What kept Graham Greene going?
In his introduction to The Confidential Agent, which he wrote in six weeks, Graham Greene tells us it was Benzedrine, now known as an amphetamine or speed, that kept him going.
He was determined to get the book finished in the shortest time possible because he had a wife and two children to support in England. But here’s the rub: in order to have peace and quiet or, as he puts it “ to create a proper atmosphere for work, free from telephone calls and the cries of children” he rented a studio in a “lovely 18th century square” in London. There aren’t many writers who can afford to hire a room to write in – and still claim to be short of cash.
Still, he’s such a good writer, I forgive him. And after all, Cyril Connolly did warn against the pram in the hall, in the Enemies of Promise.
This Vintage edition of The Confidential Agent comes three for the price of one for it includes not only the novel itself but an intro by Ian Rankin and one by Graham Greene, both interesting and the latter especially so. This novel, Graham Greene tells us, is one of the few of his own books that he has cared to reread and clearly to enjoy. I have to say that information is particularly reassuring to me because, over the last month, I have been preparing for e-publishing one of my own books, about the Republic of Georgia, and found myself both amused and amazed by it. Is that allowed? Yes, because if it was OK for Graham Greene then it is most definitely OK for me.
Greene was married to Vivien with whom he had two children and he pays tribute to her when acknowledging that the business of living in one house and writing in another disrupted his family life. In fact, he says, it was probably responsible for the break-up of his marriage though the couple didn’t separate till about ten years later.
I met Vivien one Christmas when having dinner with Graham Greene’s nephew, also Graham, who worked for Capes the publishing house.
And now, it’s time to start actually reading The Confidential Agent. I may be silent for some time….