Book Review: The Lawless Roads

The Lawless Roads, by Graham Greene

So far I have read four types of books by Graham Greene [1].  First, there are lighthearted and often cynical novels that he considered as “entertainments.”  Next are the short stories he wrote as film treatments or prose fiction of a miscellaneous nature.  After that there comes the darker and more serious novels that he wrote examining issues of faith and power and sin.  This book is part of the fourth type of Graham Greene books that I have read so far, though, and that is the travelogue.  As someone who frequently writes about my own travel experiences, there is a great deal of interest to be found in reading about the travels of someone who was a trenchant and candid observer of the habits and traditions and behaviors of the places where he visited, and especially hostile in cases (like Mexico) where the political powers that be are phony leftists who end up helping the US and persecuting religious Catholics, both of which were matters that Greene was rather prickly and fierce about.  If you have an interest in Greene’s writing or in the relationship of Church and State in contemporary regimes, there is much here to appreciate.

The edition of this book that I read was a large print version that was about 280 pages or so.  After an introduction and prologue where the author talks about the way that this book helped to inspire his classic novel The Power And The Glory and the circumstances that led to his travel to Mexico in 1938, the book is itself divided into eleven chapters and an intriguing epilogue involving some fascist volunteers to the Spanish Civil War.  First the author comments on his experiences with some Americans on the Texas side of the border (1) and his crossing into the rebel state of San Luis Obispo (2) where water was scarce.  After this the author makes some considerable notes on Mexico City (3) and then discusses his travels to the coast (4) where he finds the city of Puebla lovely at least.  He then voyages across the waters in a terrible boat where he has a lot of colorful things to say about the ravages of the heat and mosquitoes (5) before entering into the godless state of Tabasco (6).  He then travels, against the advice of many, into Chiapas (7), where he then spends some time in a local village there (8) before traveling across the mountains to Las Casas (9).  He spends some time observing the Catholic celebrations of Holy Week (10) before returning to the capital (11) and leaving the country.

There are at least some things to note about this book that would be interesting to potential readers.  For one, this book contains a great deal of commentary by Greene about Mexico in areas that many tourists still do not visit and that are still filled with contentious relationships between the local people and the central and state governments to this day, like Chiapas.  The author’s comments about American travelers as well as the savage behavior of the Mexican state against Catholicism are pretty pointed and not everyone would likely appreciate the author’s forthright honesty about the way that contemporary secular societies do not handle religious affairs well.  These are matters that are obviously relevant to the contemporary world where many regimes in supposedly “advanced” and “free” countries are unwilling to accept the rebuke of faith on the corrupt social practices of our own times.  Whether or not you prefer reading this novel for its insights into the basis of Greene’s own fiction about Mexico from his travels there or whether you are interested in his thoughts on the relationship between faith and politics, there is a lot to take in here and ponder about.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Christianity, History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Book Review: The Lawless Roads

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Man Within | Edge Induced Cohesion

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