Critically Thinking Our Place in the World


One of the criteria I often use to decide whether I want to read more of a novelist’s works is whether he or she has made me stop reading in a heartbeat to re-read and digest a powerful phrase, sentence or brief paragraph before reading further.

I recently wrote about the late British novelist Graham Greene in my post Where’s the Danger and cited a sentence from his Novel The Power and the Glory.


(Above): Graham Greene,as he looked at the approximate age this book was published. He was born in October of 1904 and died at the age of 86 in April of 1991. During his adult life he wrote at least 25 novels, which he divided,by his own subjective criteria into «novels» and «entertainments», the latter being more for enjoyment and temporary escape from daily anxieties.


Novelist Scott Turow told his NPR hosts in 2006 that he had bought The Power and the Glory some 40 years earlier, which would have mad him about 17 at the time of this purchase. He went on to say that he still had this very same book in his library, which should indicate his passion for it. The following quote is from this same interview with him:

The novel captivated me completely. It was a thriller — but also a novel of ideas.514joptq0ol Greene’s elegant use of detail, the author’s profound knowledge of his characters, and his novel’s unrelenting suspense marked the book to me as a work of the highest literary art. [. . .] But I had no question when I read, and then repeatedly re-read, The Power and the Glory, that it was a book I would have simply died to write. —Scott Turow on NPR


The following is  the meat of this blog post—the second quote from the same book that made me stop and reflect on what I felt was a revelation —a poignant insight into our flawed (fallen, for some) human nature.

In our hearts there is a ruthless dictator, ready to contemplate the misery of a thousand strangers if it will ensure the happiness of the few we love.

I leave it without comment. That’s the way I came across it, and I feel any attempt to illustrate or explain it on my part would only detract from it. It was written to stand alone as a strong call for introspection.



5 comentarios en “Critically Thinking Our Place in the World

  1. I haven’t read anything from Greene, but this quote made ma really want to. I understand what you wrote about re-reading and digesting a «powerful phrase, sentence or brief paragraph before reading further». I write best sentences in the notebook to have opportunity to read them again and again. 🙂

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    1. I really appreciate your comment, Hanna. Having read nearly everything Greene wrote, even his non-fiction, I can tell you I love his power with words and story-telling. Not everyone feels the same. He managed to weave some aspects of Catholicism into many of his novels, although not in a preachy way. The main character of «The Power and the Glory» is the «whisky priest» (or whiskey priest), who continued to administer sacraments in Tobasco State (Mexico) at a time when such actions were outlawed there, often under the threat of death. His character is a conundrum; he has fathered a child, hides from the authorities and drinks to excess, yet he stays where other have fled in fear.

      All in all, at least 15 of his novels have been made into full-length movies, and he wrote the screenplay (with no novel behind it) for «The Third Man», which still shows up on many best-movies-ever lists.

      Many thanks for your comments. Richard

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