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Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene

Monsignor Quixote (1982)

by Graham Greene

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One of the insights I have gained from reading Greene is that we do not see eye to eye when it comes to being fascinated by religion. It is a topic that holds little interest for me. Unfortunately, Monsignor Quixote is very much focused on the "religious".

I'm describing the topic the "religious" because at the heart of the book is a dialogue between Monsignor Quixote, a Spanish priest, and Sancho, who used to be the major of the Monsignor's home town. Sancho is a communist whose faith in Marx, Engels, and Lenin is as strong as the Monsignor's in the holy trinity.

What Greene sets out to do is to throw both characters together on a journey through Spain in the same manner that Cervantes did with his characters.
In the process, Quixote and Sancho discuss different aspects of life from the Catholic and the communist angles - sometimes with humorous outcomes:

"What puzzles me, friend, is how you can believe in so many incompatible ideas. For example, the Trinity. It’s worse than higher mathematics. Can you explain the Trinity to me? It was more than they could do in Salamanca.’
‘I can try.’
‘Try then.’
‘You see these bottles?’
‘Of course.’
‘Two bottles equal in size. The wine they contained was of the same substance and it was born at the same time. There you have God the Father and God the Son and there, in the half bottle, God the Holy Ghost. Same substance. Same birth. They’re inseparable. Whoever partakes of one partakes of all three.’
‘I was never even in Salamanca able to see the point of the Holy Ghost. He has always seemed to me a bit redundant.’
‘We were not satisfied with two bottles, were we? That half bottle gave us the extra spark of life we both needed. We wouldn’t have been so happy without it. Perhaps we wouldn’t have had the courage to continue our journey. Even our friendship might have ceased without the Holy Spirit.’

No question, Greene does create a satirical, well written discourse. However, the topics of conversation and the patterns of conversation get repetitive very quickly - revolving around the wine, purple socks, and for some reason there seems to be a lot of discussion of birth control.

Having progressed to about the half-way point, I had my fill of circular discussions and even the odd self-reverential mention of the "whisky priest" (featured in Greene's The Power and the Glory), and skimmed through the rest of the book.

I'm glad I did. I love Greene's work but not even for him will I sit through something that is not only dull and moving at snail's pace but also utterly unoriginal.
Unoriginal not because Greene is re-imagining the characters and plot of Cervantes' work but unoriginal because I grew up watching a series of films featuring a Catholic priest called Don Camillo quarrelling with a communist mayor called Peppone - which really is exactly the same plot as Greene's.

The Don Camillo stories were created by Italian author [a:Giovannino Guareschi|37712|Giovannino Guareschi|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1300990781p2/37712.jpg] (1908–68), and are highly entertaining. Unlike Greene, Guareschi does not dwell on religious or political theory but focuses on the humanity that both characters, priest and mayor, try to encourage in their respective flocks.
( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
Most of the Graham Greene I have read over the years has been serious stuff. Monsignor Quixote by contrast is a sometimes delightful, sometimes serious little story that very gently pokes at things. Serious, but told in a somewhat comic way. Our modern Man of La Mancha sets off with Sancho in Spain, circa 1980. He doesn't dream the impossible dream. He's not sure where he's going. Various places flit through his mind. Father Quixote, newly appointed a Monsignor, sets off perhaps to find himself, rediscover his beliefs and faith and have some interesting conversations with his companion Sancho. Some of the conversations work better than others that get a little tedious, with it mostly being communism vs the Catholic Church, or elements of faith and belief, but overall, "Good stuff." ( )
  RBeffa | Aug 11, 2015 |
Greene at his most sublime, his most readable (although really he's always readable) and his most approachably erudite. He takes this story: 'A priest and a Communist go on a road trip in Spain' and makes it into something approaching a pot boiler - you really can't wait to see what happens next. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | May 20, 2014 |
autumn-2013, spain, catholic, picaresque, amusing, fraudio, published-1982, philosophy, teh-demon-booze
Read from August 01 to September 04, 2013

rosado> walkies> Read by Cyril Cussack

The descendents of Quijano and Sancho go travelling. Wonderful soft adventure, gallons of wine, and the talk is of purple nylon socks, Marxism, Roman Catholicism and onanism. Many -isms, yes, but gentle philosophical fun.

Loved it but you wouldn't necessarily think it was from Greene's nib. Highly recommended if you are looking for a modern-day tilter.
1 like ( )
  mimal | Sep 4, 2013 |
A lovely book. I have tried several Graham Greene's over the years but this is the only one I really enjoyed. ( )
  Mouldywarp | Aug 7, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
More than any work of Greene's that I have read, it is suffused with nostalgia for the pre-industrial, pre-bourgeois world, a world of face-to-face encounters between man and God, man and man, man and beast (Rocinante is, after all, more beast than car). Greene celebrates a world of simple appetites that can be directly satisfied when two contentious friends sit down to cheese, sausage, wine and talk. ''Monsignor Quixote'' mildly invites - rather than compels -the reader to share this humble feast.
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Robert Towers (Jul 11, 1985)
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'There is nothing either good or bad,
but thinking makes it so
William Shakespeare
For Father Leopoldo Durán,
Aurelio Verde,
Octavio Victoria
Miguel Fernández,
my companions on the roads of Spain,
and to Tom Burns
who inspired my first visit there in 1946.
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It happened this way. Father Quixote had ordered his solitary lunch from his housekeeper and set off to buy wine at a local cooperative eight kilometres away from El Toboso on the main road to Valencia.
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Wein wird nicht von Menschen gemacht - Menschen können nur mithelfen, ihn zum Leben zu erwecken - oder ihn sterben zu lassen.
Bedauern ist ein Teil des Lebens.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671458183, Hardcover)

With Sancho Panza, a deposed Communist mayor, his faithful Rocinate, an antiquated motorcar, Monsignor Quixote roams through modern-day Spain in a brilliant picaresque fable. Like Cervantes' classic, Monsignor Quixote offers enduring insights into our life and times.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:36 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Monsignor Quixote embarks on a modernday emulation of his ancestor's quest across Spain accompanied by his aging Fiat and the Communist mayor of his village.

» see all 2 descriptions

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