‘If one takes a side, one takes a side, come what may.’

Graham Greene’s interest in Latin America went way beyond his novels. Surprisingly, considering his condemnation of revolutionary violence in The Power and the Glory, he was a prominent supporter of Fidel Castro’s government, and later, of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas. Until the end of his life, Greene spoke out against CIA meddling in democracies across the world.

In his excellent essay, ‘Taking Sides: Graham Green in Latin America‘ (Journal of modern literature, 2003-01-01, Vol.26 (2), p.113-128), Stephen Benz takes issue with the commonly-held concept of ‘Greeneland’, as ‘a generic, savage landscape… that is more imaginary than real’, and places Greene’s fiction in the context of his decades of political commentary and activism. Greene called out the Pope’s hypocrisy in rebuking leftist priests in Nicaragua and was committed to a ‘humane socialism’ that was tolerant of religion and looked beyond dogma.

‘Rediscovering a technique for revolution: for Greene this was a central purpose of the Church, and no discussion of Greene’s faith is complete without considering its political aspects. Greene was not concerned about the apparent incompatibility of political activity and religious faith. He was not only willing to make commitments, but also ready to insist that commitment was absolutely necessary. Greene summarized his own position through the words of Doctor Magiot in The Comedians: “I would rather have blood on my hands than water like Pilate.”

Using examples drawn from Greene’s essays and fiction, as well as comments from his contemporaries, including some spiky criticisms from Anthony Burgess, Benz paints a picture of a different Graham Greene to the one we think we know – a champion of progressive leftist democratic politics and of indigenous activism.

Cardiff University staff and students can find the entire essay to read online via the library catalogue: https://librarysearch.cardiff.ac.uk/permalink/44WHELF_CAR/b7291a/cdi_proquest_journals_201670623

Our Cardiff BookTalk event on The Power and the Glory takes place on Wednesday 17 November via Zoom. Book your free ticket here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cardiff-booktalk-the-power-and-the-glory-by-graham-greene-registration-182423693177

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