Graham Greene: An Approach to the Novels

By Robert Hoskins | Go to book overview
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As an unapologetic admirer of Graham Greene's writing, I feel a certain awkwardness in introducing a book about him that he probably would have disliked. He admired Philip Stratford's Faith and Fiction and Father Leopoldo Duran's La Crisis del Sacerdote in Graham Greene-these, he said, were the best critical books about him-but he was impatient with a great deal of the critical writing about his work. “Save me from these American academics, he wrote in a friend's copy of the volume of essays edited by R.W.B. Lewis and Peter Conn in the Viking Critical Library edition of The Power and the Glory-a collection that I have always regarded as first-rate. His attitude toward critics appears to have been linked with his determination to avoid repetition in his work: he was sensitive to the charge that he was a “one-book man”-a charge he rightly denied-and he feared that too keen an awareness of the “patterns” in his work would stifle his own creativity and make patterns harder rather than easier to avoid. As he explains in Ways of Escape, the fear became acute midway through his career, when his growing reputation as a Catholic novelist threatened to limit the range in which he was expected to work:

Writing a novel does not become easier with practice. The slow discovery by a novelist of his individual method can be exciting, but a moment comes in middle age when he feels that he no longer controls his method; he has become its prisoner. Then a long period of ennui sets


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