The Man Within My Head: Graham Greene, My Father and Me, by Pico Iyer

Second paragraph of third chapter:

I went back to the Majestic – girls around the lobby gazed hopefully up at me – and tried to pick up the thread of my own life. Walking through a book by an author long dead is not a comforting experience; I began to feel I was just a compound ghost that someone else had dreamed up, and his novels were my unwritten autobiography. I had reread The Quiet American perhaps seven times at that point, sometimes feeling my sympathies with the Englishman, whom I recalled from friends at school, sometimes with the young American (whom I had met when studying innocence in Harvard Yard). Sometimes I even felt my heart with the Asian woman, whose wise acceptances and gift for adapting to any situation were a large part of what I hoped to learn when bringing myself back to my parents’ continent.

I picked this up at the Boekenfestijn in Leuven earlier this year on a whim. I was very much into Graham Greene in my late teens and early twenties, and have read very little of him since. I hadn’t previously heard of Pico Iyer at all, but like his father before him he is a cultural commentator – in fact, a travel writer, who has been a Graham Greene fan since his youth and has also had the opportunity to retrace a lot of Greene’s footsteps in various countries. Iyer is much more into Greene than I ever was, but I appreciate the depth and sincerity of his fannish attachment, and also his honesty in questioning the extent to which he has allowed his imagined Greene to take over the mentor role that his real father could or should have occupied. There’s a lot here about engagement and betrayal, participation and observation, loyalty and betrayal, fascination and destruction, and yet it is quite a short book. Very thought-provoking. You can get it here.

This was my top book by a non-white writer, followed by a couple of freebies that I picked up at a Huawei event.