In the firmament of contemporary international letters, there are a few select names which seem to trail clouds of glory everywhere they go. For literate folk around the world—even for literate folk who have never read a word of their writings—the names of such authors as Calvino and Borges have much the same iconic quality that names like Garbo and Gable continue to have for old-movie enthusiasts. As in the case of Hollywood stardom, furthermore, the extraordinary fame of these writers often has as much to do with non-aesthetic factors—among them personality, politics, public relations, and sheer serendipity—as with the actual breadth of their talents and the artistic value of their achievements.

In the English-speaking world, there is no one who belongs to this exclusive circle of authors more surely than Graham Greene; and that he, of all the English-language writers in...


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