Many books written by Graham Greene adorn my bookshelves. Most of these books I bought in a capital city in Africa. Everytime I visited this town I went to the same bookshop and bought a few Graham Greene-books. I did not know why the shopkeeper kept Greene on the shelves. But it did not matter to me, over a period of time all these books migrated to my few bookshelves, somewhere in the bush. In quiet evenings I listened to Graham.
Greene travelled to and wrote about Africa. A burnt-out case and The heart of the matter are both set in Africa.
In January 1959 (at the end of the colonial period) Greene travelled to Congo. He stayed in leprosycenters and at missioncompounds. One of the people he stayed with was dr. Lechat who informed him about the situation of lepers and leprosy in the country. Greene boated on the majestic river Congo.
During this travels that took him trough to the month of March he made notes for a book. He had some ideas beforehand, but during his time in Congo these ideas changed. In his notes we find his attempts for the first line in his forthcoming book. How should be the main character, what kind of person would he be?
He meets a number of people who have a hidden longing to publish a book and ask for his help. Others just want to have one of his books autographed.
The second part of this book are notes he made during the second world war when he travelled by boat to Freetown. Here he disembarks, but he did not keep any notes in the following period, for he worked for British Intelligence. Later on he wrote The heart of the matter but without the benefit of notes.
Graham Greene – In search of a character – 1961 (the second part was published seperately in 1946 in the magazine The Mint)