A World of My Own
Dreams were always central to Graham Greene’s fiction during a career spanning six decades. The ideas for at least two of his novels and short stories originated in his own dreams. Many pivotal scenes involve his characters’ dreams. The dreamlike hyperreality of his fictional settings is such a constant that critics long ago coined the label “Greeneland” to identify this special sense of the world, no matter where the action is nominally located.
Greene’s fascination with dreams began when he underwent psychoanalysis at age sixteen. A part of his treatment involved his keeping a diary of his dreams, which were the subject of analysis. Though he discarded that diary later, Greene had discovered firsthand an important link between the unconscious and creativity which would prove essential to him as a writer.
A WORLD OF MY OWN is a selection of 120 short dream-narratives derived from a much longer diary that Greene maintained from 1965 to 1989. Despite its subtitle, however, the selection is not arranged in the format of dated entries. Instead Greene, who worked on this book during the last months of his life, organized the dreams into nineteen chapters with such titles as “In the Secret Service,” “Travel,” “My Life in Crime,” and “Animals Who Talk.” Apart from this topical arrangement, there is no overt analysis of the dreams. Yet readers familiar with Greeneland will feel very much at home in the place Greene calls “A World of My Own” (as contrasted with “The Common World”). Bizarre encounters with popes and royalty and totalitarian figures such as Adolf Hitler or Fidel Castro implicitly raise questions about power, authority, and individual freedom, as well as Greene’s key idea of “the virtue of disloyalty.” His dreaming of himself as a spy on a secret mission (for example, to poison Joseph Goebbels), or crossing a dark frontier into a region of limitless danger, not only recalls Greene’s actual experience as an agent during World War II but also his sense of the writers’ vocation as a decoder of the secrets of the human heart. Certain dreams invite a psychological interpretation by those aware of Greene’s childhood and family problems. Others betray guilt at the failure of his marriage, while still others suggest his fixation on death. “In a sense,” he observes in the introduction, “it is an autobiography, beginning with Happiness and ending with Death.” To paraphrase T. S. Eliot, A WORLD OF MY OWN is valuable in shedding light on both the man who suffers and the mind which creates.
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. XCI, October 1, 1994, p. 230.
Boston Globe. November 30, 1994, p. 71.
Kirkus Reviews. LXII, July 15, 1994, p. 957.
Library Journal. CXIX, September 1, 1994, p. 182.
London Review of Books. XIV, December 3, 1992, p. 31.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 23, 1994, p. 3.
The New York Times Book Review. C, January 8, 1995, p. 15.
The Observer. December 19, 1993, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLI, August 1, 1994, p. 63.
San Francisco Chronicle. November 10, 1994, p. D3.
The Washington Post. October 28, 1994, p. F2.