Going Greene: The Power and the Glory

Thursday August 9, 2007 in books read 2007 | graham greene

One of the advantages of having a sprawling collection of yellowing paperbacks is the delight of stumbling over titles you’ve forgotten about. I’ve recently rediscovered my small collection of Graham Greene novels, and realising that I have only read Brighton Rock and Travels With my Aunt I’ve decided to go on a Greene binge, aiming to complete The Power and the Glory, The Honorary Consul and The Quiet American in succession. If you don’t like Greene, look away for a while. Or prepare to be converted…

Set in Mexico during the religious persecution of the 1930s, The Power and the Glory follows the misfortunes of an unnamed Catholic priest. Often a little worse for wear from his favourite tipple brandy, this whiskey priest manages to stumble out of trouble as he is pursued throughout this outstanding novel. And it really is – I’d forgotten how good a writer Greene was. Written in 1940, this novel hasn’t dated whatsoever. The setting and cirmcumstances just serve as history and the writing, especially the dialogue, is particularly well written.

After recently reading so much Cormac McCarthy, in particular the Mexico-set All the Pretty Horses, I found a lot to compare between the two authors. Both have a way of delivering their stories with a degree of emotional detachment; we’re simply told the simple facts and left to make our own emotional responses – which we can’t help but do. In The Power and the Glory I couldn’t help but be drawn into the plight of the whisky priest. He’s a real and believable character with many dimensions, self-doubting and self-torturing. And it might be coincidence but I couldn’t help wondering if McCarthy has been influenced by this novel – there’s a familiarity about the encounters and recurring characters, the lengthy journeys into peril, even the pitiful prison scenes. Like McCarthy, there’s sometimes the worry that plot devices might get in the way of believability – with coincidence winning out too easily where loose ends are no more – but also like McCarthy the strength of Greene’s writing always wins out.

I too adore Graham Greene. The Power and the Glory was the first I read, and it’s still my favorite. I look forward to you reading about your binge.

ted    Thursday August 9, 2007   

Thanks for the quick response about the Ulysses group. I hope I receive similar affirmatives soon.

ted    Friday August 10, 2007   

Great idea – look forward to it.
Meanwhile the Greene binge continues…

The Book Tower    Friday August 10, 2007   

I went through a brief Greene phase a while back, and I loved The Power and the Glory. I look forward to hearing about other books of his!

Dorothy W.    Friday August 10, 2007   

We also loved Monsignor Quixote, another Greene novel about a priest in trouble, but it’s more light hearted. Or is it… Poignant story, lovable characters, a special relationship and devotion. Greene is amazing.

Steve    Sunday August 12, 2007   

I love reading binges and this one sounds like it will qualify for the Reading the Author Challenge – I’m setting up the rules this week and hope you’ll join in the fun!

verbivore    Thursday August 23, 2007   

Thanks for your comments – it’s good to know that Greene is still a much loved author.
Verbivore – I certainly will, and I’ve thought of a couple more authors worth binging on as well!

The Book Tower    Sunday August 26, 2007   

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