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IRELAND AND GREENELAND: THE IRISH IN THE WRITINGS OF GRAHAM GREENE CHARLES F. DUFFY in early June of 1923, only days after the cessation of hostilities between the new Irish Free State and the IRA “Diehards,” the eighteen-year-old Graham Greene, rucksack slung over his shoulder, arrived in Dublin on his Wrst real journey outside England. He had just completed his Wrst year at Oxford, and was already on assignment as a journalist for theWeeklyWestminsterGazette.1 The following January Greene made a ten-day trip to Paris, ostensibly for political solidarity during his brief and bogus membership in the Communist Party. However, this visit was more for psychological and literary reasons , and for sexual titillation as well. The literary draw of Paris in the Twenties was of course, strong, but in his autobiography Greene mentions only one author who interested him: on his Wrst day in Paris, he dutifully bought his “huge blue copy of Ulysses” from Sylvia Beach’s bookshop where Joyce’s novel had been Wrst sold two years before.2 In Greene’s Wrst two trips abroad, then, Ireland lured him in several ways: the scent of danger and violence, which would be a nearly lifelong antidote to his frequent bouts of depression; the opportunity to test his nascent powers of observation; and the chance to make contact with literature where it was happening or being written. Back then, one would have thought that Ireland and its literature would Wgure to some extent in Greene’s long and distinguished career in journalism, reviewing, political commentary, biography, drama, Wlm, and especially where the world best knows him, in his twenty-odd novels and dozens of short stories, many of them having foreign settings and that characteristic “Greeneland” THE IRISH IN THE WRITINGS OF GRAHAM GREENE 14 1 Norman Sherry, The Life of Graham Greene, Vol. I (New York: Viking, 1989), p. 134. 2 Graham Greene, A Sort of Life (New York: Simon, 1971), p. 135. atmosphere of downtrodden marginal cultures, dangerous political intrigue , and religious angst. In 1981, almost sixty years after those two youthful forays, Pierre Joannon , an editor of Études Irlandaises and also the Irish consul general in Greene’s adopted town of Antibes on the French Riviera, asked him an interesting question in an interview inappropriately entitled “Graham Greene’s Other Island”: “You have set many novels,” he asked, “in troubled lands. . . . But Ireland never inspired you. Why?”3 In addition to the novels, Joannon might have included in his question all the other writings of Greene, for it is curious how seldom Greene alludes to Ireland and the Irish. Indeed, not so much as a one-paragraph scene in any of his stories or plays takes place in Ireland, and this in a Conrad-inspired writer who has settings, by my conservative count, in some twenty-two lands on four continents. Furthermore, there are few Irish characters or ones of Irish descent in his work, and most of these we barely glimpse; only one Irish character is elevated to a secondary role. There are a few scattered allusions to Ireland, but none of them important. As a proliWc reviewer, essayist, and writer of angry letters to the editor, there appears to be at best a sprinkling of Irish interest. Now, to be sure a writer must be granted the donnée. New Zealanders cannot grumble credibly that Greene never wrote about them or their country. There is no literary law or tradition—outside the more earnest halls of multiculturalism—which mandates any kind of inclusion or exclusion . A writer must be free to write of Malaysian beer coasters and Scottish haggis—or not to. Nevertheless, something odd about Greene’s Irish lacunae surfaces toward the end of the Études Irlandaises interview when Greene seems to protest too much his Hibernophile proclivities. “Irish culture has always meant a great deal to me,” he tells Joannon while listing his favorite Irish writers and painters.4 And earlier he had talked of his youthful sympathy during Ireland’s struggle for independence. But, if Ireland did truly mean so much to him, then it is fair to ask for some evidence of this interest? Now, it needs...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1550-5162
Print ISSN
0013-2683
Pages
pp. 14-26
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-31
Open Access
No
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