Sunday, July 14, 2019


Quentin Walsh: Travels in Greeneland (1985 / 2010)

Obsessed with “Greeneland,” the seedy, despair-filled imaginary of his novels, his biographers have ignored the world in which Greene immersed himself.
- Maurice Walsh (2017)
Is that really true? Is the 'despair-filled imaginary' of his novels (and films, and essays, and plays, and memoirs, and travel books) really a separable entity from the real world Graham Greene interrogated - and travelled through - so relentlessly?

John Lehman, ed.: Penguin New Writing 30 (1947)

I have an old copy of Penguin New Writing 30 (1947), edited by John Lehman, which includes a piece by Greene called "Across the Border: An Unfinished Novel." So far as I can tell, this wasn't reprinted until 2005, when it was included in his Complete Short Stories under the title "The Other Side of the Border" - mind you, that's just a guess, as I don't have the latter book to hand.

In any case, his 1947 introduction to this abandoned piece is very interesting. After lamenting the fact that "most novelists' careers are littered with abandoned books," he goes on to characterise this particular one as follows:
I could identify the year when I began to write it as probably 1937, after I had returned from a journey in Liberia: at any rate, if it had no other merit, the book seems to me stamped unmistakably with the atmosphere of the middle thirties - Hitler is still quite new, dictatorship is only a tang on the breeze blowing from Europe: in England is depression and a kind of metroland culture.
I guess its the specificity of that evocation of the "atmosphere of the middle thirties" that intrigues me most. It's an atmosphere I can recognise from such novels as Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936), as well as - supremely - Greene's own England Made Me (1935). In fact Greene goes on to comment, of the latter novel:
Why did I abandon the book? I think for two main reasons - because another book, Brighton Rock, was more insistent to be written, and because I realised that I had already dealt with the main character in a story called England Made Me. Hands, I realised, had the same origin as Anthony Farrant in that novel.

Graham Greene: England Made Me (1935)

England Made Me has always been one of my especial favourites among Greene's novels (along with The End of the Affair), I think because of that exquisitely precise evocation of atmosphere. It's depressing, yes, but in a very finely calculated way. I can still almost recite that final combination of seemingly irrelevant details, so meaningful in the context of what has gone before in the story:
"So you're going back to England?" Minty said, remembering the fifty-six stairs, the empty flat, the Italian woman on the third floor.
"No," Kate said. "I'm simply moving on. Like Anthony."
the incense cones, the cup (I've forgotten the cup).
"A job in Copenhagen."
the missal in the cupboard, the Madonna, the spider withering under the glass, a home from home.
The real pay-off in this little introduction comes at the end, however:
Another point interested me: since those days I have been back to live and work in the West African port described in Part II and I realise now that this picture of the place, its whole atmsophere, couldn't be more 'wrong.' I spent a week there in 1936 before this novel was begun, but now I know the port from a year's residence. It is every bit as seedy, depressed and drab as I have described it, but in a totally different way [my emphasis]. Denton of Part I on the other hand, which is the town in the Home Counties where I was born and brought up, seems to me right. Between the two lies the whole difference between the passport photograph and the family snapshot. [64-65]

Greene famly portrait:
[l-to-r: Graham, Raymond, Herbert, Hugh, Molly & Elizabeth

"It is every bit as seedy, depressed and drab as I have described it, but in a totally different way." What an extraordinarily revealing thing to say! It's recorded that Greene used to enter routinely the 'write a passage in pastiche Graham Greene style" competitions in the British papers, but he never won. Generally he came second or third = or so we're told.

Perhaps it was the fine precision with which he judged degrees of seediness (as revealed above), the need to get each place's ration of drabness and despair precisely true to his experience of it which tripped him up, again and again.

There is a sense in which every Graham Greene setting and character resembles all the others - and yet the more interesting aspect of his work is the fine details and distinctions between them. The seaside town of Brighton of Brighton Rock is probably just as dangerous - to their respective protagonists, that is - as the garish Haiti of The Comedians, but there's an immense difference in decor and - clearly a crucial term for him - atmosphere.

