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A Sort of Life (1971)

de Graham Greene

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Graham Greene's 'long journey through time' began in 1904, when he was born into a tribe of Greenes based in Berkhamstead at the public school where his father was headmaster. In "A Sort of Life" Greene recalls schooldays and Oxford, adolescent encounters with psychoanalysis and Russian roulette, his marriage and conversion to Catholicism, and how he rashly resigned from "The Times" when his first novel, "The Man Within "was published in 1929. "A Sort of Life" reveals, brilliantly and compellingly, a life lived and an art obsessed by 'the dangerous edge of things'.… (més)
Afegit fa poc perbiblioteca privada, mhplibrary, AAGP, chicosantos, 2v, jodimati, agenbiteofinwit, jpcg, lgj0001
Biblioteques llegadesWilliam Gaddis, Graham Greene

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Una autobiografía es sólo "una especie de vida", puede contener menos errores de hecho que una biografía, pero es aun más selectiva por necesidad: empieza más tarde y acaba prematuramente. Si uno no puede terminar un libro de memorias en el lecho de muerte, cualquier conclusión tiene que ser arbitraria, y he preferido concluir este ensayo con los años de fracaso que siguieron a la aceptación de mi primera novela. También el fracaso es una especie de muerte: los muebles vendidos, los cajones vaciados, el furgón de mudanza que nos espera abajo, como un carro fúnebre, para llevarnos a un lugar menos caro. También en otro sentido un libro de esta clase sólo puede ser "una especie de vida", pues a lo largo de sesenta y seis años he pasado casi tanto tiempo con personajes imaginarios como con hombres y mujeres reales.
A decir verdad, aunque he tenido suerte en lo que se refiere al número de mis amigos, no puedo recordar ninguna anécdota de personas famosas o notorias, los únicos cuentos que recuerdo vagamente, son los cuentos que he escrito.
  ArchivoPietro | Nov 17, 2020 |
Remarkably revealing. I haven't enjoyed an autobiography this much in quite some time. Graham Greene provides a frank history of his early years up to the time of his first successful novel, The Man Within, and the immediate aftermath of failure and then the legal problems arising out of Stamboul Train. The book itself is filled with passages expressing wit, irony, melancholy, excitement, and failure, all reflective of the somewhat troubled and manic-depressive life of Greene.

There is something of a unique style to this work. Greene avoids a strictly linear description of his life. Instead, he offers passages and sections that are entirely associative in his memory. Thus the reader not only discovers about the books that interested him as a child and young man but incidents he later saw as populating his fiction--although he claims to have been unaware of it at the time of his writing.

Too, there are especially interesting notes towards the end. Greene learned much from his initial lack of success. And he describes what amounts to a guideline for writing that rejected the imitative failures he produced for Doubleday and Hienemann following the surprise success of The Man Within.

There is much atmosphere and mood to his description of working at The Times as a sub editor. And it is equally appealing to see his descriptions of working with his editors at Heinemann and Doubleday. This was the heyday of the novel, a literary age that is all but unrecognizable to the contemporary world. The Western world itself, of course, was much more literary. Newspapers provided for the immediacy of news, while novels and magazines devoted to short stories outpaced even the motion pictures as a venue for entertainment and enlightenment. And Greene was there in its midst, almost failing. So near was he to doing so that he came close to accepting a teaching appointment at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. The book ends on his meeting with his friend, the department chair at the university, who offered him the job. It is some twenty years later, and Greene remarks upon the man's once promising career as a poet, which he allowed to slip away because of initial failures, leading to his exile in Siam. Only by the surprise success of Stamboul Train did Greene himself escape the same fate. ( )
  PaulCornelius | Apr 12, 2020 |
Graham Greene explains the odd title of his 1971 memoir of his youth, "A Sort of Life," in its very first sentence: "An autobiography is only 'a sort of life' -- it may contain less errors of fact than a biography, but it is of necessity even more selective: it begins later and it ends prematurely."

The word "selective" certainly describes the great British novelist's attempt at autobiography. It begins with Greene's earliest memories from his childhood, and he seems to remember more than most of us do from that period and seems to tell us everything he remembers. Later the selectivity begins. Certain individuals and incidents from his early life are singled out for mention, sometimes in great detail, while others are all but ignored. A notable example is the detail with which he describes his first love for a woman about a decade older than him, his siblings' governess, while barely mentioning the woman he later married or the child they had together.

To be sure, his severe depression after the governess left to get married contributed to his prolonged dependency on Russian roulette to snap him out of it. Apparently his wife led to nothing as dramatic, so was worth mentioning only in passing.

