Graham Greene

A Sort of Life

“I have tried, however unsuccessfully, to live again the follies and sentimentalities and exaggerations of the distant time, and to feel them, as I felt them then.”

English novelist Graham Greene (1904-1991) was restless, at times, greatly uneasy. This feeling is in his novels and thickens these memoirs, A Sort of Life. He admits a great fear of boredom, of a mind contained.

Greene was born within years of Steinbeck, Hemingway and Faulkner. Unlike them, however, he never won a Nobel Prize, although he was shortlisted twice. Critics pigeonholed Greene as a Catholic novelist. Although he defined that type of writing he objected to the label.

I find Greene’s fiction exceptional. Flush with self-examination without self-obsession.

In his memoirs, Greene circles childhood memories restlessly, pulling himself back to the streets where he was formed and forged. He stretches his self-awareness to understood what he was, did, and most of all, felt. “Those emotions were real when we felt them.” Greene’s work always demonstrates exceptional empathy, I am pleased he left some for himself.

Once in a while autobiographies have the fortitude to dig into the past for answers, to empathize with the child that existed rather than simply narrate for the sake of a book. Comedian John Cleese’s So, Anyway and certainly Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings are excellent examples.