Cervantics

Robert Taubman

  • Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene
    Bodley Head, 221 pp, £5.95, September 1982, ISBN 0 370 30923 5

‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’ Perhaps rather carefully, the words at the head of Graham Greene’s new novel are ascribed to William Shakespeare rather than to Hamlet, but inevitably it’s Hamlet they bring to mind. Very Hamlet, this complete scepticism – but not, surely, very Graham Greene; and what has it to do with a novel on the theme of Don Quixote? Turgenev brought Hamlet and Don Quixote together, in an essay on the Russia of his time, in order to contrast the man who thinks like Hamlet and therefore cannot act, and the man impelled by his dreams to act like Don Quixote. But Greene doesn’t propose a contrast, and this is puzzling. Does he mean then to justify the Don in his delusions? Has Hamlet’s pyrrhonism become just a cue for freewheeling fantasy in the current fashion? Has Greene joined the Post-Modernists?

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