What the Editors Are Reading

Taking up one of Graham Greene’s many novels has for me always been a hit-or-miss affair.  Over the Christmas holidays I read The Honorary Consul, a copy of which I’ve owned for years.  The Third World setting, this time Argentina, will be familiar to Greene’s admirers, and so will the author’s abiding preoccupation with religious faith struggling against doubt—and vice versa.  The story involves the kidnapping of an honorary British consul, mistaken by his abductors for the British ambassador and held for ransom, and the attempt of the English-Latin American doctor who has impregnated the young wife the consul married out of a brothel to rescue him from death at the hands of the kidnappers, the leader of whom is a spoiled priest and a boyhood friend of Doctor Parr’s.  All the elements of Greene’s best work are here, yet somehow they seem not to come together as they did, for instance, in The End of the Affair, the occasion of one of the finest book reviews his friend Evelyn Waugh ever wrote.  The story is interesting only by fits and starts, the general effect tends toward flatness, and the characters are of no particular interest, as Parr’s emotional detachment seems to be reflected in his creator’s detachment from his creation, while Father Rivas’s doubts...

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