Bernard BergonziOctober 18, 2004 - 9:22am0 comments
The Life of Graham Greene
Volume III: 1956-1991
Viking, $39.95, 800 pp.
In Search of a Beginning
My Life with Graham Greene
Yvonne Cloetta, as told to Marie-Françoise Allain, translated by Euan Cameron
Bloomsbury, £16.99, 416 pp.
Graham Greene, who was born a hundred years ago, had an exceptionally long literary career. He published a slim volume of undergraduate verse in 1926, followed three years later by his first novel, The Man Within. It had many successors, and Greene’s last book, a barrel-scraping collection of short stories provocatively called The Last Word, came out in 1990, the year before he died. The centenary has been marked by the publication of the third and final volume of Norman Sherry’s biography and a brief memoir by Yvonne Cloetta, Greene’s mistress and companion for the last thirty years of his life.
Sherry’s biography—the first volume came out in 1989—has been a remarkable enterprise. Greene, an intensely private person, never wanted his life to be written about, but when he reached his seventies he realized that that was certainly going to happen, and he had better try to control the process by appointing an authorized biographer. He decided on Norman Sherry, then a little-known professor of literature, because he had read and admired Sherry’s accounts of Joseph Conrad’s travels. It was a great opportunity for Sherry, but it led him into a form of servitude that lasted a quarter-century, and itself suggests the stuff of fiction. Like King Wenceslas, Greene urged Sherry, “Mark my footsteps, good my page, tread thou in them boldly”; as far as possible, his biographer was to see the same places and undergo...