Book gives up-close look at Graham Greene's political writing

Fri Nov 23, 2012 9:38am EST
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By David Adams

MIAMI (Reuters) - In 1965 British author Graham Greene arrived in the Dominican Republic fresh from neighboring Haiti where he witnessed first hand the "unique evil" of Haiti's brutal dictator, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier.

Greene was met at the airport by an enterprising New Zealand-born journalist, Bernard Diederich, whom he had befriended in Haiti on previous trips a few years earlier.

"As I watched Graham's tall, lean figure make its way through customs, his blue eyes cutting across the airport with a hint of suspicion, I wonder if, indeed, he had the power to change Haiti," Diederich wrote in a new book, "Seeds of Fiction, Graham Greene's Adventures in Haiti and Central America 1954-83."

"Could he bring down Duvalier? And, more to the point, would he write a book about Haiti?" Diederich said.

Greene was in the prime of his writing career and had already published another Caribbean novel, "Our Man in Havana," set in Cuba.

Greene called Papa Doc a "madman" telling Diederich that he had "never felt such pervasive fear in a country as in Haiti."

When he picked Greene up at the airport he was visibly shaking, Diederich recalled in an interview. "He had a terrible dread he wasn't going to make it out."

Greene had hidden his notes, written in tiny, almost illegible script, in a hardback Victorian novel. "I don't know why he bothered to hide them because no-one could read his notes," laughed Diederich.   Continued...

British author Graham Greene (L) stands with journalist Bernard Diederich in Panama in 1976. Diederich has written a new book "Seeds of Fiction, Graham Greene's Adventures in Haiti and Central America 1954-83", which for the first time describes in rich detail the time they spent together, providing first hand insights into the methodology and mindset of one of the 20th century's greatest authors. REUTERS/Bernard Diederich/Handout