A World of My Own: A Dream Diary, p.1Graham Greene
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
The Man Within • Stamboul Train • It’s a Battlefield
England Made Me • A Gun for Sale • Brighton Rock
The Confidential Agent • The Power and the Glory
The Ministry of Fear • The Heart of the Matter
The Third Man • The End of the Affair • Loser Takes All
The Quiet American • Our Man in Havana • A Burnt-Out Case
The Comedians • Travels with My Aunt
The Honorary Consul • The Human Factor
Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party
Monsignor Quixote • The Tenth Man
The Captain and the Enemy
Collected Stories (including Twenty-One Stories,
A Sense of Reality, and May We Borrow Your Husband?)
The Last Word and other stories
Journey Without Maps • The Lawless Roads
In Search of a Character • Getting to Know the General
Collected Essays • The Pleasure Dome • British Dramatists
J’accuse • Reflections • Yours etc.
The Living Room • The Potting Shed • The Complaisant Lover
Carving a Statue • The Return of A. J. Raffles • The Great Jowett
Yes and No • For Whom the Bell Chimes
A Sort of Life • Ways of Escape
Lord Rochester’s Monkey • An Impossible Woman
The Little Train • The Little Horse-Bus
The Little Steamroller • The Little Fire Engine
PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF CANADA
Copyright © 1992 Verdant S.A.
Foreword copyright © 1992 Yvonne Cloetta
All rights reserved under International Copyright Conventions
Distributed by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto
Published simultaneously by Reinhardt Books in Great Britain
Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data
Greene, Graham, 1904–1991
A world of my own
PR6013.R44W67 1992 823′.912 C92-093990-2
According to the expressed wish of the author, this book is published in Britain by his great friend and publisher for many years Max Reinhardt, and in Canada by his niece and publisher Louise Dennys. —YC
A few days before he died, when his daughter, Caroline, and I were with him at L’Hôpital de la Providence in Vevey, Graham Greene asked me to prepare this dream diary for publication. Only a strong desire to keep a promise made to him induces me, therefore, to write a modest foreword to this posthumous book he entitled A World of My Own.
Graham guarded his privacy as fiercely as he respected the privacy of others. He always refused to write an autobiography—after he had ‘closed the record at the age of about twenty-seven’ with A Sort of Life—because, as he said, it would have inevitably involved incursions into the privacy of other people’s lives. The private world of his dreams, however, was one that he nurtured carefully, recording it almost daily in the dream diaries that he kept over the last twenty-five years.
From those several volumes, he made this small selection for public reading, choosing carefully and deliberately. The project engaged him in the last months of his life. It interested him. And one of the pleasures of this book is the pleasure that he himself clearly took in making the selection.
In this world of the subconscious and the imagination—a world farfelu as he used to call it—where everything intersects and gets tangled up beyond time, Graham obviously feels at ease and happy. ‘In a sense it is an autobiography,’ he says in his Introduction; and it’s true that between the secret world of dreams and the real world he lived in the divide is narrow. And the barriers have been lifted. Here he can gossip about others, or give free rein to his eagerness for adventure or his delight in the absurd. Dreaming was like taking a holiday from himself. As he confided to a friend: ‘If one can remember an entire dream, the result is a sense of entertainment sufficiently marked to give one the illusion of being catapulted into a different world. One finds oneself remote from one’s conscious preoccupations.’
I told him once that I was astonished by the clarity with which he remembered his dreams, the preciseness of detail he retained. He explained that the habit of remembering went back to the time he first kept a dream diary—when, as a boy, he underwent psychoanalysis and was required by his analyst to retell his dreams (sometimes with embarrassing results—as when he had to confess to an erotic dream about his analyst’s beautiful wife). Later, when he again began to keep a dream diary, he always had a pencil and paper at hand on his bedside table so that when he awoke from a dream, which happened on average four or five times a night, he could jot down key words that in the morning would allow him to reconstruct it. He would then transcribe it into his diary. I remember the very first diary that he had—a large notebook of dark green leather, given to him by friends. Another was the colour of Bordeaux wine.
It is well known that Graham was always very interested in dreams, and that he relied a great deal on the role played by the subconscious in writing. He would sit down to work straightway after breakfast, writing until he had five hundred words (which in the last while he reduced to approximately two hundred). He was in the habit of then rereading, every evening before going to bed, the section of the novel or story he had written in the morning, leaving his subconscious to work during the night. Some dreams enabled him to overcome a ‘blockage’; others provided him on occasion with material for short stories or even an idea for a new novel (as with It’s a Battlefield, and The Honorary Consul). Sometimes, as he wrote, ‘identification with a character goes so far that one may dream his dream and not one’s own’—as happened during the writing of A Burnt-Out Case, so that he was able to attribute his own dream to his character Querry and so extricate himself from an impasse in the narrative.
