Graham Greene attempted to parody himself

An old Spectator article about the time Graham Greene entered a contest soliciting parodies of his own work:

The winning entry was sent in under the name of Sebastian Eleigh. Sebastian Eleigh, we have established, was none other than Graham’s younger brother, Sir Hugh Greene. In third place was a contribution from a certain Katharine Onslow, who, so it turns out, was in fact Graham’s sister, Mrs Elisabeth Dennys. So the family acquitted itself remarkably well. But what of Graham? We felt sure that he had entered. Our suspicions, for a number of good reasons, came to rest upon an entry under the name of Colin Bates, which, I am afraid, was not included among the five best that we printed. It ran as follows:

‘I am a man approaching middle-age, but the only birthday I can distinguish among all the others was my twelfth. It was on that damp misty day in October that I met the Captain for the first time. I remember the wetness of the gravel in the school quad and the blown leaves which made the cloisters by the chapel slippery as I ran to escape from my enemies between one class and the next. I slithered and came to a halt and my pursuers went whistling away, for there in the middle of the quad stood our formidable headmaster talking to a tall man in a bowler hat who carried his walking stick over his shoulder at the slope like a rifle. I had no idea of course who he was or that he had won me the previous night at backgammon from my father.’

As a parody, the real thing never works.

Greene used the paragraph as the opening of his last novel, The Captain and the Enemy (1988).

(Link via Brandywine Books.)


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