The third and final volume of Sherry’s superb life of the English novelist and man of letters, a monumental work published over the last 15 years.
The first moments of Sherry’s (Literature/Trinity Univ.) last installment find Graham Greene in middle age, and none too happy about it. His energies seem boundless: he is being published regularly, earning a fine income, smoking opium, being sought out for opinion and commentary. But the world is wearying Greene: here, ten years after the end of WWII and his work in the shadow world of military intelligence, he seems depressed at the apparent lack of adventure that has come with his success. Writes Sherry: “Journeys were Greene’s means of controlling depression. He often came out of melancholy with a sudden eagerness for new ventures.” The new ventures Sherry describes are many, worthy of volumes of their own (some of which Greene got around to writing): he travels to Vietnam, finding the material for The Quiet American, and to Cuba, capturing the Fidelista revolution in Our Man in Havana and, incidentally, smuggling socks and sweaters for the mountain-bound revolutionaries; he finds new love outside the house; he takes a place on the board of one of England’s best publishing houses and becomes a vigorous editor, acquiring Charlie Chaplin’s memoirs for publication. Chalk all this up to the legendary, emulation-worthy Greene. Sherry gives us another Greene, though, who is rather more disagreeable, beset, as a Catholic, by doubts over the existence of God, given to quarreling with protégés and admirers over trivial matters, so convinced of his greatness that he thinks nothing of overriding his fellow judges in a literary prize competition to champion a second-tier writer whose work just happens to resemble early Graham Greene. Not all shared Greene’s self-assessment, least of all the members of the Swedish Academy, who denied Greene the one thing he seemingly craved more than anything else: the Nobel Prize in literature.
Marked by sorrow and disappointment, but plenty of fascinating adventures. An exemplary biography, of profound interest to admirers of Greene’s work and to students of contemporary letters.