Other than the Russian roulette, easily the most mentioned part of "A Sort of Life" whenever the book is discussed, the book's significance lies in what it tells us about Greene's becoming a novelist. He wrote some early novels that went nowhere, while working for newspapers to pay the bills. Eventually "The Man Within" found a publisher in 1929. Lest you think "the rest is history," his struggles continued, and not until 1932 with the publication of "Stamboul Train" did he finally feel he had arrived, and there his memoir ends, with his most important works such as "The Power and the Glory" and "The End of the Affair" still to come. Yet his experiences during these early years did find their way into some of those later novels, and these insights, too, make this memoir worth reading for Graham Greene admirers. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Oct 28, 2017 |
5488. A Sort of Life, by Graham Greene (read 20 Jul 2017) This is a book published in 1971 in which Greene tells of his life up to about 1932. He was born 2 October 1904. His father was with a school and the family lived at the school. But Greene did not attend school till he was almost 8. He claims as a child he all at once learned he could read, but did not tell anyone. Unfortunately he does ot tell us how he learned to read--such would be of interest to me. He was a weird child and tried to commit suicide as a youth. He claims he by himself played Russian roulette five times. (I at college knew a guy who died playing Russian roulette--not somebody who seemed to be so stupid as to do such.) Greene underwent psychoanalysis as a teenager, and felt it was good for him. He tells of his conversion to Catholicism prior to his marriage, but not very revealingly, to my regret. This is a book of interest but could have been much more revealing and interesting. It is the 12th book of Greene's I have read ( )
  Schmerguls | Jul 20, 2017 |
Greene may not be terribly open about a lot of his life, and that does give one cause to doubt whether the themes he identifies were (biographically speaking) the prevailing ones in his life – but if an autobiography is a narrative and he wanted the narrator to be a tight character, he succeeded in that. Most of what he relates can be grouped under headings including Self-Reflection; Masculinity; Cinema; Anger/Mania; Fear vs. Terror; Religion; Travel; Social Class; Reading; and Writing.

Why writing? Was it because books were part of the sacred, first full solitude, and the small solitudes before that in the hedge at school? Was it because psychoanalysis prompted him to work out thoughts on paper? Nobody seems to have encouraged him specifically in writing. Why self-reflect at all when what he wanted was to avoid the repetitious, the mechanical, the mundane? Writing as a profession hardly offers release from these things. Why not just live rambunctiously, as he did anyway? He says that writing is for him like being a spy, a chance to observe and record secretly the thoughts and actions of others. Is that sufficient as a cause to put pen to paper? And what’s his obsession with editing? Is that merely a desire for control? Why is style so important to him, and criticism? It can’t be just because learning French inspired precision in his own writing.

Anyway, what strikes me ultimately is the way he treats his life as though it were a dream to be analyzed. He looks for recurrent images, particularly of fears, and seeks out their first causes; he seeks themes; he captures small moments and free-associates them with other moments from his memory. The way he speaks of subsuming experiences and allowing them to resurface as fiction indicates that he also perceives writing fiction as a dreaming-like act. He attributes source material for his books to dreams he had and wrote down. There is even a dreamlike quality to the way he describes things he’s seen when he retools them into fiction – a focus on strange details that seem to have more relevance than makes sense in the context of the character who is supposed to be observing these details. His description of opium use reminds me strongly of the active premises of so-called “lucid dreamers,” too. Is it because of the surreal experience of depression as a fog descending that he feels so strongly that dreams and life are connected, even intertwined?

In the end, more questions than answers for the reader looking to understand this prolific writer, but the story Greene tells about himself is compelling and fascinating. ( )
  Nialle | Jul 24, 2013 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 7 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Though the hero of almost every Graham Greene novel is haunted by the past, one of the oddities of his fiction is how little personal history his characters have outside the bare minimum burden that drives them- the crime, the sin, the act of betrayal they can't forget. Yet in coming to terms with his own early life, despite the professed limitations of his memory and his reticence on some subjects, Graham Greene writes with a generosity and flexibility that are new in his work. At a point in his long career when it seemed unlikely he could surprise us, he has done it with this moving self-portrait of a man at ease with his past.

afegit per John_Vaughan | editaNY Times, W Clemons (Jul 9, 1971)
 

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Graham Greene's 'long journey through time' began in 1904, when he was born into a tribe of Greenes based in Berkhamstead at the public school where his father was headmaster. In "A Sort of Life" Greene recalls schooldays and Oxford, adolescent encounters with psychoanalysis and Russian roulette, his marriage and conversion to Catholicism, and how he rashly resigned from "The Times" when his first novel, "The Man Within "was published in 1929. "A Sort of Life" reveals, brilliantly and compellingly, a life lived and an art obsessed by 'the dangerous edge of things'.

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