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Ransom Center acquires new Graham Greene materials

By Harry Ransom Center

An unusual set of circumstances brought four separate Graham Greene collections, from disparate parts of the world, to the Ransom Center over the past several months. The first of these collections arrived from Helsinki, Finland, the home of Rolando Pieraccini, an Italian writer who published limited editions of several of Greene’s books.  The collection includes 215 letters from Greene to Pieraccini and other correspondents, dating from the 1930s to 1991, the year of Greene’s death.

Page from Graham Greene’s FBI file.
Page from Graham Greene’s FBI file.

From a bookseller in England, the Center acquired the original manuscripts of J’Accuse and An Impossible Woman—the only known books by Greene for which manuscripts were not yet housed in research libraries—and Greene’s 1984 essay, “Freedom of Information.” Greene wrote the essay in reaction to the U.S. government’s intelligence files on him, which he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.  A copy of the intelligence files is included in the collection.  Of the 45 pages that document Greene’s travels, his communist sympathies, and the government’s other watchful (and often comically inaccurate) observations, 16 were blacked out by government censors, prompting Greene to declare in his essay, “So much for ‘freedom of information!’”

A third collection arrived at the Center from Haiti, via Miami, containing more than 120 letters written by Greene to journalist Bernard Diederich, who served as head of the Latin American bureau for Time magazine in Haiti during the reign of dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier.  The letters reveal Greene’s involvement and deep interest in the political revolutions occurring throughout Central and South America.

Finally, from Brussels, the Center acquired a collection of materials from Dr. Michel Lechat, the leprosy specialist to whom Greene dedicated his novel A Burnt-Out Case.  Greene visited Lechat’s leper colony in the Belgian Congo in preparation for the novel and consulted the doctor throughout its writing.  In addition to letters and other related materials, the collection includes a typescript of the novel that Greene asked Lechat to review and a detailed list of the doctor’s suggested changes, nearly all of which were incorporated into the published book.

Graham Greene was a world traveler, drawn to some of the remotest locales on the globe. These four collections, hailing from four different countries, offer a trace of the international flavor of Greene’s life and writings.

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