The most startling aspect of his dreams was their warning nature. One day, I remember, he appeared looking terribly upset. When I enquired after the reason for that distress, he replied: ‘I dreamt of a catastrophe. I hope nothing has happened to one of my family or a close friend.’ A few hours later we heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into the sea between Corsica and Nice, only a few miles away from his flat in Antibes, killing, I believe, all on board. One of the passengers on the flight was General Cogny, whom Graham knew well from his days in Vietnam.
Examples of that kind are numerous. Visions of panic and distress, visions of happiness—the impressions left in his mind by a dream were so vivid, so clear in every detail, that they would sometimes pursue him and influence his mood for hours after he awakened.
Today, remembering, I can’t help thinking about a persistent dream of his which, like a kind of riddle, now seems to have sheltered a personal message. In A Sort of Life he refers to a series of dreams which recurred over the years after the death of his father in 1943, and he writes: ‘In them my father was always shut away in hospital out of touch with his wife and children—though sometimes he returned home on a visit, a silent solitary man, not really cured, who would have to go back again into exile. The dreams remain vivid even today, so that sometimes it is an effort for me to realize that there was no hospital, no separation and that he lived with my mother till he died.’ His unhappiness at these frequent returns to the hospital is perhaps just coincidence, but it is difficult not to see in the dreams a premoniti
In this last book of his, he gives us a glimpse of the strenuous inner life, his elusive source of creativity, that lay beyond that door which he always kept firmly closed, for fear an intruder might destroy ‘the pattern in the carpet’. As a kind of farewell, Graham opens a door for us on the world of his own.
In The Power and the Glory you wrote: ‘The glittering worlds lay there in space like a promise; the world was not the universe. Somewhere Christ might not have died.’
If such a place exists, you certainly have found it.
Other Books by This Author
II Some Famous Writers I Have Known
III In the Secret Service
IV Statesmen and Politicians
VI Moments of Danger and Fear
VII A Touch of Religion
VIII Brief Contacts with Royalty
IX The Job of Writing
X Stage and Screen
XV A Small Revenge
XVI My Life of Crime
XVII Unpleasant Experiences
XVIII Animals Who Talk
XIX Disease and Death
The waking have one world in common,
but the sleeping turn aside each
into a world of his own.
HERACLITUS OF EPHESUS
It can be a comfort sometimes to know that there is a world which is purely one’s own—the experience in that world, of travel, danger, happiness, is shared with no one else. There are no witnesses. No libel actions. The characters I meet there have no memory of meeting me, no journalist or would-be biographer can check my account with another’s. I can hardly be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for any incident connected with the security services. I have spoken with Khrushchev at a dinner party, I have been sent by the Secret Service to murder Goebbels. I am not lying—and yet, of all the witnesses who share these scenes with me, there is not one who can claim from his personal knowledge that what I describe is untrue.
I decided to choose, out of a diary of more than eight hundred pages, begun in 1965 and ended in 1989, selected scenes from My Own World. In a sense it is an autobiography, beginning with Happiness and ending with Death, of a rather bizarre life during the last third of a century (the wars described here belong to the sixties, not the forties)—but no biographer will care to make use of it, even though I may sometimes include a date when I want to give for my own satisfaction the day and the year when an unusual event or an unusual meeting took place.
For that reason I thought at first of beginning with my unexpected encounter with Henry James on a river boat in Bolivia in the spring of 1988. However, my plan to begin with this strange episode changed when in January 1989 I experienced for the first time, in all the records which I have kept of this private world for more than twenty years, happiness. Great names are a commonplace in this World of My Own, but real meaningless and inexplicable happiness—this is the only experience of it I have recorded.
It has often been suggested that opium helps to open the closed door of this World, but I have no evidence for this. In the fifties, when I was smoking opium in Vietnam and Malaya, I was busy keeping a diary of violent events in the Common World, but I have in my memory only one remarkable happening in the World of My Own, remarkable because it goes so far back in time—in fact to the year 1 AD.
I was living then not far from Bethlehem, and I decided to walk down to that small town to visit a brothel I knew there, carrying a gold coin with which to pay the girl whom I would choose. At the approach to the town I saw a strange sight: a group of men in Eastern clothes who were bowing and offering gifts. To what? To a blank wall. There was no one there to receive their gifts or return their salutation. I stood quite a while watching this curious scene and then something—I don’t know what—impelled me to throw my gold coin at the wall and turn away.
