Graham Greene: “The Power and the Glory”

“Heat stood in the room like an enemy.” La condition humaine according to Graham Greene: shabby and muddy, exuding sweat and blood and filth, grotesque like a Hieronymus Bosch painting. “Black-beetles exploded against the wall like crackers.” (p.24). Although based on historical facts, this epic 20th Century clash between Socialism and Roman Catholicism with its relentless bleakness, spiritual melodrama and black farce could only be set in Greeneland, in this “mingled air of shabbiness and salvation”:

“For a moment [the priest] became furious — that a mongrel bitch with a broken back should steal the only food. He swore at it — popular expressions picked up beside bandstands: he would have been surprised in other circumstances that they came so readily to his tongue. Then suddenly he laughed: this was human dignity disputing with a bitch over a bone.” (p. 144)

Reading Graham Greene is an engrossing and linguistically exhilarating, if not always mood-enhancing experience. As one reviewer remarked: “Wherever he went, ugliness stalked him and leered at him from things, and beasts and humans […] he infallibly attracted to himself bad food and bad smells and bad people. One suspects that, even at the North Pole, Mr. Greene would be harassed by mental mosquitoes.” (Quoted in “The Life of Graham Greene” by Norman Sherry:a review of “The Lawless Roads”, Greene’s earlier book about his travels in Mexico on which “The Power and the Glory” is based.)

This book & review on Goodreads

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