Graham Greene’s Cobbled Road from St. Mary’s | James Casper | IPNovels.com
Graham Greene, often mentioned in these pages, had a troubled and chaotic relationship with the Catholic faith to which he converted the year before his marriage, so much so that his motives for conversion have even been questioned. At the same time, more than any writer of his day, he wrote novels rich in Catholic themes seeming to reflect his personal moral conflicts, some of which were British tabloid news of his era.
Absent his problematic Catholicism, would the Greene we know today, be recognizable at all?
Perhaps Greene wrote about matters Catholic precisely because by some standards he was not a very good one. His faith was the shoe that did not quite fit. His novels endure for the very reason that he had more questions than answers, more doubts than convictions, and found more pain than most as he limped his way along. It’s a strange business, though, for a writer to wander into a world where he could feel so little at home and ultimately found so little comfort.
His conversion made him the novelist he was. His struggle with matters Catholic may have been all the more penetrating because of his own misgivings and lapses. He was not reluctant to wade into murky waters where his lean prose belies his struggle to simply stay afloat.
Complacency might make for a good night’s rest, but it never leads to much when it comes to writing once morning arrives. And it never makes for a good novel.
My wife and I encountered the Graham Greene story in a personal sense, at almost its beginning when we lived in Hampstead a few years ago, and attended Mass at St. Mary’s Church.