John Boulting, dir. Brighton Rock (1947)

I once undertook the interesting task of reading all of Graham Greene's novels in chronological order. It must have been in the early 80s, because I recall we'd been set Brighton Rock to read in one of my English papers at Auckland Uni. The first chapter put me off so much, that I found it difficult to continue, so I decided - precocious little budding Don that I must have been - that this would be the best way to achieve some understanding of it.

I don't know if it had the desired effect or not, but it was certainly a fascinating experience. It dispelled for good any idea I might have had that he simply wrote the same book over and over again (though there were still a few to come at that point).

So, yes, Greeneland - it's an excellent pun, and it accounts for a great many contemporary references to certain types of settings and characters which one tended to encounter quite frequently, both in life and literature, such as the following quip from his near-contemporary, W. H. Auden:

Yousuf Karsh: W. H. Auden (1972)

Is this a milieu where I must
How grahamgreeneish! How infra dig!
Snatch from the bottle in my bag
An analeptic swig?
- W. H. Auden: On the Circuit (1965)
In reality, though, I think that Maurice Walsh may have a point. Too much has been made of the features the various provinces of Greeneland have in common with one another, and not enough of the different species of seediness and despair he was so concerned to differentiate.

Much of it is, admittedly, attributable to the films of his work, which have a tendency to be more monochrome than the books they were based on - The Third Man, written originally for the screen, and only turned subsequently into a novella, is a case in point. Carol Reed's movie may be magnificent, but the story itself - judged purely as a piece of prose - is not really one of Greene's strongest.

Graham Greene: The Third Man and the Fallen Idol (1950)

You'll notice some interesting features in the list below of my Greene-iana. It is, of course, incomplete - he was too prolific, too various in his activities to collect in toto.

There's one item there which may surprise you, though. Greene famously repudiated his second and third novels, The Name of Action (1930) and Rumour at Nightfall (1931). They've never been reprinted to this day. I was lucky enough to find a copy of the first in a library booksale, nestled among various other neglected cullings from the stacks.

Kurt Hutton: Graham Greene (1954)

Henry Graham Greene

Graham Greene: The Name of Action (1930)


  1. Greene, Graham. The Man Within. 1929. Uniform Edition. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1952.

  2. Greene, Graham. The Name of Action. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1930.

  3. Greene, Graham. Stamboul Train: An Entertainment. 1932. The Library Edition of the Works of Graham Greene. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1959.

  4. Greene, Graham. It's a Battlefield. 1934. London: Pan Books Ltd., 1953.

  5. Greene, Graham. It's a Battlefield. 1934. Introduction by the Author. The Collected Edition, 2. London: William Heinemann / The Bodley Head, 1970.

  6. Greene, Graham. England Made Me. 1935. London: Pan Books Ltd., 1954.

  7. Greene, Graham. A Gun for Sale. 1936. Introduction by the Author. The Collected Edition, 9. London: William Heinemann / The Bodley Head, 1973.

  8. Greene, Graham. Brighton Rock. 1938. Uniform Edition. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1947.

  9. Greene, Graham. The Confidential Agent: An Entertainment. 1939. Harmondsworth: Penguin / London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1976.

  10. Greene, Graham. The Power and the Glory. 1940. The Vanguard Library, 3. London: William Heinemann Ltd. / Chatto & Windus Ltd., 1954.

  11. Greene, Graham. The Ministry of Fear: An Entertainment. 1943. Uniform Edition. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1956.

  12. Greene, Graham. The Heart of the Matter. 1948. London: The Reprint Society Ltd. / William Heinemann Ltd., 1950.

  13. Greene, Graham. The Third Man and the Fallen Idol. Prefaces by the Author. 1950. London: Pan Books Ltd., 1955.

  14. Greene, Graham. The Third Man: A Film by Graham Greene and Carol Reed. 1968. Modern Film Scripts. London: Lorrimer Publishing Limited, 1969.

  15. Greene, Graham. The End of the Affair. 1951. Harmondsworth: Penguin / London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1978.

