and the batty model for Aunt Augusta of Travels with My Aunt, and his own cases for an adolescent botched suicide attempt by hanging and an affair with a fellow Oxford man have scarcely more credibility. Given Greene's highly dubious character, some of Shelden's barbs hook flesh, from habitual spitefulness and petty deceptions--such as the publication of the ``lost novel'' The Tenth Man--to more serious sins. Shelden uncovers an early anti-Semitic streak, which surfaced in Greene's 1930s movie reviews of the ``tasteless Semitic opulence'' of producer Alexander Korda. In his last years, Greene conducted all-expenses-paid political liaisons with Panamanian dictators General Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega, and the Sandinistas-- which led to his puff personality piece Getting to Know the General, especially disappointing in comparison with his famously penetrating earlier tours of Mexico and Vietnam. Despite Shelden's relentless animus for Greene as a person and a writer, this propaganda campaign can neither surpass nor subvert the Greene legend. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-42883-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995


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