IN two weeks I am going to Italy, lingering a little while in France on the way. Thus my column will be a sort of travelogue, an account of things seen and conversations heard wherever I happen to be—for now that travel is so difficult in Europe, what people
elsewhere are saying and doing is of more interest than it would be in normal times.
Owing to Mr Anstruther's sudden death, however, I am to start this column straight away, before I leave. This is not going to be too easy, as until I see and bear new things I fear that my mind is going to be rather a blank. The things in front of me—a vase of daffodils, a child's high-chair, a piano with Mozart's 1Vaehtren.sik on the stand, a typewriter, a cat, a balloon dangling at about knee-level (some of the gas that made it at first float gaily up to the ceiling having escaped), suggest nothing to me at all. One is always told: you only have to look long enough at any object for it to open up a whole vista of thoughts and memories and comments. . ..
Graham Greene's Novel ACTUALLY I feel a little cheated, for what I would really like to write about is Mr Graham Greene's new novel, The Power and the Glory, which has filled my life for the past month— more than any book has since The Brothers fraramaeov; but I see that he is writing about it himself in the Catholic Press, .and thus the ground has been taken from under my feet to a certain extent.
In a way the Mexican priest in Mr Greene's book is like Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov. That is to say they both have that heavenly quality of humility and unrefiectiveness about themselves coupled with pure wisdom about the world. For example, once, during the fugitive priest's wanderings, he comes to an empty house that has just been abandoned by its English owners. An old dog has been left behind, and various scraps of paper. and a little ball of hair, and on one of the bits of paper the priest finds, written in a child's handwriting, some verses of Tennyson's The Brook. He reads : " Men may come and men may go, but I go on for ever "; and is diemayed by the sheer untruth, and worried that such poetry should be in the hands of children.
Fascination of Corruption This immediate inevitable rightness and simplicity of judgment about things reaches its high-water mark in the prison scene, which is one of the most powerful bits of description I have read. In the prison cell every kind of excess is represented : there is the tiresome. narrow, pious woman who is there because holy books have been discovered in her possession, and there is the crudest kind of murderer. It is crowded and dark and smelly and sordid and full of sin—rather like the world, the priest thinks. And then the phrase comes to his mind: " God so loved the world . ." The whole book, really, is a commentary on the Crucifixion. And for a moment, through the illumination of the priest's stream of consciousness in the cell, one gets a glimpse of things from God's side, as it were.
In a way. Mr Greene is rather like the French novelist, M. Francois Maurlac, less in this book, perhaps, than in his others. Both are fascinated by corruption, corruption of any kind, the corruption of society, the mental corruption of the murderer, the physical corruption of someone who has some constant internal pain, always pressing it, testing it. But they are equally preoccupied with the leaven of grace that is at work in and through the corruption. In The Power and the Glory Mr Greene goes farther than he has yet gone and farther than Mauriac has ever gone in showing how sin can serve in some way God's purpose. If the priest had never sinned he would never have become a saint. As Paul Claudet says in The Satin Slipper ' But sin, sin also serves."