Tag Archives: graham greene

Graham Greene (b. October 2): “Pain is easy to write about” & other quotes about writing

2 Oct


Graham Greene (born 2 October 1904, died 3 April 1991) was an English author, playwright and literary critic who suffered from bipolar disorder. After several suicide attempts as a schoolboy, he was sent to a psychoanalyst who introduced him to his circle of literary friends and encouraged him to write. Greene was one of the few authors who managed to combine literary acclaim with widespread popularity, enjoying financial success and associating with T.S. Eliot, Ian Fleming and Noel Coward. His novels include The End of the Affair, The Third Man, The Quiet American and Our Man in Havana.

Following are eight of his quotes on writing:

  1. All good novelists have bad memories.
  2. Pain is easy to write about. In pain we’re all happily individual. But what can one write about happiness?
  3. One has no talent. I have no talent. It’s just a question of working, of being willing to put in the time.
  4. A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.
  5. The moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn’t thought about. At that moment he’s alive and you leave it to him.
  6. My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane.
  7. Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.
  8. The great advantage of being a writer is that you can spy on people. You’re there, listening to every word, but part of you is observing. Everything is useful to a writer, you see – every scrap, even the longest and most boring of luncheon parties.

Booknote: The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene

5 Jan

the power and the gloryOver the years, I’ve read all of Graham Greene’s books. His writing is impeccable, and his characters are often trapped in some backwater of life, whether literal or figurative, in which faith struggles against despair.

This novel centers on a “whisky priest”, hunted and hounded by Marxist “Red Shirts” in the service of an anti-clerical Mexican government that in certain states has driven the Catholic Church into hiding. This sounds like SF, but actually happened in the mid-1930s.

As do many Greene characters, the nameless priest carries a heavy load of guilt. In his case, it’s the illegitimate child he fathered during the years when priests were de-celibatized and made to act like real men. Now he’s escaped into the jungle, running from the Red Shirts and administering baptisms, confessions and last rites to faithful peasants.

It’s a bit of an allegory, with the priest as Christ, a peasant Judas and a Marxist lieutenant as Pilate. The novel moves as slowly as an anaconda on a heavily humid day, but the language is deft and the story is as old and rich as the Bible.

~ Alan, Toronto, 5 Jan 2013

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