Graham Greene by Neil McEwan (auth.)

By Neil McEwan (auth.)

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One character, Mr Surrogate, a rich Communist, does figure in one of the lightest comic scenes in all the early novels. The titles of the books he has written show his 'advance' towards Marxism. Forward to Free Trade is the earliest and No Compensation the most recent. One evening he hears a rustling behind the copies on his shelf, and removes three editions of No Compensation. There, surprised in the act of dining, a nut between its paws, sat a mouse. Mr Surrogate and the mouse were both startled.

The Assistant Commissioner takes part in a raid on the house of a murderous member of the Salvation Army. When they arrive, he is practising. I've been as big a sinner as any of you. But I've come to Jesus and been forgiven ... Oh, if only you knew friends, the sweetness of that forgiveness, the balm, the peace. He is a trunk-murderer, who left his victim's corpse cut up and cased at Paddington Station. Evelyn Waugh would have enjoyed the situation of such cant at the moment before the arrest: Greene begins the joke and flattens it by emphasising at the end of the scene ('You ought to be ashamed, hitting me') the pity of the man's madness, as Waugh does not for the splendid religious maniac who carves up Mr Prendergast in Decline and Fall.

The scene in which Miss Warren interviews him influences our reading of the graver issues of Europe in 1932 where Communist movements and Fascist countermovements are clashing. Hitler came to power in 1933. But one 'opes, one 'opes, that it's something of this sort, to bring back cheerfulness and 'ealth to modern fiction. There's been too much of this introspection, too much gloom. After all, the world is a fine adventurous place. 1) His next book 'Going Abroad' is to be 'an adventure of the Cockney spirit'.

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