Time in the World of One’s Own can move slowly or it can move very rapidly. In this case the centuries passed by me like a flash and I found myself lying on my bed reading in the New Testament a story of how some Eastern kings came to a stable in Bethlehem, and I realized that this was what I had seen. My first thought was: ‘Well, I went to Bethlehem to give that gold coin to a woman and it seems that I did in fact give it to a woman, even though all I saw was a blank wall.’
There is an imaginative side to the World of One’s Own quite distinct from that of the Common World. Robert Louis Stevenson told an interviewer about the strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: ‘On one occasion I was very hard up for money and I felt I had to do something. I thought and thought, and tried hard to find a subject to write about. At night I dreamt the story, it practically came to me as a gift, and what makes it appear more odd is that I was quite in the habit of dreaming stories. Thus, not long ago, I dreamt the story of “Olalla”, and I have at the present moment two unwritten stories I likewise dreamt.’
‘Olalla’ is an unfairly neglected story of Stevenson’s and in it there is a kind of underground resemblance to Dr Jekyll. It is a story which belongs quite definitely to the World of His Own rather than to Spain, where the scene is supposed to be set, just as in Dr Jekyll’s London we seem to be moving in the streets of Edinburgh or the streets of a city in Stevenson’s own private world.
The strange thing is that the author, when he is in the Common World, feels a stranger in the World of His Own, and Stevenson was lost and puzzled by his own story. He wrote a letter: ‘The trouble with “Olalla” is that it somehow sounds false … the odd problem is: what makes a story true? “Markheim” is true; “Olalla” false, and I don’t know why.’ He even went so far, in the case of Dr Jekyll, as to throw the first draft into the fire.
A few of my short stories have been drawn from memories of the World of My Own. In ‘Dream of a Strange Land’ I recorded my experience in that World when I was a leper seeking treatment in Sweden. Only the sound of a shot with which the printed tale ends has been added. In another story, ‘The Root of All Evil’, laid in Germany far back in the nineteenth century, I changed nothing after I woke, with a smile of amusement, from My Own World to the Common World.
There is another side to what we call dreams, very interestingly exposed in J.W. Dunne’s Experiment with Time. They contain scraps of the future as well as of the past. I have already written of how at the age of seven I dreamed of a shipwreck on the night the Titanic went down, and again nine years later I witnessed another disastrous shipwreck in the Irish Sea. As I look through the long record of my dreams I note time and again incidents of the Common World that have occurred a few days after the dream. They are too trivial to include here, but I am convinced that Dunne was right.
The strangeness of my completely unexpected meeting with Henry James in My Own World at least seems worthy to take precedence in the second chapter, to which I have given the title ‘Some Famous Writers I Have Known’. Unlike the biographer, I do not find it necessary to plod along in the footsteps of the years, and my earlier meeting with Pope John Paul II in a hotel bedroom seems unimportant compared with my more recent meeting with Henry James. (I am sure no good would have come to either the Pope or myself if I had woken him up. We were not made to like each other.)
The erotic side of life may seem oddly absent from this record but I do not wish to involve those whom I have loved in this World of My Own, even though I am powerless to censor biographers and journalists who write of them in
It was 1965. I had decided to do a little Liberal canvassing in a forthcoming by-election and I had chosen a country town called Horden. Apparently one couldn’t leave from the main station at Victoria, but by a branch line, the Horden line, which had its own entrance. I gathered that it was a very old and very interesting line and so it proved.
The first train to leave consisted of pretty carriages which must have dated back more than a hundred years, but this train didn’t go to Horden. The second train was bound there, but it was very crowded. I was much struck by the kindness and jollity of the passengers, who welcomed me and made room for me in a very packed carriage. They all wore strange clothes—Edwardian or Victorian—and I was fascinated by the stations we passed. On one wide platform children were playing with scarlet balloons; another station was built like a ruined Greek temple; at one point the track narrowed and the train went through a kind of tunnel made with mattresses.
I had never in my life felt such a sensation of happiness. Lights were beginning to come out in the quaint houses which we passed, and I longed to return with the woman I loved at just this hour of the evening.
The train drew up by a little antique shop and I heard a passenger say, ‘You see, all the men are drinking or playing cards.’
A young couple (the girl pretty but quite unerotic and her husband a simple good-looking man with curly hair and an open face) became almost instantaneously like old friends. I said, ‘I’ve lived in London fifty years and yet I’ve never heard before of the Horden line. I could make this journey every day and not be tired of it.’
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