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The Lawless Roads

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  417 ratings  ·  54 reviews
In the late 1930s, Graham Greene was commissioned to visit Mexico to report on how the inhabitants had reacted to the brutal anticlerical purges of President Calles. The Lawless Roads is his spellbinding record of that journey. Taking him through the tropical states of Chiapas and Tabasco, where all the churches had been destroyed or closed and the priests driven out or shot, t ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 27th 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published 1939)
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Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
A more dour, grim, contemptuous travelogue than The Lawless Roads is difficult to imagine. The British publishing company Longman commissioned Greene to travel to the southern Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas in 1938, to investigate the anti-Catholic purges of President Plutarco Elias Calles. Greene’s assignment, more specifically, was to write a report about the reactions of the Catholic people there to the assassination of some 40 priests and the destruction of hundreds of churches, and t ...more
Joseph Sciuto
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
Pure torture; pure relentless torture. Thank God, I had read ten or more books by Graham Greene before picking this book up because if this was the first book I had read by this literary giant it would have been the last.

"The Lawless Roads" reads like a diary, without any constructive narrative and with run on sentences that makes the works of Proust look like the works of Hemingway; and in reality it is the impressions of Mr. Greene, who as a journalist, went down to Mexico in 1937
I interrupted my current sea-faring binge because of a sudden urge to read The Lawless Roads again. I can't count how many times I've read this book, ever since I found it in a second-hand bookshop in Adelaide and shipped it to myself in the boxes of books I used to send before the days of online bookshops. It's such a satisfying book that I reread it every one or two years, and every time is like the first. That's a testament to the power of Greene's skill as a writer, because I don't have a pa ...more
Dane Cobain
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was tricky to rate – I veered between three an four out of five. But there’s a pretty simply reason for that – it can be difficult to read at times, and the small print also makes it feel as though you’re not making much progress. For some people, it might be off-putting, but it’s worth persevering with, especially if you’re interested in the subject matter.

This book is interesting because it tells the real story of what happened when Graham Greene travelled around Mexico i
Jan 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Over the past year, Graham Greene has become one of my favorite authors. The Lawless Roads is probably my least favorite among his books I've read, and yet it's still full of brilliant narrative.

Set in Mexico in the late thirties, the book is an account of his travels through the country on a mission to document the effects of religious persecution. My biggest gripe has to do with his Catholic bias in approaching the topic. From the very beginning, it seems he's ready to forgive the
Patrick McCoy
Sep 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, travel
Graham Greene is one of my favorite authors and The Lawless Roads is the second non-fiction travel book of his that I read. (Journey Without Maps was also a great book about travel in Africa) Greene is a brilliant travel writer; he makes detailed observations about the countryside, people, and customs of Mexico. The way he traveled in the 30s makes you appreciate modern infrastructure and the advances of civilization that make godforsaken places livable. He was on assignment for a paper to repor ...more
Apr 19, 2008 rated it did not like it
Elitist, racist, superficial, self-righteous...the author seems utterly unaware that he is guilty of many of the shortcomings that he ascribes to others. Though it is interesting to see how in many aspects Mexico has changed little since this book was written, Greene's pompous confidence in the rightness of his own beliefs is insufferable.
There was something comforting about this book- the disgust and anger that Greene, the traveler felt as he want through Mexico. I have often felt this way as I travel but feel ashamed of it. Reading his loathing and discomfort made me laugh and feel better about that dark side of myself. I admire his bravery in the journey and the writing.
Patrick Murtha
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting and well-written, with many sharp observations about Mexico, but also very whiny, pissy even. Greene's sour Catholicism is lacking in generosity of spirit and is not attractive. When it serves as a wellspring for his best fiction, that's one thing; but here, in a direct dose, it is off-putting.
Nathan Albright
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenge-2018
So far I have read four types of books by Graham Greene [1].  First, there are lighthearted and often cynical novels that he considered as "entertainments."  Next are the short stories he wrote as film treatments or prose fiction of a miscellaneous nature.  After that there comes the darker and more serious novels that he wrote examining issues of faith and power and sin.  This book is part of the fourth type of Graham Greene books that I have read so far, though, and that is the travelogue.  As ...more
Matt Ely
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I only read this book because I wanted to understand the background to The Power and the Glory before I read it. What I found was one of the most brisk, evocative travel memoirs I've read.

Now, some of the criticisms I've seen are valid. He doesn't talk much about the land itself, mostly focused on small interactions with people he met, how much he hates riding mules, and his distaste for Mexican food. He also comes across as pretty judgmental and elitist in many of his evaluations of the people he m
Adam Marischuk
An anti-travel book

If you have read and enjoyed The Power and the Glory, I highly recommend The Lawless Roads. If you have travelled in Mexico, I highly recommend The Lawless Roads. If you have ever studied Mexican history, I highly recommend The Lawless Roads. If you are interested in the Catholic persecution, I highly recommend The Lawless Roads.

I wish I would have read this book sooner, but as it stands, the book was excellent at producing, not a desire to travel, but a nostalgia for travel.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This wasn't so bad as to put me off Graham Greene; he can clearly write. The question that I could not ask- and that made me fall out of interest in the book after 100 pages- is why on earth did he write it? A travel book cannot be written by someone who isn't in love with something about the place they are travelling, it simply doesn't work. All Greene sees in Mexico is bad food (which is just baffling), inconsequential Indians (and his racism is barely hidden), and bad Catholicism. He is deepl ...more
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's difficult to enjoy a book where the author is so constantly miserable; even in his favourite places he is merely planning his next destination and when he arrives he loathes it. The influence on Paul Theroux, however, is remarkable, at times I had to remind myself who I was reading, although he makes Theroux look positively upbeat by comparison.
Having said that the writing is excellent with the the utterly wonderful turn of phrase you become used to reading Greene. It's also a Ln amaz
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: latin-america, travel
"People never seem to help each other in small ways, removing a parcel from a seat, making room with their legs. They just sit about. If Spain is like this, I can understand the temptation to massacre."
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's GREENE! But not green. By no small margin. I cannot express my admiration. Just, reading, following along...amazed by the connections this guy in the areas he travels, just amazing.
Shane C
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
Graham Greenes trip through Mexico as a cantankerous catholic who hates horse riding goes to where the only form of transport is mules and praying ia banned. I dont know about him but I would be having words with my travel agent.

