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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.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,910791,067 (3.94)1 / 317
  1. 30
    Silence by Shūsaku Endō (Anonymous user, longway)
  2. 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.
  3. 00
    Getting to Know the General by Graham Greene (John_Vaughan)

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English (69)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  Swedish (2)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (79)
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
“Unlike him, she retained a kind of hope. Hope is an instinct only the reasoning human mind can kill.”

Every time I read Graham Greene I feel like maybe I’d missed something—not so much as a lack of the writing as in my own lack of comprehension. Not that I don’t get his books; on the contrary, I feel certain passages from several of his books quite deeply. But every novel or short story I’ve read from this author pushes me to look past the deceptively simple prose, the oftentimes scattered dialogue, the slips into multiple languages with no explanation outside the context of the story. This is a very good thing for me as a reader. This is a great thing for me as a writer. This is an essential thing for me as a human. I crave to expand my brain—morally as well as intellectually; spiritually as well as spatially. (Yes, I’d love my gray matter to swell into a nebula roughly the shape, size, and humorous expression of Terry Jones.)

This book is about self-sacrifice—failing to do so and succeeding in painfully winking light. It’s about redemption—the face of shame in flight and the face of glory at the culmination. This “whisky priest” has more faith in his lack of faith, more hope in the hopeless wastelands wrought during La Cristiada, more compassion in his cowardice, more strength in his weakness, more humanity in his thin disguise as a drifter than most characters do in books four times its length. And it’s all so subtle that it would be easy to miss, to gloss over until the next “event” until you realized that the event was in the details all along.

Sublime. That’s the word for Graham Greene. It would be easy to dismiss the deeper points, the biting statements tucked within seemingly throwaway dialogue, if you didn’t bring your entire brain to the party. And it 𝘪𝘴 a party. A celebration, of sorts, of the worst and best of humanity because the worst and best are usually best told in graduation—a grayscaled extrapolation of the human experience.

And that switch in POV for the execution scene after the chapter break . . . it breaks my heart in the remembrance as I’m sure the author meant it to. The memory of beautiful things and horrible atrocities. Bravery in the maw of howling destruction. None of that comes easy. And the fact that Greene makes it all seem so simple is the most complex execution of them all.

Sublime, indeed.

“Oh well, perhaps when you’re my age you’ll know the heart’s an untrustworthy beast. The mind is too, but it doesn’t talk about love. Love. And a girl puts her head under water or a child’s strangled, and the heart all the time says love, love.” ( )
  ToddSherman | Dec 22, 2018 |
I've been on a bit of a Graham Greene kick lately, but, despite the fact that this book is one of the most well-known and praised of his works, I did not like it as much as some of the others I have read.

On one hand, I can see why this book is considered a classic. The discourses on faith and religion in times of strife are impressive and moving, and one is struck at many points by the despair of the situation. The reader is faced with serious issues, such as the function of organized religion and the qualities which make a person "good" or "evil." I found the descriptions of the love that the whisky priest feels for his daughter and the conflict that this causes him to be particularly thought-provoking.

On the other hand, I could not help but notice that this is a story of Mexico written from the outside looking in. Yes, Graham Greene was European, but, honestly, how many Europeans/Americans did the whisky priest run into over the course of this novel? Other than the whisky priest himself, who, for me, also looks at the society from an outsider's point of view, though for different reasons, the Mexican people seem to be noticeably silent. Because of this, I had a hard time making this feel "real."

All in all, I did like this book, but it did not affect me as much as others I have read, such as [b:Monsignor Quixote|138995|Monsignor Quixote|Graham Greene|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1172098970s/138995.jpg|4329], which I liked a great deal. ( )
  mmseiple | Sep 13, 2018 |
There's a cinematic opening scene here, with a dentist emerging onto a Mexican street causing a vulture to take flight which then soars over the town, and we get a literal bird-eye view of its layout as the dentist makes his way to the docks. I'd read Greene before, but immediately on page one I was reminded of how much a master he is. This novel is often cited as his best work, taking place during the persecution of the Catholic Church in southern Mexico during the 1920s. The idea of Christianty being persecuted to the extent depicted seemed so far-fetched, I was convinced Greene had made it up until I researched the Cristero War. While Greene doesn't name his setting, it is clearly the state of Tabasco under the governorship of Tomas Garrido Canabal. Canabal was an extremist, and while he did introduce women's suffrage and made improvements to Tabasco's education programs and economy, his legacy is deeply overshadowed by his persecution of Catholicism. It is not hard to see Canabal in the novel's figure of the Lieutenant. Similarly the protagonist, a runaway priest, might reflect the real life Padre Macario Fernandez Aquado who remained one step ahead of the authorities and death at their hands.

Graham Greene writes with enormous economy, and yet still manages to paint his scenes and characters so vividly. Nothing feels rushed or condensed, but in 200 pages he can transmit a very complex story and explore all the corners. Both 'power' and 'glory' call upon preservertion of the next generation as their highest value, seeking to 'save' them from evil. The priest is more pressed to examine his life and assumptions due to circumstances, and he is in the best position to learn from what he experiences assuming that he can survive them. The lieutenant is more free to indulge in might-makes-right and therefore less introspective as he justifies any extremity, but he faces incomprehensible stubborn resistance by the very people he is trying to help as he exorcises the menace of the church. Neither side seems to grasp, for the lack of either side making the appeal, that it is ultimately hearts and minds which will decide the victor.

One quirk I dislike about Greene's style is his penchant for suddenly introducing scene cuts to feature unidentified characters, leaving me foundering. It can take some flipping pages back and forth to figure out if these are new characters or familiar ones, and who was being referred to as whom. That frustration aside, reading more of Greene is always sure to be a pleasure whatever his subject. ( )
1 vote Cecrow | Jun 25, 2018 |
Greene is an excellent storyteller and writes well. But I could not get into this novel. I felt no connection to the character or overall interest in the story. ( )
  kammbiamh | Mar 25, 2018 |
I really liked this book. It was set in an epoch I was unfamiliar with -- Communist, religion-banning Mexico in the 1930s -- and its portrayal of a self-doubting whiskey priest on the run from zealous priest-hunters and his own demons alike was nothing short of enthralling.

What I’m sure I will remember most about this novel is just how very well written it was: Greene definitely has a way with words and images that makes his prose feel so absolutely right and impeccably assembled that no other words or images could really be acceptable substitutes.

This was my first Grahame Greene, but it will definitely not be my last. ( )
2 vote Petroglyph | Sep 29, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 69 (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 (32 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greene, Grahamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alexander, Carolsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Žantovská, HanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Conn, Peter J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grandfield, GeoffIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gross, GeorgeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heuvelmans, TonAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lewis, R. W. B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindegren, ErikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lyall, DennisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mauriac, FrançoisForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Santamaría, JuanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schaap. H.W.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Springer, KätheÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Svendsen, ClaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Updike, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vargas Llosa, Mariosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vittorini, ElioTranslatorsecondary 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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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original title of the power & the glory
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


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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