Dean Kauffman's Reviews > The Power and the Glory

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
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's review
Jul 13, 2012

it was amazing
Read in July, 2012

A very powerful and dark novel. I had never read anything by Greene and my brother-in-law Conrad had just read it and recommended it. It was published in 1940 and Greene had spent several months in the back country of the area of Mexica he describes in 1938. The novel takes place in southern Mexico in the 1930's in the state of Tabasco (not named) where the Catholic Church was under strong suppression for it's collusion with the ruling class in suppressing the people - at least that was the justification of the actions at the time. Churches were destroyed and priests forced to marry if they were to be allowed to stay - priests and nuns could not wear their special garb. A lot of the details are based on things that actually happened although the specifics may be exaggerations, I don't know. The main character is a "whiskey priest" - a very imperfect priest who has fathered a child and is on the run from the authorities as a traitor (for being a practicing priest - hearing confessions, giving masses, baptizing children). He is supposedly the last in the state and being hunted. It is not an easy light read - the situation is pretty horrible - most of the people have terribly difficult lives, and almost no one is without blame. It was maybe appropriate that I was reading it during our heat wave in Arlington when the temperature was in the 100's and we had no power for 3 days. The description of the oppressive heat and humidity in the story fits in quite well with my reality at the time. There is a good Wikipedia entry for this book with additional background about it and Greene. Greene was a convert to Catholicism but the church does not escape unscathed in its portrait. I believe there was an effort to ban the books by the church. Not light reading for the week at the beach, but a very powerful and disturbing book by and very serious writer.

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