Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Graham Greene’s autobiography consists of two volumes: A Sort of Life (1971) and Ways of Escape. The first volume covers the period from his birth in 1904 to the publication of the novel Stamboul Train (also known as Orient Express) in 1932. With some overlapping, the second volume traces his growth as a writer from his first published novel, The Man Within (1929), to Doctor Fischer of Geneva: Or, The Bomb Party (1980). Greene developed about half of the material for Ways of Escape from the introductions he had written for the collected edition of his works and from essays that he had published in several British magazines and newspapers.

The autobiographical form of the book is straightforward. Essentially a chronological record of the circumstances in which Greene conceived and wrote his books, Ways of Escape also recounts his travels to various trouble spots throughout the world and his reflections upon the political and literary figures who affected his life and writing. Greene incorporates into his narrative several long passages from his private journals as well as occasional dialogues between himself and other people.

Framed by a brief preface and an epilogue, the book is divided into nine main sections and runs 278 pages. Like the first volume of his autobiography, this book lacks an index.