Graham Greene: An Approach to the Novels

By Robert Hoskins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE

The Honorary Consul

Apart from its similar South American setting, The Honorary Consul is in most respects a very different book from Travels with My Aunt. The later novel employs a much more serious tone and builds slowly toward an exciting conclusion full of suspense and violent action. For over half its length, however, Consul, like its predecessor, is a book about readers and writers, one that briefly sustains the earlier work's concerns with the elusive borderline between fiction and reality and continues to tease readers with reversed or negative images of the author. Indeed, in one curious way the novel might be said to follow Travels very closely by presenting a protagonist (here Doctor Eduardo Plarr) who has long been a reader of English Victorian literature in the lotos-land:

Perhaps reading in the open air was a habit he had acquired from his father who always took a book with him when he went farming, and in the orange-scented air of his abandoned country Doctor Plarr had got through all the works of Dickens except Christmas Tales. People when they first saw him sitting on a bench with an open book had looked at him with keen curiosity…. It was a sign, like his English passport, that he would always remain a stranger: he would never be properly assimilated. (21)

Although by birth Plarr is only half-English, his reading, like Henry Pulling's, follows the example of his English father. As a young reader he

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