The Captain and the Enemy by Graham Greene - review by Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux

What the Hell is Going on?

The Captain and the Enemy


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In his long and distinguished career as a novelist Graham Greene has often flirted with the simple adventure story (‘There is a great deal of Boys’ Own Paper in Greene,’ V S Pritchett once told me). But he has shied away from explicit outward bounding and he has always chosen to thicken his plots with theology or politics – he is practically the innovator of what is now known as ‘liberation theology,’ the bane of archbishops everywhere. On the other hand, one of the strongest appeals of Greene novels and travel books is their treatment of adventure: the brothel, the binge, the back-street, the misfit in a far-off place. It is Greene’s RLS side, and it must be said that Greene himself has frequently mentioned with pride his family relationship to Stevenson (Greene is also related to Christopher Isherwood, but we don’t hear much about that). Greene shares with RLS a love of pirates, remittance men and freebooters – men who live on the dangerous edge of things; of distant places, and of the sentiment in the Kipling verse,

God bless the friendly islands
here warrants never come,
God bless the just republics
That give a man a home.

This verse was quoted in Greene’s

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