Today I am sitting in the airport reading Graham Greene’s Penguin No. 2822, In Search of a Character. It is a slight book and I am greatly enjoying it so far. It has two novels within it of two Africa Journals he keeps. I have read the first one. He is in the Congo area and he is thinking about a doctor, a character for his next book. However it is quite funny that every time he comes with an idea there is a footnote at the bottom of the page that this idea was later pitched out. I have no idea if he ever settles on anything for certain.
He tends to visit places around the world for 3 to 4 months, he gets quite depressed until he has established a routine each day. He speaks of melancholy quite a bit. In this particular journal he is surrounded by people with leprosy. He writes quite a bit about leprosy especially focusing on both contagious leprosy and non-contagagious leprosy. A lot of what he believed then is no longer true about the illness and that is also highlighted in the footnotes.
He also has a great deal to say about the role of the church in this country and most of it non too flattering. He mentions a nun who is bemoaning the fact that a settlement up the river no longer has the numbers of people with leprosy anymore and says, “Oh there is almost nothing to do anymore.”
One of the priests he spends time with shoots everything and one evening while on board a most uncomfortable boat ride the priest shoots a heron and serves it for dinner. He doesn’t realise it isn’t rabbit until later. He is not happy with the way the priest tends to sadistically tease cats, dogs and shoot birds. He doesn’t think the faith and the actions mix very well.
The story is laid out like a diary beginning January 31, 1959. I guess keeping a journal that is true to events at the time is that later on medical research changes some of the facts of the time. There are quite a lot of footnotes but I found them quite interesting.
I felt very much like Alan Lane only in an airport and not a train station, wanting a little book that would fit in my pocket as my bags are so heavy with books. So after I checked in the bags I pulled the Penguin from my pocket and began reading this 1959 tale, trying to find a quiet place that wasn’t playing musak in order to concentrate on the story at hand. (That is another topic altogether.)