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The Life of Graham Greene, Volume I: 1904-1939 (1989)

de Norman Sherry

Sèrie: The Life of Graham Greene (Volume 1)

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288568,422 (4)2
Unquestionably one of the greatest novelists of his time, Graham Greene had always guarded his privacy, remaining aloof, mysterious and unpredictable. None the less, he took the surprising step of allowing Norman Sherry complete access to letter and diaries, and gave his consent to this full and frank biography in three volumes - the first of which takes Greene's life up to the beginning of the Second World War. At the heart of the story lies a remarkable series of letters Greene wrote to his wife, Vivien, for whose sake he became a Catholic. They show us an unknown, younger Greene, impassioned and romantic. Sherry also recounts in fascinating detail how Greene struggled to turn himself into a novelist and learn his craft, and follows his subject's pre-war footsteps to West Africa and Mexico, where he was able to penetrate far into the strange and alarming territory that Greene has made his own. The book that emerges is without doubt one of the most revealing literary biographies of the decade.… (més)
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Finished: 29/1/2021 ( )
  untraveller | Feb 16, 2021 |
Clearly, I'm missing something. This was one of the most tedious books I've ever trawled through; it is not a biography, it is a partially digested mash of quotation from letters, journals, and books, with almost no synthesis or analysis whatsoever. This is clearly a conscious decision on Sherry's part, but it makes the book almost unreadable. Every tiny factoid is backed up with in-text quotation; nothing ever happens, but we are told about literally everything that happens through someone else's words. It could have been one fifth the length without losing anything other than the embarrassing style of Greene's love letters.

Why did he convert? Let's quote Greene, instead of actually thinking about it. Why did he go to Liberia? No particular reason is given in the letters, so let's assume there isn't one. Why Mexico? And so on. Greene led a truly interesting life, and Sherry makes approximately nothing of it. His conversion is recounted in the same style, and at the same length, as negotiations for books that he never published.

The only possible reasons for this are i) that Greene was alive when Sherry was writing, and Sherry felt obliged not to speculate about anything; and ii) Sherry did so much work and read so many tedious, over-egged letters and journals that he just had to stick it all somewhere. I might get through the next volume, because I'm genuinely interested in the man, but dearie me, the last volume is even longer than this one! ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
1 0f 23 books all for $10
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
This enormously well written and deeply researched biography of over seven hundred pages is just the first tome of a triptych portrait of Graham Greene and covers the period from his birth to the birth of The Power and the Glory. I am already looking forward to long sessions of reading the following two volumes of the series that took Professor Norman Sherry over 29 years to create. So dedicated to his task – and to his loved subject – is Norman Sherry, an English author and University Lecturer, that he moved to the USA in 1983 to have easier access to the vast collection of papers and material of ”Greeneland" held in American archives.

As well as a completely realized ‘life’ (up to 1939) of the author, the book draws fascinating ‘portraits’ of each of Graham Greene’s books, from a germ of an idea extracted from a noted experience or a snatch of overheard conversation through the often arduous ‘birthing’ and early days of readership and critical reaction to the author’s own reviewing, recollections and opinions of each work in later life. We are offered a structure of each work that truly advances our understanding of each book and character and Sherry details a series of firm references and sources as a foundation to each of the stories.

By the 1940’s Greene was recognized as an important author, particularly of the so-called catholic novel. It is strange to read of how this proclaimed atheist become a Catholic in order to win the wooing of his wife, Vivien Dayrell-Browning whom Greene awards the title of ‘soul collector’, the last being ”the undergraduate versifier” - himself.

But the lady was not for easy wooing let alone winning and the only truly tedious reading in Norman Sherry’s work is the extensive, repetitious detailing of Grahams long, patient struggle to win his love. Vivien fought to the last deploying every block she could; other suitors, her parents own failed relationship, her faith, and even up to thier engagement was suggesting a celibate marriage! Not until later in the life-long marriage, after the children are born, does she become a warmer character in this book and I still wonder if Graham would not have been better suited with his brave and vivacious cousin Barbara Greene (later Countess Strachwitz) who tramped with him through Journey Without Maps and was credited with actually helping to save her cousin’s fever-threatened life.

Graham’s life, as laid out here by Norman Sherry in this first volume, proves as fascinating, thrilling and absorbing as his literature.
  John_Vaughan | Jul 14, 2011 |
Often reading more like a novel by Jean-Paul Sartre than a biography, this is a massive work - and an eye opening one. The pre-war life of Greene beggars belief; from his strange school days experiences to his university games of Russian Roulette - where his friends made him promise to load a maximum of two of the gun's five chambers (!!!!) through the unbelievable courtship of Vivien and on to the incredible expeditions to Liberia and Mexico.
If Norman Sherry were not such a convincing biographer, I should have regarded this as existentialist tosh but, instead, I found myself transported back to childhood, sitting round eyed at the latest amazing exploits of, not Biggles, but Greene. An astounding read but, I shall need a rest before tackling the next 800 page slab of memoir. READ IT, you'll be glad that you did. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Jul 18, 2008 |
Es mostren totes 5
Sherry also recounts in fascinating detail how Greene struggled to turn himself into a novelist and learn his craft, and follows his subject's pre-war footsteps to West Africa and Mexico, where he was able to penetrate far into the strange and alarming territory that Greene has made his own. The book that emerges is without doubt one of the most revealing literary biographies of the decade.
afegit per John_Vaughan | editaRandom House (Jun 30, 2011)
 

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Many years will go by. Many great years. I shall then no longer be alive. There will be no return to the times of our fathers and grandfathers. This would, indeed, be both undesirable and unnecessary. But at last there will appear once more things that have long lain dormant: noble, creative and great things. It will be a time of final accounting...Think of me then.

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Unquestionably one of the greatest novelists of his time, Graham Greene had always guarded his privacy, remaining aloof, mysterious and unpredictable. None the less, he took the surprising step of allowing Norman Sherry complete access to letter and diaries, and gave his consent to this full and frank biography in three volumes - the first of which takes Greene's life up to the beginning of the Second World War. At the heart of the story lies a remarkable series of letters Greene wrote to his wife, Vivien, for whose sake he became a Catholic. They show us an unknown, younger Greene, impassioned and romantic. Sherry also recounts in fascinating detail how Greene struggled to turn himself into a novelist and learn his craft, and follows his subject's pre-war footsteps to West Africa and Mexico, where he was able to penetrate far into the strange and alarming territory that Greene has made his own. The book that emerges is without doubt one of the most revealing literary biographies of the decade.

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