The Man Within My Head

The Man Within My Head

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0307387569

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Ever since he first discovered Graham Greene's work, Pico Iyer has felt a haunting closeness with the English writer. In The Man Within My Head, Iyer follows Greene's trail from his first novel, The Man Within, to such later classics as The Quiet American, examining Greene's obsessions, his elusiveness, and his penchant for mystery. The deeper he plunges into this exploration, the more Iyer begins to wonder whether the man within his head might not be Greene but his own father, or perhaps some more shadowy aspect of himself.

Drawing upon experiences across the globe, from Cuba to Bhutan, and moving, as Greene would, from Sri Lanka in war to intimate moments of introspection, this is the most personal and revelatory book yet from one of our most astute observers of inner journeys and crossing cultures.

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novel, The Power and the Glory, are “Mr. Tench,” the name he gives an exiled dentist who lives in a Mexican village. Greene sometimes kept two versions of his diary—the book in which he might be expected to be most transparent—as if there were at least two versions of any day or story, Jekyll’s, perhaps, and Hyde’s. One day, he found another “Graham Greene” listed in the London phone book—the name is common enough—and called up the poor man to ask if he was the one responsible for the “filthy

fires broke out on the ridges up the road—humans were surely never meant to live in wilds like these—and those who had taken my father’s course on anarchist thought might note that you had to get rid of the old if a new order were ever to come into being. No,” I said, one day, many years later, in another small room in an old island empire, when Hiroko asked; it wasn’t really the fact that I’d instinctively given the name “Mr. Brown” to the little sketch I’d written, imagining seeing Greene in

chit as “J. Victor (Capt.),” though shedding the name soon, if only because sympathy in Greene goes never to the victors and only to losers and the lost. My first two names are the rather exotic and aspiring ones my father chose for me (that of the Buddha and the Neo-Platonist heretic); and my third and fourth names are, in fact, his, exactly, as if I were split down the middle—between his hopes for me and his inheritance to me, himself. He was wise enough to give me a global, European name,

that you’re reading a kind of cautionary tale fashioned by some malign allegorist. The woman he married, Vivienne (later Vivien) Dayrell-Browning, bore a family name that showed her connection to the Victorian poet Greene always loved, the slippery hymnist of doubt and desire who’d written, “Our interest’s on the dangerous edge of things. / The honest thief, the tender murderer, / The superstitious atheist.” Yet at the same time she was a deeply devout nineteen-year-old convert to Catholicism who

Arts in Piccadilly, on a blustery summer’s day, one of the four days of sunshine permitted every year in Britain by royal decree. “My mother had trouble with her moods,” he went on, “and I was prone to bouts of sadness, too. That was part of what drew me to him. When I was growing up, I never felt I could be Faulkner or Melville or Proust, any of the writers I admired. But I felt I could become Greene. Even though I couldn’t, of course.” He “had the gift of getting readers to fall in love with

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