Read The Power and The Glory. Skip this.
Prentiss Riddle
Jul 08, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
My notes from reading this in 1990: "Obsessed with post-revolutionary suppression of the Catholic church, Green undertakes a very bad journey to 1938 Chiapas. Disappointing, dull, even overtly racist."
Mehdi Naqvi
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it
The Early Brilliance of Graham Greene
Chiefdonkey Bradey
Bitter coffee after crossing the border
Philip Tucker
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
The Lawless Roads is a travelogue describing Greene's journey through Mexico, when he was commissioned to write about the systematic destruction of churches and the persecution of priests there in the 1930's. It sounds as if it should be interesting and intellectually stimulating, but it's actually not. Instead of getting a real feel for the suffering of the Mexican people, Greene never stops whining about his own hardships - a very long ride on a donkey, fever and dysentery, the absence of a de ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
“The lawless roads” by Graham Green is a book that talks about a travel that the author makes to Mexico during the end of the 1930s. He goes to Mexico to see how things were after the government set up a persecution against Catholic Church. This official persecution got to its higher point with the assassination of Father Pro.
These are the years of the Cardenas administration that was responsible for the expropriation of foreign oil companies. These are the years of convulsion and reconstr
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I feel like I’m a relatively late-comer to Greene, and what I’ve read so far I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, particularly his comedies. I was quite looking forward to reading a travelogue by him, particularly in a part of the world I have a fascination for, and even the guy behind the till in Daunt books said this was a great book.

And, it is a great book, I just didn’t like it. Commissioned to write about the Catholic purges taking place in Mexico at the time, and the reaction of the mostly
Ramesh Abhiraman
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Less well-known that "The Power and The Glory" that other work by Graham Greene set in Mexico to which with his tormented Catholic beliefs Greene was drawn as a moth to a lamp, this book The Lawless Roads is a less polemical but also perhaps a less powerful account about life in Mexico.
What is fascinating about this book is that good many chapters are spent in the backwaters of Texas as the author awaits a ride which may or may not arrive to take him across the border. His train mates, his
May 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mexican-lit
Greene spent time in Mexico traveling to understand why the priests were persecuted in the states of Chiapas and Tasbasco in 1938. These travels are documented in this book and the theme of persecution would form the basis of one of his most famous books, The Power and the Glory. Beginning on the U.S. border, he travels by train to Mexico City and then by plane and then a variety of rougher forms of transport. The farther into rural southern Mexico, the more the hardships he encounters. He final ...more
Walter Panzar
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
Graham Greene has a masterful command of the English language and terrific powers of description. His voyage thru Mexico of 1938 was undoubtedly adventurous and courageous and covered a time period and places that most of us know very little about. It's just too f. bad that, from beginning to end, the author is obsessed with how odious, vicious and disgusting so much in Mexico appears to him. When we read about British colonialist racism in the abstract, it is hard to imagine what it is in detai ...more
Jun 09, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
I've been exploring more of Graham Greene's work the past few years and I enjoy his writing very much. This book is the second of his non-fiction works that I've read. Written originally in 1939, the story follows Greene as he explores Mexico, especially the Chiapas and Tabasco regions, in the wake of the destruction of the Catholic churches and teachings by the Mexican rulers. At the time of this visit, the Mexican government is also in the process of nationalizing the petroleum industry, makin ...more
Aug 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
I bought this book for a friend who is moving to Mexico City, but I wanted to read it first (so I could be sure it was a worthwhile gift). It is Graham Greene's account of his trip to Mexico to investigate the government's suppression of religion. It's pretty depressing, lots of poverty and oppression and violence. But towards the end I started to find it funnier. Graham Greene is not a great traveler - he doesn't like scenery, he hates the food, and he seems to consider most native Mexicans stu ...more
Bath Saint
Nov 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
I read this book on a recent trip to Mexico. It is an account of Graham Greene's travels through Mexico as a journalist, investigating the persecution of Catholicism. Having read a fair bit of Graham Greene, I was surprised to find quite such a dire, dour account. The book seemed to really be a reflection of Greene's self-pity. I don't doubt that he had a miserable time, but it seems strange to then write a book of his journal in order to share that misery. Sadly, I found Greene's incessant raci ...more
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: latin-america
I haven't read anything else by Greene and feel that is perhaps a bad first impression. The Lawless Roads was evidently written on commission to report on the state of Catholicism in Mexico after it had been not your normal Greene travelogue. However, I did relate to disliking a country based purely on the difficulty of travel and being cold, tired, and/or sick. I also appreciated his observation that dark books are not appropriate for reading while travelling and loved his descrip ...more
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Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenplay writer, travel writer and critic whose works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene combined serious literary acclaim with wide popularity.

Although Greene objected strongly to being described as a “Catholic novelist” rather than as a “novelist who happe
“So one always starts a journey in a strange land -- taking too many precautions, until one tires of the exertion and abandons care in the worst spot of all.” 10 likes
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