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.
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.
Other recent acquisitions include:
- The archive of American playwright David Mamet
- A collection of Samuel Beckett materials acquired from Richard Seaver, Beckett's editor at Grove Press
- The literary papers of writer Dara Wier, with additional materials related to poet James Tate
- Additions to the archives of Lee Blessing, Norman Mailer, Sybille Bedford, and Anita Desai
- Correspondence by John Osborne, Arnold Wesker, Penelope Lively, and James Salter
The Return of Mr. Hatterr
The Ransom Center recently acquired the papers of the late G. V. Desani, longtime professor of philosophy at The University of Texas at Austin. Included is the original manuscript of his most important work, the eccentric novel All About H. Hatterr, along with a collection of various printed editions.
Desani was born in Kenya and brought up in India, and by the age of thirteen was considered so brilliant as to be unteachable. His formal education came to an abrupt end, leading him to set off for Africa and later England. A series of migrations led him back to India, where he was a journalist and reviewer, then to Britain, and finally to Austin in 1968. Students found his courses on Indian philosophy inspirational. According to colleagues, he not only believed in personal reincarnation but knew exactly who he had been in his former life: a police officer in south India.
It might be said that All About H. Hatterr is a spicy vindaloo combining chunks of Indian philosophy and popular culture with allusions to Lewis Carroll (the Mad Hatter perhaps?) and Shakespeare. First published in 1948, the novel perplexed many readers but attracted the notice of T. S. Eliot and Saul Bellow. Desani intermittently continued revising the book into the 1980s, when it appeared with a new introduction by novelist Anthony Burgess, who remarked that "It is not pure English; it is, like the English of Shakespeare, Joyce and Kipling, gloriously impure." According to Salman Rushdie, "Hatterr's dazzling, puzzling, leaping prose is the first genuine effort to go beyond the Englishness of the English language." Hatterr has been out of print for some time, but this modernist classic is about to take on a brand new life in October as a selection of the New York Review of Books Press. Its republication fittingly coincides with the Center's acquisition of the Desani archive.