Conversations with Graham Greene

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This collection of seventeen interviews covers fifty years. Here the eminent author of The Power and the Glory, The Third Man, and The Heart of the Matter speaks of himself, his life, and his works. Though reluctant to be interviewed, especially by an academic or journalist he did not know, Greene was more at ease in an interview with a personal friend, who he felt would be less likely to misunderstand or misquote him. Yet even his good friend V. S. Pritchett spent considerable time trying to pin him down for his 1978 interview. When he finally did arrange an interview, Pritchett tells that Greene’s “flat conspiratorial, laughing voice . . ., of itself, makes him the best company I’ve known in the last forty years.” Other interviewers–included here are V. S. Naipaul and Penelope Gilliatt–shared Pritchett’s opinion, but many found that he avoided idle conversation for fear that his words would be misconstrued. Greene’s anxiety was not without foundation. In an interview with Michael Menshaw, Greene explained: “It’s got so I hate to say who I am or what I believe…A few years ago I told an interviewer I’m a gnostic. The next day’s newspaper announced that I had become an agnostic.” After such incidents, Greene turned to the anecdote–relating an experience with Fidel Castro or with Papa Doc Duvalier–to communicate in interviews with strangers. Nevertheless, in all the interviews Greene granted over the years, the reader hears very clearly the voice of a man whose conversation is as painfully honest and unpretentious as is his written prose. The interviews here are divided chronologically into four periods, loosely related to his subject matter or to his reputation at the time of theinterview. Thus the reader sees the development of the writer from a callow but gifted young man into one of the foremost men of letters in the English-speaking world.

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