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Graham Greene: The Enemy Within First US Edition Edition

9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0788193767
ISBN-10: 0788193767
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While Norman Sherry is still engaged in writing his hugely detailed, three-volume Greene biography comes this deconstructionist effort by the author of studies of Cyril Connolly and Orwell. Shelden began work intending an "affectionate portrait," but "along the way I kept uncovering unpleasant facts." That is a considerable understatement. Shelden has portrayed Greene as an eternal manipulator, of friends as well as of the world press; as a man whose ostensible religion and politics were shams, whose early books?including the much-admired Brighton Rock?contained reprehensible anti-Semitic elements; and, artistically, as a writer who underwent a decline after The Heart of the Matter in 1948, with only occasional glimpses (as in The Human Factor of 1978) of the huge talents he once possessed. Although Greene was renowned for his louche sexual habits (Shelden asserts he could have authored a splendid guide to the world's best brothels), it has not previously been documented that he had homosexual inclinations. Shelden avers that in his hideaway on Capri, he dallied with young boys, and that there are passages in his work that can only be seen as the product of a gay sensibility. Shelden's scrutiny of Greene's work is scrupulous, and certainly suggests that some reassessment of much of it is in order. In the case of Greene's private life, it is clear that his habitual evasiveness and cunning render many of his actions subject to various interpretations. Shelden's book is certainly an impressive brief for the prosecution, even if this most mysterious of contemporary writers continues ultimately to baffle and elude us. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Greene, the noted British novelist, essayist, and screenwriter and author of important works such as The Power and the Glory (1946) and "entertainments" such as Our Man in Havana (1958), is enjoying a much-deserved resurgence of interest with two recent biographies. The second volume of Norman Sherry's massive The Life of Graham Greene: 1939-1955 (LJ 1/95) is just out. More accessible, however, is this briefer account by Shelden (Orwell, LJ 10/1/91). Shelden is concerned with the darker side of Greene's life and work, his conflict with an inner self that informed his predilection for practical jokes, espionage, and numerous infidelities and deceptions as well as a lifelong obsession with suicide. Such a conflict, Shelden argues, helps us understand both Greene's Catholicism and the depths of his seemingly less serious work. This biography is thorough without burying its subject in detail. Witty and fast paced, it reads like one of Greene's thrillers. Recommended for most collections, though smaller libraries may be content with Sherry's work.?T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, Ga.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 454 pages
  • Publisher: Floris Books; First US Edition edition (May 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0788193767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0788193767
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,262,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Shelden is the author of four literary biographies, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist, Orwell: The Authorized Biography, which was also a New York Times Notable Book. For fifteen years, he was a features writer for the London Daily Telegraph, and for ten years he served as a fiction critic for the Baltimore Sun. His latest biography is a groundbreaking account of the early life of Winston Churchill, Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By D. A. Hosek on April 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
One of my authors asked me recently about whether I wanted footnotes in a piece that he was writing. I told him that if he was making any claims that people might dispute, he should footnote the h... out of it. Michael Shelden doesn't do this. His biography is full of controversial claims but his critical apparatus is very weak. In fact, one of his claims, that a gardener at an uncle's home was a central figure in his life, doesn't seem to have any documented source at all.
If the claims were restricted to gardeners, this would not be an important detail, but Shelden makes an assortment of claims, identifying Greene as a homosexual, an antisemite, a closet fascist, and even insinuates that Greene was a murderer as well. Of all of these claims, only the antisemitism claim seems to have any merit and what merit there exists is for a weaker antisemitism than Shelden claims. The claim of homosexuality doesn't jibe with Shelden's own account of Greene's life.

Perhaps most amusing is that while Shelden is eager to point out Greene's fondness for deception, he doesn't seem to acknowledge the possibility that he himself was being deceived.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Stephen K Owens on March 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
In the introduction to this biography, Michael Shelden claims that he undertook this study Graham Greene's life with the hope of showing that Greene was unfairly denied the Nobel prize for literature. But Shelden's insistence that Greene's work is filled with hate and devotion to the 'glory of evil' belies his stated intention. At one point, Shelden waxes about his desire that Greene's work die out completely so that the world can finally be rid of it. The paucity of praise for Greene's good work, the almost gleeful anticipation of Greene's declining years, and the way Shelden repeatedly read ridiculously bad motives into Greene's every private action led me to believe that Shelden had never enjoyed reading Greene's work and had only undertaken this biography in order to smear his name. It is true that Greene was not a morally upright citizen, but he never claimed to be. The mystery of Greene's novels is that imperfect, even evil, people can become instruments of grace. Such may also be said of Greene's life and work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Hitchings on November 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover
For several decades, Graham Greene has been my favourite author, and his work has had a great personal effect on me. From time to time I have read suggestions that he could be a very unpleasant person and that there were significant discrepancies between his private life and his public persona. This book has confirmed these suggestions in a more forceful manner than I would have thought possible.

Shelden is a very careful and thorough researcher, and while some of his suppositions may be in error, he appears to have put an enormous effort into making them as accurate as possible. He is also a very capable writer who takes great care to arrange his material in a logical and readable way. He acknowledges that Greene himself is an exceptionally capable writer and suggests that his failure to win a Nobel Prize may have been for reasons other than the quality of his books.

According to Shelden, however, Greene is an extremely self-centred, dishonest and heartless individual with an amazing talent for creating false impressions and persuading people to believe them. He gives a wealth of evidence for his claims, and although (for whatever reason) he does not use traditional footnotes, he provides twenty pages detailing his sources. According to Shelden, Greene lived his whole life as a kind of glorious game in which he did and got away with pretty much whatever he felt like doing, showing no responsibility, making life a hell for his own wife and children, but covering his tracks with a succession of plausible alibis.

There is a great deal more than that to it, but the total effect is devastating. Whatever else may be said, this is probably the most memorable biography I have ever read, as well as the most unpleasant.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Frost on May 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a most frustrating and fascinating biography of a most private man. Read it before judging, but beware that it is a hard read for anyone who loves Greene. Having read Greene's novels and his travel books, I love his works, including the earliest, latest, and greatest. I wanted to know about the man behind the words. Start this one off by reading the "Author's Note: Graham Greene and Biography" at the end of the book. Shelden discusses how Greene and his estate have worked hard to prevent all biographers except for Norman Sherry's massive three volume authorized biography. But as has been pointed out, Sherry leaves out as much as he reveals. Shelden's work appears designed to be aggressively provocative, exposing Greene's flaws and foibles. While his sourcing is not as extensive as might be desired, it does appear to be at least minimally sufficient for many of the "revelations", e.g., the issue of Greene and homosexuality. The material about Greene's spying--on behalf of the British government and others--is most interesting. Sheldon spends too much time summarizing Greene's works. His critiques of each work are as subjective as any other critic. I respectfully disagreed with many. He is spot on in regard to Greene's anti-semitism. His comments about Greene's actual beliefs about economics and politics are supported by the evidence; Greene was hardly the left-wing anti-capitalist of his public persona. Greene is not the first author to have details of certain unpleasant realities exposed; however, what certainly should not be surprising is that he was as flawed as so many of his characters, who were to varying degrees extensions of the complex man and his many interesting wordly experiences.
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