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The Power and the Glory (Penguin Classics) Paperback – February 25, 2003

184 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

How does good spoil, and how can bad be redeemed? In his penetrating novel The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene explores corruption and atonement through a priest and the people he encounters. In the 1930s one Mexican state has outlawed the Church, naming it a source of greed and debauchery. The priests have been rounded up and shot by firing squad--save one, the whisky priest. On the run, and in a blur of alcohol and fear, this outlaw meets a dentist, a banana farmer, and a village woman he knew six years earlier. For a while, he is accompanied by a toothless man--whom he refers to as his Judas and does his best to ditch. Always, an adamant lieutenant is only a few hours behind, determined to liberate his country from the evils of the church.

On the verge of reaching a safer region, the whisky priest is repeatedly held back by his vocation, even though he no longer feels fit to perform his rites: "When he was gone it would be as if God in all this space between the sea and the mountains ceased to exist. Wasn't it his duty to stay, even if they despised him, even if they were murdered for his sake? even if they were corrupted by his example?"

As his sins and dangers increase, the broken priest comes to confront the nature of piety and love. Still, when he is granted a reprieve, he feels himself sliding into the old arrogance, slipping it on like the black gloves he used to wear. Greene has drawn this man--and all he encounters--vividly and viscerally. He may have said The Power and the Glory was "written to a thesis," but this brilliant theological thriller has far more mysteries--and troubling ideals--than certainties. --Joannie Kervran Stangeland --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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“Brilliant . . . a splendid achievement.” —The Atlantic Monthly

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 1 edition (February 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142437301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437308
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (184 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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209 of 219 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Johnson on March 8, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am only now discovering Graham Greene; this was the second of his works that I've read. It is not a book to be taken up for a little light entertainment; I'm still digesting it, you might say. It stays with a person. Superficially, it is about government oppression and man's inhumanity to man; more specifically, it is about love and its dual power to transform and destroy. Read it on whatever level you choose; basically, it is about a Roman Catholic priest struggling with his faith and intense guilt while trying to elude the forces of a government that has declared his religion illegal. I came away from it moved and disturbed, which in my opinion (humble tho' it be) is the purpose of literature: to create a mirror for the reader herself. What flaws do I posess that masquerade as virtue, what overpowering desire truly motivates my actions? In this novel the main character, the whiskey priest, takes flight not only from his persecutors but also from himself; in the end he finds he can only redeem himself by returning. And there I find another question to haunt me...did the priest indeed find redemption in the end?
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133 of 146 people found the following review helpful By Oddsfish VINE VOICE on May 19, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I really don't know how to review this novel; there is simply too much the novel has to say to cover it all her in a short review. Anything I write will be totally inadequate. I can only say that The Power and the Glory is certainly one of the greatest novels written in the Twentieth Century.
The novel is the story of a priest in Mexico in a state which has outlawed Christianity. The priest is trying to get out of the state and away from the athiestic lieutenant who's attempting to capture him, but the priest's Christian duty keeps calling him back into the state and into danger. The priest is also waging a war within himself. He is a good man but definitely a sinner, and he struggles to cure himself of his vices and struggles to believe that he can gain salvation.
The Power and the Glory assaults the reader on all levels. Greene explores so many aspects and paradoxes of Christianity. He looks at the great beauty that can be found in sin. He looks at how love and hate can be so similar. Greene reveals how the priest's life has had great meaning even thought the priest may not realize it. Greene reveals man as living in a "Wasteland," and he also reveals the way to find meaning in it. The characterizations of all of the characters really carry the novel. There are so many insights that can be gained from reading about the priest, the lieutenant, and the mestizo. The Power and the Glory is truly a magnificent novel which should be taught and studied everywhere.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on August 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
A lone man, known as the whiskey priest, is the last practicing priest remaining in a Mexican state comparable to Tabasco (where, in the 1920s and 1930s, a fierce persecution of Catholics and their priests actually took place). The governor has issued strict orders that he is to be captured and killed. Another priest, Father Jose, still lives in the same state, but as a failed priest (married, no longer saying Masses or hearing confessions or even praying in public), he is allowed to remain as an example to the people of how weak the priests' faith truly is. According to the government, they are pariahs, sucking a few pesos out of the poor and giving nothing in return except vague promises of a better future after death.

Graham Greene's extraordinary, unforgettable THE POWER AND THE GLORY presents a haunting and harrowing tale of a manhunt for a tortured soul. As the book opens, the priest has already lost his church, his parish, and most of his priestly possessions other than what he can carry in an attaché case. Hunted at every turn, the nameless priest desires escape to another Mexican state, but his own sense of pride in being the hunted last priest keeps him from taking the steps that would free him. He denies that he is either a hero or a martyr ("I don't think martyrs are like this," he giggles), yet he cannot bring himself to leave. He knows that capture and death are inevitable, but at each call for his priestly ministrations, he responds regardless of the risk or personal consequences.
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93 of 105 people found the following review helpful By G. Bestick VINE VOICE on November 27, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First published in England in 1940, The Power and the Glory deserves its reputation as one of the great novels of the twentieth century. It comes close to being a perfectly realized work of art.

An unnamed priest is on the run in a revolutionary Mexican state that has outlawed the Catholic religion. All the other priests have fled, been shot, or forced to renounce their faith. The last practicing priest is hardly an exemplar of the breed; he's overly fond of brandy, and has fathered a daughter by a woman from his last parish. Feverish, shabby, and scared for his life, he forces himself to hear confession and dole out the host to the spiritually ravenous peasants he encounters in his wanderings.

As the priest wanders the state, he experiences a stripping away of his past identity. First to go are his dignity and social standing as a pampered parish priest. He misplaces his bible and over time loses the other ritual paraphernalia of his vocation. His shoes, pants and shirts wear out. He's constantly hungry, at one point fighting a crippled dog for a bone with a little meat left on it. Because his very presence brings danger to the villagers he's trying to serve, he can no longer take pride in the high price he pays for being God's remaining messenger. He realizes that martyrs aren't made from men like him. In the end, even the hope of final absolution and God's mercy are closed to him. Greene forces us to consider the following question: if you take away all that normally props up the sense of self, what's left that sustains us?

What the priest receives at his lowest points are the twin gifts of freedom and compassion. Locked in a crowded jail cell (in one of the great scenes in English literature), he realizes that he has nothing left to lose.
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