Once upon a time there were two brothers who, at the turn of the twentieth century, settled in the small town of Berkhamsted, at the end of the commuter line in Hertfordshire. They each had six children and it is because of one of these children that the above sentence must immediately evoke in most readers over a certain age a sense of ungraspable melancholy, of secret childhood pleasures on a common, of bored and blighted lives redeemed or partially redeemed by a secret adherence to an ideology, Catholic or Communist. Few writers have made more and better art out of their guilt and childhood unhappiness than Graham Greene, or conveyed more powerfully, in stories, novels and memoirs, the feel of the place where he grew up. Graham’s father was a conventional public-school headmaster, his younger brother a coffee merchant newly returned from Brazil with his German wife and large brood.
more from Gabriel Josipovici at the TLS here.