Graham Greene: A Life in Letters

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9780676979756: Graham Greene: A Life in Letters

There have been a number of Graham Greene biographies, but none has captured his voice, his loves, hates, family and friends–intimate and writerly–or his deep understanding of the world, like this astonishing collection of letters.
Graham Greene is one of the few modern novelists who can be called great. In the course of his long and eventful life (1904—1991), he wrote tens of thousands of letters to family, friends, writers, publishers and others involved in his various interests and causes. A Life in Letters presents a fresh and engrossing account of his life, career and mind in his own words. Meticulously chosen and engagingly annotated, this selection of letters–many of them seen here for the first time–gives an entirely new perspective on a life that combined literary achievement, political action, espionage, exotic travel and romantic entanglement.

In several letters, the individuals, events or places described provide the inspiration for characters, episodes or locations found in his later fiction. The correspondence describes his travels in Mexico, Africa, Malaya, Vietnam, Haiti, Cuba, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other trouble spots, where he observed the struggles of victims and victors with a compassionate and truthful eye. The volume includes a vast number of unpublished letters to authors Evelyn Waugh, Auberon Waugh, Anthony Powell, Edith Sitwell, R.K. Narayan and Muriel Spark, and to other more notorious individuals such as the double-agent Kim Philby. Some of these letters dispute previous assessments of his character, such as his alleged anti-Semitism or obscenity, and he emerges as a man of deep integrity, decency and courage. Others reveal the agonies of his romantic life, especially his relations with his wife, Vivien Greene, and with one of his mistresses, Catherine Walston. The letters can be poignant, despairing, amorous, furious or amusing, but the sheer range of experience contained in them will astound everyone who reads this book.

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About the Author:

Richard Greene is a professor of English at the University of Toronto and the editor of the highly acclaimed Selected Letters of Edith Sitwell. He is also writing a biography of Sitwell.

From Publishers Weekly:

Richard Greene (an associate professor at the University of Toronto and no relation of the novelist's) provides an incisive introduction, narrative and annotations to his selection of Graham Greene's letters from 1921 to 1991, which appear together for the first time. Perennially shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in Literature but never a recipient, Greene is presented in these letters through the five main preoccupations of his life: Roman Catholicism, politics, love, travel and, certainly not least, the processes of writing and publishing. As a publisher at Eyre & Spottiswoode, and as an author in disputes with Heinemann's and Viking ("Would rather change publisher than title"), Greene gained an unusually rounded view of the business side of his profession. In love and through several intense and long-lasting affairs, Greene remains something of a tortured exhibitionist. His writing career led to correspondence with a range of authors and personalities, including Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark, Kurt Vonnegut, Ralph Richardson, Michael Korda, Anthony Burgess, the future Pope Paul VI and radical Swiss theologian Hans Küng. Points of travel famously include such hot spots as Vietnam, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Cuba and Israel. In all, this well-thought-out collection newly reveals a remarkable activist-writer. 8 pages of illus. (Dec.)
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