The power and the glory Unknown Binding – 1996
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|Unknown Binding, 1996||
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Top Customer Reviews
Greene’s depiction of the Mexican pogrom of clerics and one man’s bid to stay alive is more sophisticated than a battle of good versus evil, as it is riddled with ambiguous personalities. The priest drinks excessively and doubts himself, but is at times compassionate and heroic. Likewise, the lieutenant who pursues him is cold and relentless, but his zeal is grounded in a desire to give Mexico’s children a world free of superstition, corruption and fear. Another priest has married to escape execution, while the chief of police regularly breaks the law by drinking spirits. There are no sinless characters in the novel. Instead, faith and violence give some sense of order to the lives of people worn down by poverty.
The cat-and-mouse plot allows the reader to sense the fear of the priest on each occasion that he is captured or placed in danger, especially through his preoccupation with pain rather than death. At times the priest is like a Christ figure wandering dishevelled and exhausted through the sweaty, claustrophobic tropics. He can be coolly fatalistic or implausibly generous, but his constant failings are a reminder of his mortality and the impossibility of his situation.
A poignant book, grounded in historical realism and religious doubt, that conveys one man’s plight to justify his faith in an unforgiving era.
The story - of the flight of a pursued alcoholic priest - is a compelling one. The inner conflict, especially when he is trying to decide what his duty actually is, is quite awesome reading. As he says many times, he is no saint, and what emerges is a picture of weakness and mortality, painted without pity or fear by a master of his art.
The Power and the Glory is Greene's supreme achievement in my opinion. Set in Central America in an unnamed country (a thinly disguised portrait of Mexico however) where a Revolutionary Marxist government has come to power and outlawed the Church, Greene employs the narrative conventions of the thriller to explore spiritual, political and philosophical concerns (as he often did in his books).
The main plot concerns a renegade Catholic priest on the run from a Secret Policeman working for the Revolutionary government. This is no simplistic narrative. The Secular Humanist perspective of the policeman and the State is presented every bit as sympathetically and fairly as the Christian world view which Greene himself believed in. This classic "hunt" type plot allows Greene to explore his theme: what happens when the power of the Secular State comes into opposition with the Spiritual power of the Church of God?
Greene's answer to that question will provide food for thought and debate for all serious readers.
Constantly on the move, the priest suffers agonizing conflicts. His sense of guilt for the past includes a brief romantic interlude which has produced a child, and though he recognizes that he is often weak, selfish, and fearful, he still tries to bring comfort to the faithful. Pursued by a police lieutenant who believes that justice for all can only occur if the church is destroyed, and by a mestizo, who is seeking the substantial reward for turning him in, the desperate priest finally decides to escape to a nearby state in which religion is not banned so that the police will stop killing hostages taken in the villages he has visited.
The police pursuit of the priest is paralleled by their pursuit of a "gringo" murderer, a man so base that he thinks nothing of murdering children, yet the priest even sees value in this man's life, and when the gringo, the mestizo, the lieutenant, and the priest finally come together, Greene's philosophical and religious analysis reaches its climax.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
There is a quote from Zadie Smith on the back cover of my copy - "No 20th century writer had a subtler mind for human comparison". Read morePublished 1 month ago by .
Visceral and awesome writing. You truly get under the skin of a flawed hero. The prose is mesmerising and the story lingers in your mind.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
I remember having to read this book for O level English literature in 1974. I struggled then and I've struggled again although I managed to finish the book this time! Read morePublished 4 months ago by JoH 56
Recently, I have been revisiting novels I have loved in the past, with mixed results. When I first read this novel, many years ago, I loved it. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Frances Stott
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing is so atmospheric, painting an accurate picture of time, place and people. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Mrs. V. A. Tyler