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Graham Greene: The Enemy Within (1995)

Graham Greene: The Enemy Within (1995)

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3.49 of 5 Votes: 4
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0679428836 (ISBN13: 9780679428831)
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About book Graham Greene: The Enemy Within (1995)

This biography is a lively and irreverent one of the controversial writer and author of such modern classics as ‘The Third Man’, ‘Brighton Rock’ and ‘The Human Factor’, who died in 1991. Greene spent many years in building up a carefully controlled public persona, in which the many skeletons in his cupboard did not figure. Norman Sherry’s exhaustive, three-volume biography is the standard, authorised one, but Shelden’s is much more exciting and amusing, not to say digestible, and is informative enough.Shelden ‘digs up the dirt’ on his subject: Greene was disloyal, duplicitous, and unfaithful; he was addicted to prostitutes, a heavy drinker and plagued by depressions. He was also an uncaring father and an anti-Semite who worked as a spy for the Secret Intelligence Service during and after the war. He learnt all about spy’s trade at Berkhamstead, the boys' school where his father was headmaster. Greene senior expected his son to report any misconduct of his fellow students, effectively turning him into a double agent before the age of ten. He was made aware early on of the profound pleasures of spying as well as its dangers – ‘life on the edge’ was a recurring theme in his life and work. Despite his abiding reputation as a ‘Catholic writer’, Greene himself admitted to an interviewer that he was not a religious man, and Catholicism was for him more valuable as a literary device than as a personal commitment. It is true that he converted to Catholicism, but this was done at least in part to win the love of Vivian Dayrell-Browning, whom he married soon afterwards.Shelden analyses the plots of the major novels to illustrate his contentions about the more sordid aspects of Greene’s personal affairs, but when he informs us that Greene's genius was ‘marred by a wide streak of malice' we are tempted to reply, ‘so what?’ Wagner was a complete bastard, and Beethoven must have been hell to live with, but the work is the thing, and Greene certainly delivered the goods in that respect.I would be inclined to suspect anyone who claimed to have been down a mine if he didn’t have some dirt on him.

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