What there is to tell

David Lodge

  • Ways of Escape by Graham Greene
    Bodley Head, 309 pp, £6.95, October 1980, ISBN 0 370 30356 3

For most of his professional life, Graham Greene might have been described as the Greta Garbo of modern English letters. He preferred to be alone. A wartime Penguin edition of England made me in my possession records on the back cover that ‘he … has always lived a quiet life and shunned literary circles.’ Widely regarded as, in Hugh Walpole’s words (quoted on the same cover), ‘the finest English novelist of his generation’, he avoided the public exposure that usually accompanies such exalted cultural status. He seldom gave interviews to journalists, and was, indeed, seldom to be found by them. He travelled widely and eventually settled in France. On the rare occasions when he agreed to discuss his work on television, he would allow his voice to be heard, but not his face to be seen. His behaviour, in short, manifested an almost fanatical desire to protect his privacy and to preserve his ‘cover’, like one of his own fictitious secret agents, as he moved restlessly about the globe.

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