Tag Archive for 'The Man Within My Head'

Pico Iyer: The writer and the wanderer

David Shaftel interviews in Mint-Lounge:

You’ve been reading Graham Greene for a long time. Was there anything new or surprising that you learnt about him or took from his writing during the course of writing this book?

Really, the more I read of him, the more I saw in him, till I began to feel I could keep writing this book forever (and perhaps I will, albeit not for publication!). In this case, as I began thinking about the theme of father and sons, I started noticing it everywhere in Greene—though if you’d asked me, 10 years ago, whether Greene wrote about fathers and sons, I’d have said that nothing could be further from his interest.

Whenever you’re caught up in some theme of your own, as a reader, you start to see it everywhere, not least in the pages of the writers who mean a lot to you. And I find with Greene, as with any close companion who’s been spending time with me for 30 years or so, that the more I see of him, the more I see in him and to that extent the more I’m moved by him. At this point, I feel I know his habits and patterns so well that the smallest sentence can devastate me, with the sense of all the unspoken feelings that lie behind it.

I must have read The Quiet American 15 times at least, and each time it becomes something different to me, and newly special. Only in writing this book, though, did I see how its central dialogue, between a middle-aged Englishman, who speaks for experience and wary scepticism, and a dangerously idealistic, quixotic and innocent young American, might have been the story of my life, growing up between California in the 1960s and the 15th century boarding school in England to which I returned every three months.

Making that connection proved to me that I could probably keep on writing on Greene till the end of my life, and would keep discovering new things with every return to his books. More: