A Study in Greene: Graham Greene and the Art of the Novel

By Bernard Bergonzi | Go to book overview

6
A Catholic Novelist?

IN 1948 Greene published The Heart of the Matter. It was his first novel for five years, and quickly became a best-seller on both sides of the Atlantic, placing him among the leading English novelists of his generation. It was of particular interest to Catholic readers and provoked much debate among them; following Brighton Rock and The Power and the Glory, Greene came to be regarded as a prominent Catholic novelist, though it was a description he disliked and resisted, preferring to think of himself as a Catholic who happened to write novels. Evident themes relate The Heart of the Matter to the two previous 'Catholic' novels, so much so that some critics have seen it as the conclusion of a kind of trilogy. It is true that the central characters of all three—Pinkie, the whisky priest, and Major Scobie, the colonial police officer—have things in common. Each is desperately isolated, a Catholic who is in a state of mortal sin, or fears he may be, and who is ready to consider damnation as an alternative to salvation. But despite these affinities, The Heart of the Matter represents a new stage in Greene's literary career.

In his conversations with Allain, Greene claimed that religious conviction meant that a writer's characters had greater depth and power than those of an unbeliever: 'I think that the flatness of E. M. Forster's characters, and Virginia Woolf's or Sartre's, for example, compared with the astonishing vitality of Bloom in Joyce's Ulysses, or of Balzac's Père Goriot, or of David Copperfield, derives from the absence of the religious dimension in the former.'1 The

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A Study in Greene: Graham Greene and the Art of the Novel
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vi
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Obsessions and Jokes 12
  • 2: Into the Thirties 22
  • 3: Entertainments 61
  • 4: Brighton 80
  • 5: Mexico 103
  • 6: A Catholic Novelist? 117
  • 7: The Greene Man 142
  • 8: Manic Interludes 167
  • 9: Last Words 174
  • Books by Graham Greene 190
  • Index 193
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