The Man Within My Head
Knopf, $25.95, 256 pp.
Librarians may have problems deciding where to shelve Pico Iyer’s book. The Library of Congress notes at the beginning provide information rather than enlightenment, placing it in several different categories: an account of Graham Greene’s influence; a critical study of his writings; a biography of Greene; an autobiographical account of the author’s origins and family life, particularly of his father, a philosopher who is nearly as much a presence in the narrative as the English novelist; and an essay in travel writing. Some of these headings can be disregarded: Iyer is not trying to provide either a critical study or a biography. The Man Within My Head will frustrate the casually dipping reader, since there is no descriptive subtitle, no list of chapters, and no index. But it is evidently a book “about” Graham Greene, whose picture appears on the jacket above the author’s. It isn’t really criticism or biography, but rather an account of Iyer’s enduring preoccupation with Greene, whom he regards as part of his consciousness, as actually “in his head.”
His title echoes that of Greene’s first novel, The Man Within, published in 1929. That book contains an epigraph from the seventeenth-century physician Sir Thomas Browne: “There’s another man within me and he’s angry with me.” The idea of the intrusive companion or doppelgänger would have been familiar to Greene, whose later years were troubled by the...