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The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
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The Power and the Glory (1940)

by Graham Greene (Author)

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4,80358965 (3.93)1 / 217
  1. 10
    The Lawless Roads by Graham Greene (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: In 1938 Greene traveled throughout the south of Mexico and experienced first-hand the terror and corruption, The travel Book Lawless Roads is the basis for the novel Power and Glory.
  2. 00
    Getting to Know the General by Graham Greene (John_Vaughan)
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English (51)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  French (1)  All languages (58)
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
In the heat of tropical Mexico, at the time of the persecution of the Catholic church, a troubled priest is trying to escape the police -- and his own tortured faith. Following the Mexican Revolution, in the early part of the 20th century, the government cracked down on the church, in some places more harshly than others; in the (unnamed) state of Tabasco, where this novel takes place, the governor was dogmatically atheistic and forced priests either to give up their calling and marry or be killed. The unnamed priest of this story, unlike another who plays a role in the plot and who, after agreeing to marry, slunk off to a town, describes himself as being too proud (a sin) to abandon the priesthood and thus is being hunted by the police of the state. If he could get to the neighboring state, the anti-Catholicism would not be as harsh there, and he could save his life and possibly his position. The state police are also hunting an American, a gringo, who committed murder in the US and is believed to be a threat in Mexico as well.

But the priest is flawed: a so-called "whiskey priest," who loves alcohol too much, he has also fathered a child. And through much of the book he struggles with his faith, worrying, for example, about the love he feels for the child, even though the existence of the child is living proof of his sin, and much more. For a non-Catholic, some of the sins he struggles with seem part and parcel of everyday life, but they seemed that way in The Edge of the Storm as well, and it was my review of that book which caused another LTer to recommend this one, and me to take it off my shelves where it had languished for more than 20 years.

Nevertheless, the story is both exciting and intriguing, as the priest always finds some reason to stay when he has the opportunity to escape; when called to serve his priestly function, he always responds, once holding a secretive mass in a village despite warnings that the police are less than an hour away. Greene effectively creates a sense of impending doom; there are vultures everywhere. And some of the scenes in the book are stunning: when the priest has connived to buy a bottle of wine with his last money, so that he can have some sacramental wine, and ends up drinking with the chief of police (and the man he has bought the wine from ends up drinking all of it); when he is confined in prison with a group of others and confesses to them that he is a priest, something he has always kept hidden; when he helps an Indian woman whose child has been shot and accompanies her to a wind-swept plateau covered in crosses that serves as a burial ground; when he tricks a dog whose back is broken to obtain the piece of meat the dog is guarding; and more. And Greene also creates memorable characters, especially the creepy, almost fanged "mestizo" who seems to help the priest but who he instantly realizes will be his "Judas" (that pride again?), as well as a variety of less important characters, largely from Europe or the US, who frame the narrative: an English dentist, a banana exporter's daughter and her family, a German-American brother and sister. Each of these has his or her own challenges and narrative.

The priest sinks low in this story, both materially as he gradually loses his clothing, briefcase, sacramental wine, papers, and money, and spiritually as he is tortured by his struggles with faith (he tells the people in the crowded and stinking prison cell that he wants a drink more than God). But, in the end, he cannot abandon the faith and his role as a priest, even knowing that it will prove his undoing.

I admired a lot about this book -- Greene's writing, his characterization, his ability to create drama, his depiction of the place and the time (his visited Mexico himself in the 30s, a decade after this story takes place, and even traveled on a mule, as the priest, memorably, does), his ability to create a sense of impending doom, and his portrayal of the struggle with faith, a concept difficult for me to wrap my mind around.
5 vote rebeccanyc | Sep 21, 2014 |
http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2349453.html

Greene was a Catholic writer writing from an English point of view, and I wonder quite how true to Mexican religious practice his portrayal is - yes, I know that he had gone to Mexico for four months in 1938 to see the situation on the ground for himself, but it's also pretty clear that he went and returned with a narrative already in his mind. That side of things doesn't matter much now; Tomás Garrido Canabal, the Tabasco governor whose anti-clericalism Greene reported on, died in 1943, and the Catholic church has become its own worst enemy in Mexico as elsewhere.