  16. Greene, Graham. Loser Takes All. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1955.

  17. Greene, Graham. The Quiet American. 1955. World Books. London: The Reprint Society Ltd. / William Heinemann Ltd., 1957.

  18. Greene, Graham. The Quiet American: Text and Criticism. 1955. Ed. John Clark Pratt. The Viking Critical Library. New York: Penguin, 1996.

  19. Greene, Graham. Our Man in Havana: An Entertainment. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1958.

  20. Greene, Graham. A Burnt-Out Case. 1961. London: The Reprint Society Ltd. / William Heinemann Ltd., 1962.

  21. Greene, Graham. The Comedians. 1966. Melbourne: Readers Book Club, 165. / London: William The Companion Book Club, 1967.

  22. Greene, Graham. Travels with My Aunt. 1969. Harmondsworth: Penguin / London: The Bodley Head, 1972.

  23. Greene, Graham. The Honorary Consul. 1973. London: Book Club Associates / The Bodley Head, 1974.

  24. Greene, Graham. The Human Factor. 1978. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978.

  25. Greene, Graham. Doctor Fischer of Geneva, or The Bomb Party. London: The Bodley Head, 1980.

  26. Greene, Graham. Monsignor Quixote. 1982. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984.

  27. Greene, Graham. The Tenth Man. 1985. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986.

  28. Greene, Graham. The Captain and the Enemy. 1988. Harmondsworth: Penguin / London: Reinhardt Books Ltd., 1989.

  29. Greene, Graham. No Man's Land. Foreword by David Lodge. Ed. James Sexton. Hesperus Modern Voices. Hesperus Classics. London: Hesperus Press Ltd., 2005.

  30. Graham Greene: The Complete Short Stories (2005)

    Short Stories:

  31. Greene, Graham. Twenty-One Stories. 1947 & 1954. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970.

  32. Greene, Graham. A Sense of Reality. 1963. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970.

  33. Greene, Graham. May We Borrow Your Husband? And Other Comedies of the Sexual Life. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1967.

  34. Greene, Graham. The Last Word and Other Stories. 1990. Harmondsworth: Penguin / London: Reinhardt Books Ltd., 1991.

  35. Greene, Graham. The Complete Short Stories. 1954, 1963, 1967, 1990. Introduction by Pico Iyer. Penguin Classics. London: Penguin, 2005.

  36. Barbara Greene: Too Late to Turn Back (1981)


  37. Greene, Graham. Journey Without Maps: A Travel Book. 1936. Uniform Edition. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1962.

  38. Greene, Graham. The Lawless Roads. 1939. Harmondsworth: Penguin / London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1971.

  39. Greene, Graham. In Search of a Character: Two African Journals. 1961. Harmondsworth: Penguin / London: The Bodley Head, 1977.

  40. Graham Greene: Getting to Know the General (1984)


  41. Greene, Graham. A Sort of Life. 1971. Harmondsworth: Penguin / London: The Bodley Head, 1974.

  42. Greene, Graham. Ways of Escape. 1980. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981.

  43. Greene, Graham. Getting to Know the General: The Story of an Involvement. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1984.

  44. Greene, Graham. A World of My Own: A Dream Diary. 1992. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993.

  45. Graham Greene: Collected Plays (1985)


  46. Greene, Graham. Three Plays: The Living Room / The Potting Shed / The Complaisant Lover. 1953, 1957 & 1959. Mercury Books, 15. London: The Heinemann Group of Publishers, 1962.

  47. Greene, Graham. The Return of A. J. Raffles: An Edwardian Comedy in Three Acts Based Somewhat Loosely on E. W. Hornung’s Characters in The Amateur Cracksman. 1975. Penguin Plays. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978.

  48. Greene, Graham. Collected Plays: The Living Room / The Potting Shed / The Complaisant Lover / Carving a Statue / The Return of A. J. Raffles / The Great Jowett / Yes and No / For Whom the Bell Chimes. 1953, 1958, 1959, 1964, 1975, 1981, 1983. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985.

