The Power and the Glory

Graham Greene
Reading Order: Book 8
Categories: 2020, Erik Rostad
Pages: 295
Suggested By: Rob Burns (High School Friend)
Date Started: April 1, 2020
Date Finished: April 5, 2020
7h 4m 41s
Reason Book was Chosen: I asked a friend of mine from high school for book suggestions. He recommended two that I have included on my list this year. I know nothing about this book and am looking forward to seeing why he considers it one of his favorites.
My Thoughts

The Power and the Glory had the musical feel of staccato – rapid spurts of notes with a little air between. Greene kept the narrative moving at a rapid pace with these word bursts that explained multitudes. I was left wondering how he did it.

This book follows a flawed outlaw who happens to be a priest. This priest, called The Whiskey Priest, has a penchant for strong drink and also has a daughter (highly frowned upon in priestly circles). He lives in an area of Mexico in the 1930s that is trying to rid the world of the impact of Christianity, Catholicism, God, etc. The law, represented in the character of the Lieutenant, is hell-bent on killing this final remaining priest. The Whiskey Priest continues to take confessions and administer communion while running from the law.

This book is so powerful because it presents the priest in a number of situations in which the opposite of what should happen occurs. For example, since he is the only priest, there is no one to hear his confession. He hears other’s confession, but is never able to confess to another priest. In some sense, he doesn’t want to, but he needs to for his soul. He finally ends up confessing, but not in the way I expected. He confesses to a group of criminals in a prison cell, with a bucket of crap nearby and a couple making love in the corner. There are a number of examples of these types of opposite situations where you’re able to view something in a new way by looking at it in an almost grotesque or unaccustomed way.

The Power and the Glory had a similar feel to Blood Meridian and Twilight (William Gay). It was rich and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since finishing it. It’s a book that grips you and keeps you thinking.

1 Comment. Leave new

  • Noel Powell
    May 13, 2020 7:05 am

    Recently read this. Here is my goodreads review.

    Wanted to read a “modern classic” and had not read a Graham Greene before so 2 birds, 1 stone.
    The plot centres around an alcoholic, catholic priest who is also the father of a child from a relationship with one of his flock.
    It takes place in a region of mexico where there has been a cultural revolution and the catholic church is now banned. Priests are either shot or forced to get married and renounce.
    Against this back drop our priest goes on the run for numerous years. Giving clandestine confession, holy communion and baptisms he travels around the country, in a destitute state, meeting a variety of characters. He is ruthlessly pursued by an anti religeous officer who wants to protect the peasants from what he sees as the exploitative ways of the catholic church and…. well thats just it, thats the whole plot basically. While the characters and settings are three dimensional, believable and well presented the plot just does not seem to develop. That is why I originally only gave it 2 stars. However the book has been swirling around in my mind for over a week, even though I had started on a new book. So I came back and gave another star and after a few days yet another star. So its a slow grower! Although it is a manhunt and gunplay is involved it is not actually an action book.
    It is more about the soul and deeply flawed people doing the right thing in times of extreme pressure. Are there good and bad people or just selfish acts and unselfish acts? I think after reading this Greene would say both and even a mixture of both i.e. bad people can do unselfish acts (eg the priest) and good people can do selfish acts (eg the leutenant)
    In addition the priest’s story can be seen as an alegory of Christ’s life. He ministers to the people under persecution and threat of death from the civil authority. He has a choice between an easy out or doing his duty and consequently suffering pain and death. He knowingly chooses the latter. He is betrayed by his own judas figure. Later a mother tells reads her children heroic tales of catholic matyrs that idealize and hero worship the mudered priests. Perhaps here too Greene is pointing out how a dirty squalid execution can be elevated through time, literature and retelling into “the greatest story ever told.”
    Anyway, any book that can make me think like that deserves to have a 5 star rating so I am going to give it another one. Wow from 2 to 5 stars after I have read it a week ago!
    As a non catholic it did highlight themes of catholic church to me. They do like a bit of guilt! Guilty until proven guilty and a bit more guilt on top. So it was a interesting for that insight alone.
    I wont be rushing for a Graham Greene novel soon, my head hurts too much atm. But I will at some point reach for another. It is a bit like one of those magic eye pictures, you have to see beyond the obvious. Overall as an action book its a bit dull but look between the lines into the soul of the whiskey priest and it is immensly thought provoking.


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