FT—John Sutherland reviews three recent books on Graham Greene

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is conventionally assumed that Greene’s faith, after flaming sky-high in The End of the Affair (a novel in which God Himself figures as an adulterous third party), burned lower in later life. In the 1968 BBC interview, Greene says that he no longer communicates or takes confession.

[Michael] Brennan modifies this received view. He teases out a persistent, subtle and often contrarian engagement with Catholicism in Greene’s thinking, even before the conversion. Greene was, he argues, idiosyncratically Manichean in his early life and was later drawn to a Liberation theology which fused his theological and Marxist impulses. Hell, Greene once said, “doesn’t make sense to me” – yet he was forever looking for it in the Congo (A Burnt-Out Case), Haiti (The Comedians) and, closer to home, the English seaside (Brighton Rock).

Catholicism, Brennan argues, supplied not so much a doctrine as the “intellectual scepticism” that drives Greene and his fiction. It manifests itself as a fascination with theological paradox – for example, that without Judas, the traitor, there would be no crucifixion and no salvation. Is he not, then, the best of the disciples?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

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