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This report is taken from PN Review 86, Volume 18 Number 6, July - August 1992.

Greene's Afterlife Nicolas Tredell

PEN INTERNATIONAL WRITERS DAY, 28 MARCH 1992

'Ecclesiastical or writers?' This was the doorman's question as we entered Church House in Westminster. Clergy and clerisy were sent in different directions. The distinction between preachers of the Word and purveyors of words, and the use of an Anglican centre to celebrate a Catholic convert, might have amused the subject of this year's gathering: Graham Greene. The conference took place in a circular chamber punctuated with double doors marked 'Clergy Ayes', 'Clergy Noes', 'Laity Ayes' and 'Laity Noes', as if, at the end of the day, we might have to vote on Greene's fate. And indeed the day raised pressing questions about Greene's afterlife - the secular afterlife of the texts that are left to us. That afterlife poises, as his life did, on the dangerous edge of things: how will his work be seen in the nineties and the next century?

The most substantial contribution to an understanding of Greene's work came from the first speaker, David Lodge. Lodge began by remarking that Greene was more closely intertwined with his own literary career than any other writer, and. that his parody of Greene in The British Museum is Falling Down (1965) was perhaps exorcizing a certain anxiety of influence. He drew a contrast between his own lower middleclass Catholicism and the 'exotic and romantic spiritual landscape' of Greene's novels, but recalled that Greene had endorsed The British Museum and had indeed suggested that Lodge send a ...


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