The Quiet Englishman

(Via Maud Newton)John R MacArthur may have been the last man to interview Graham Greene before the author’s death in 1991. His focus was on Greene’s politics, not the books, but it’s still a piece worth reading:

When I first saw Graham Greene, he was lunching outdoors with his longtime mistress at Chez Felix, Greene’s favorite restaurant in the old French port of Antibes. It was early October of last year and sunny, and he was wearing a long gray coat against a hint of autumn coolness.
I knew he hadn’t been feeling well and I happened across him by coincidence —several hours in advance of our as-yet unconfirmed meeting — so I curbed my inclination to interrupt his meal with an aggressively friendly American hello. By now, after months of pursuing an interview, I’d learned that Greene valued his privacy. Although I’d always thought of him as a citizen of the world, as I spied him from a distance he looked very much the Englishman abroad, armed with a typically English shield of inaccessibility to ward off the casual intruder.
This chance encounter allowed me to view him in a way I could not, later on, in his apartment. I sat down on the lip of an old well about 30 yards away and observed the “great man” of 20th-century English letters. The first thing I noticed were his eyes, which seemed to be staring into a wide middle distance, absorbing everything. He looked his age, but his eyes somehow had the power of a much younger man.





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