Monday, June 30, 2014


In Journey Without Maps (1936) Greene describes how he crossed Liberia on foot, from the Sierra Leone border to the Atlantic coast, and at the same time travelled back into himself.  

He finds that exploration, like psychoanalysis, means submitting yourself to the unconscious.  The adventure stirs memories of childhood, of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Rider Haggard, and brings him close to the centre of unexplained cruelty and ancestral fear.  

After several weeks he reaches Monrovia, the capital city.  Stunted and unfinished, offering a main street overgrown with grass, an abandoned palace, a waterfront lined with wooden huts, and telegraph poles which are only monuments to a defunct telephone system, its instant seediness strikes him as ‘nearer the beginning.’

It appeals because it represents a stage farther back in human development and provides a glimpse of what has been lost.  Unlike the familiar mechanized desert, it escapes the curse of the new and the smart.  Brutality appeals for a similar reason. 

It suggests a need for simplifying emotion and beginning to live again at ‘a level below the cerebral.’ In gangster novels, Greene infers, you find a nostalgia for uncensored emotional release.  


And when he sees an old half-witted native prisoner tied to a post and clubbed, or a child scream with terror at a masked devil dancer, he feels closer to the ‘racial source,’ to instinct and even to happiness.

From:  Gavin Lambert, The Dangerous Edge (1976)

Crazyhead: Have Love, Will Travel (Link)