Anyway, I think such a reading is far from the intended core of the book. Greene's real theme is heroism and redemption - an unlikely hero who finds it in himself to do the right thing, having been doing many of the wrong things, written at the outbreak of the Second World War when the Zeitgeist needed unlikely heroes. The unnamed hero has made a real mess of his life, and of other people's, but finds a moment or two when he can make a difference and rescue his own dignity. That much is a story that can be told in many times and places. ( )
  nwhyte | Sep 6, 2014 |
I sound redundant when I keep saying this is one of my favorite books by Graham Greene...but it is. It is a great adventure story that takes place in Mexico. Graham Greene has a level of brilliance about his writing. I cannot be disappointed by any of his books. ( )
  bibliophile_pgh | Jul 25, 2014 |
1930s, Mexico. The suppression of the Church. A priest eludes capture by a policeman who emphatically hates anyone connected with Catholicism. The priest is a compassionate figure, a true Christian with a sinner's habits. Very engaging. The best Greene I have read. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
No doubt Greene was writing in this book about a subject close to his heart in creating the story of a ‘whisky priest’ but, just as I can’t get involved in books to do with the traditions of Jewishness which seem so esoteric to me, so I can’t find myself immersed in this novel about Catholicism. I found Greene’s final discussion of Catholicism as opposed to aetheism in the conversation between the priest and the lieutenant too manufactured, reminding me of similar artificiality between Montag and Beatty in ‘Fahrenheit 451’ (which I found more interesting) and the middle section of Orwell’s ‘1984’.

With the Catholic church now so publically besmirched in its paedophilic depravity, I don’t know how anyone can support this corrupt institution, and Greene’s priest who immediately starts working out how much money he can make through baptisms after he has just escaped made me wonder how Greene thought his readers could ever have empathy with the man. I also, on a lesser note, found it odd that Greene frequently had characters ‘giggling’ rather than laughing. It may have been his way of suggesting that they were unable to be open in this oppressive society where priests were hunted, but giggling seems not to be the right choice of word. Perhaps it was less associated with hebephrenic behaviour then. I guess interest in Greene’s novels has ebbed from when he was such a popular novelist and from this book I can see why. ( )
  evening | Jun 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
This is the story Greene was born to tell. With this novel, Greene brings all his considerable talent, craft, and gift for suspense to bear on a story that penetrates the heart of one tortured man’s mystery. For all its darkness and intensity, it’s a thrilling, page-turning read: the story is structured essentially as an extended chase across the barren landscape of Mexico—mirroring the even vaster desert spaces in the heart of the pursued Priest. Greene evokes the heat and dust and sweat of the country and its inhabitants with cinematic immediacy. The atmosphere is stifling, almost unbearably intense, and Greene’s capacity for storytelling invention never flags.

 

» Add other authors (44 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greene, GrahamAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Žantovská, HanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grandfield, GeoffIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lewis, R. W. B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lewis, R. W. B.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindegren, ErikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schaap. H.W.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Updike, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Th' inclosure narrow'd; the sagacious power
Of hounds and death drew nearer every hour
--Dryden
Dedication
For Gervase
To Vivien with dearest love
First words
Mr. Tench went out to look for his ether cylinder, into the blazing Mexican sun and the bleaching dust.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
VINTAGE CLASSICS EDITION:
During a vicious persecution of the clergy in Mexico, a worldly priest, the 'whisky priest', is on the run. With the police closing in, his routes of escape are being shut off, his chances getting fewer. But compassion and humanity force him along the road to his destiny, reluctant to abandon those who need him, and those he cares for.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0142437301, Paperback)

How does good spoil, and how can bad be redeemed? In his penetrating novel The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene explores corruption and atonement through a priest and the people he encounters. In the 1930s one Mexican state has outlawed the Church, naming it a source of greed and debauchery. The priests have been rounded up and shot by firing squad--save one, the whisky priest. On the run, and in a blur of alcohol and fear, this outlaw meets a dentist, a banana farmer, and a village woman he knew six years earlier. For a while, he is accompanied by a toothless man--whom he refers to as his Judas and does his best to ditch. Always, an adamant lieutenant is only a few hours behind, determined to liberate his country from the evils of the church.

On the verge of reaching a safer region, the whisky priest is repeatedly held back by his vocation, even though he no longer feels fit to perform his rites: "When he was gone it would be as if God in all this space between the sea and the mountains ceased to exist. Wasn't it his duty to stay, even if they despised him, even if they were murdered for his sake? even if they were corrupted by his example?"

As his sins and dangers increase, the broken priest comes to confront the nature of piety and love. Still, when he is granted a reprieve, he feels himself sliding into the old arrogance, slipping it on like the black gloves he used to wear. Greene has drawn this man--and all he encounters--vividly and viscerally. He may have said The Power and the Glory was "written to a thesis," but this brilliant theological thriller has far more mysteries--and troubling ideals--than certainties. --Joannie Kervran Stangeland

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:54 -0400)

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The last priest in a poor section of North Mexico where the Red Shirts have outlawed God finds himself a hero despite himself.

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