On Writing

A Gun for Sale

Brighton Rock

The Confidential Agent

The Power and the Glory

The Heart of the Matter

The Third Man

The End of the Affair

The Quiet American

Our Man in Havana

A Burnt-Out Case

The Comedians

Travels With My Aunt

The Honorary Consul

The Human Factor



Graham Greene on The Honorary Consul:

The origin of my next novel, The Honorary Consul, written between 1970 and 1973, lies in the cave of the unconscious. I had a dream about an American ambassador — a favourite of women and a good tennis player whom I encountered in a bar — but in my dream there was no kidnapping, no guerrillas, no mistaken identity, nothing to identify it with The Honorary Consul except the fact that the dream lodged inexplicably in my head for months the figures of Charlie Fortnum and Dr. Plarr stole up around the unimportant ambassador of my dream and quietly liquidated him.

Greene almost abandoned starting his novel because a case of "life imitating art" took place: a Paraguayan consul was kidnapped, being mistaken for the ambassador. Greene however continued writing, because like in his story, General Stroessner did not care what happened to the consul, and the kidnapping was forgotten. As it happens, Greene considered this his best novel. The Honorary Consul was one of the novels I found hardest to write. In my experience, after a few months, an author usually feels his novel is taking control. There has been the drive at increasing speed of the plane along the runway, then the slow lift and you feel that the wheels no
longer touch the ground. But with The Honorary Consul it was only in the last chapter that I found myself at last in the freedom of the air. Now when I read the book again I have the impression that I must have been dozing at the controls, for the plane had taken to the air on the very first page when Doctor Plarr stood at night in the small port "among the rails and yellow cranes," as I might have observed him years before while I stared through the darkness at the same scene from the deck of the Asuncion boat and the passenger whom I had identified as a smuggler told me with a skeptical smile that "the people here" always said that those who once saw Corrientes returned.

from Ways of Escape, pp.250, 254

Melody Yiu
Email me: greeneland -at- gmail . com

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