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The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

The Power and the Glory (1940)

by Graham Greene

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,92362929 (3.93)1 / 235
  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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Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
This novel was originally published in 1940. It tells the story of life in Southern Mexico where the communists ruled and Catholic religion was banned. The priests fled the country and some were prosecuted and later assassinated. The story revolves round a priest who decides not to leave the country but gradually falls into bad habits. He starts drinking and is called the "Whiskey Priest ". He leads a life in hiding and Is constantly on the run. As time passes his own grip on the religious duties fades. He is finally captured and killed.

This novel deals with the priest's struggle with the people prosecuting him as well his own struggle dealing with the gradual loss of faith and moral bindings. It would probably carry deeper meaning for a religious person but for me it was uninteresting. The pace is slow and the book goes nowhere. The language is beautiful.

A 2.5/5 read. ( )
  mausergem | Jul 1, 2015 |
Why did no one tell me that priests drink whiskey? ( )
  trilliams | May 30, 2015 |
A great novel, wonderfully profound. I "read" it as an audio book, but there was so much to ponder here I believe I'll be taking up the written version to literally read it all over again. ( )
  kvrfan | Apr 25, 2015 |
The first person we meet in this book is Mr. Trench, a dentist who appears to have trapped himself in this small Mexican town. We learn how he wound up here and, more importantly, we learn, in a relatively short time, his motivations as well as the character flaws which have got him caught in this rut. We are not told; we are shown. He turns out to be a supporting actor in this play – maybe no more than a bit part. And yet, he is real, he breathes, he is alive – so much so that I would have liked to have learned more about him, seen him as a central character.

Don't get me wrong; the fact that the novel does not revolve around Mr. Trench is not a problem. In fact, the book is full of these kinds of characters. At every turn there is someone equally interesting – real characters who grow in a real environment. And the result is a book which deserves its classic status.

As noted, the book is set in Mexico in an area where the socialist have taken control. Among the many changes, they have outlawed religion – effectively making it a crime punishable by death. In practicality, the success of this shut down is mixed – the people have not completely bought in to the idea. However, priests have the choice of rescinding their vows or being shot.

The main protagonist is Catholic priest on the run. He is unnamed, but often referred to as the "whiskey priest" because of how far he has fallen (including, obviously, alcoholism). All he wants is to live and to escape. However, his loyalty to his beliefs continues to draw him back in. That loyalty is best exemplified in the fact that one would think it would be quite easy for him to rescind his vows. However, no matter how far he has fallen he cannot do this. We follow him as he tries to escape and, through this journey, see his effect on other people (intended and unintended) and the effect on his own belief in himself. At its core, it is a book about how good exists within everyone, but that puts too trivial a homily on the complicated individuals contained herein.

Graham Greene spent time in the area – using his experiences in the area as research for the book. And it is evident because there is nothing that draws you out of the moment. His descriptions feel accurate. He has put the reader in a world few of us ever have experienced, but recognize the moment he describes it.

And, as noted the characters are real. Even the slightest of them refuse to be cut from cardboard, but are three-dimensional people who have motivations and lives we can glimpse. As I have indicated, any one of them is fleshed out sufficiently that you can see a separate novel being written about their lives.

Ultimately, we believe in the character of the "whisky priest" and we believe the tale that is told. And, in the process, we have been told a very good story which has depth, heart, and (an aspect so often missing in books considered classics) readability. ( )
  figre | Dec 22, 2014 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (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, Grahamprimary 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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Th' inclosure narrow'd; the sagacious power
Of hounds and death drew nearer every hour
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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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
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.
Haiku summary

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:50 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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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Legacy Library: Graham Greene

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