“The first thing I remember is sitting in a pram at the top of a hill with a dead dog lying at my feet.” So opens an early chapter of a memoir by Graham Greene, who is viewed by some—including Richard Greene (no relation), the author of a new biography of Graham, “The Unquiet Englishman”—as one of the most important British novelists of his already extraordinary generation. (It included George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Powell, Elizabeth Bowen.)
The dog, Graham’s sister’s pug, had just been run over, and the nanny couldn’t think of how to get the carcass home other than to stow it in the carriage with the baby. If that doesn’t suffice to set the tone for the rather lurid events of Greene’s life, one need only turn the page, to find him, at five or so, watching a man run into a local almshouse to slit his own throat. Around that time, Greene taught himself to read, and he always remembered the cover illustration of the first book to which he gained admission. It showed, he said, “a boy, bound and gagged, dangling at the end of a rope inside a well with water rising above his waist.”
Joan Acocella takes a deep dive into Richard Greene‘s recent biography of Graham Greene, The Unquiet Englishman, a.k.a Russian Roulette: The Life and Times of Graham Greene, via The New Yorker. Her review is a decent primer on all things Greeneland, and covers his diagnosis of manic depression (now known as bipolar disorder), his marriage and subsequent adventures in religion and politics, as well as his infamous defamation of Shirley Temple.
Our BookTalk on The Power and the Glory takes place on Wednesday 17 November. You can book your free place for this Zoom event via this link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cardiff-booktalk-the-power-and-the-glory-by-graham-greene-registration-182423693177