  49. Graham Greene: Collected Essays (1969)

    Miscellaneous Prose:

  50. Greene, Graham, ed. The Old School: Essays by Divers Hands. 1934. Oxford Paperbacks. London: Oxford University Press, 1984.

  51. Greene, Graham. The Lost Childhood and Other Essays. 1951. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode (Publishers) Ltd., 1954.

  52. Greene, Graham. Collected Essays. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1969.

  53. Greene, Graham. The Pleasure-Dome: The Collected Film Criticism, 1935-40. Ed. John Russell Taylor. 1972. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980.

  54. Greene, Graham. Lord Rochester's Monkey: Being the life of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester. London: The Bodley Head Limited, 1974.

  55. Greene, Graham. J'Accuse: The Dark Side of Nice. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1982.

  56. Greene, Graham. Yours, etc.: Letters to the Press, 1945-89. Ed. Christopher Hawtree. Viking. London: Reinhardt Books Ltd. / Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1989.

  57. Greene, Graham. Reflections. Ed. Judith Adamson. London: Reinhardt Books, 1990.

  58. Marie-Françoise Allain: The Other Man (1983)


  59. Allain, Marie-Françoise. The Other Man: Conversations with Graham Greene. 1981. Trans. Guido Waldman. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1982.

  60. Sherry, Norman. The Life of Graham Greene. Volume One: 1904-1939. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1989.

  61. Sherry, Norman. The Life of Graham Greene. Volume Two: 1939-1955. 1994. New York: Viking Penguin, 1995.

  62. Sherry, Norman. The Life of Graham Greene. Volume Three: 1955-1991. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 2004.

  63. Greene, Richard, ed. Graham Greene: A Life in Letters. 2007. New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008.

Richard Greene, ed.: Graham Greene: A Life in Letters (2008)


Richard said...

That was a good catch to get his second book! I also have a copy of that 'New Penguin Writing'. I remembered it, and managed to locate it on my shelf: but as usual with these things, despite it being an exquisite little book, I have read nothing in it. Of course.

I was also wanting to get all of Greene. I just got a lib. edition of 'Our Man in Havana' which is good. It is in some ways more than just an "Entertainment'. But Greene's element is, somewhat, the darkness, and his slightly garish atmosphere connected to a kind of Dickensian satire. But in those there is rarely any sentimentality.

But I decided to read all of Virginia Woolf and to at least have her journals and diaries (I wanted to quote from them and other similar writings -- I mean in that genre of the journal or of letters -- of other writers). But already having quite a few of Greene made me feel like trying to read through them or at least have them. There is that urge to complete things. But I think I would leave out plays. I suppose I should read plays by Yeats and Curnow and even Baxter but they are poets for me. Beckett almost combines all media so there is no problem with him.

As you know I liked 'Brighton Rock'. Years before I had read 'The Power and the Glory' and 'The Heart of the Matter'. I have forgotten the latter. At school, reading 'The Power...' (I think we read only the part he was in jail waiting the end which seemed to me then a powerful piece of writing but in retrospect, re-reading it years later, the novel remains very very good but that terror and intensity I experienced is a little gone -- perhaps this shows that WHEN a person reads a novel is also significant.

I cant recall seeing any movies based on his works. I may have years ago but forgotten them.

I'll make a point of reading a few more of Greene's. A re-reading of Greene's better work might show these subtle shades of despair. He is usually lumped with Muriel Spark and a few others who became Catholics. But that is possibly something convenient for critics.

But to check your point I should read 'The Comedians'.

Dr Jack Ross said...

It's an interesting thing about Greene's 'entertainments' - after years of carefully keeping up the distinction between the two, he decided to put them all in one single list of novels.

I suppose he'd finally realised that there wasn't that much difference: the novels tended to be a bit more heavy-handed, though, so often it was the entertainments that worked better overall.

It seems to have helped him earlier on to think of them as separate enterprises, though: like a writer who divides their work into 'adult' and 'YA' fiction, like Elizabeth Knox. Often the second group is stronger than the first.

Many of these conventions are more attributable to publishers and booksellers than authors, though.