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Greene On Capri

Shirley Hazzard

6 Reviews

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Biography: general, Prose: non-fiction

* The subtle portrait of a great but difficult man on the legendary island of Capri by the renowned author of THE TRANSIT OF VENUS

When friends die, one's own credentials change: one becomes a survivor. Graham Greene has already had biographers, one of whom has served him mightily. Yet I hope that there is room for the remembrance of a friend who knew him - not wisely, perhaps, but fairly well - on an island that was ''not his kind of place,'' but where he came season after season, year after year & where he, too, will be subsumed into the capacious story.'
For millennia the cliffs of Capri have sheltered pleasure-seekers & refugees alike, among them the emperors Augustus & Tiberius, Henry James, Rilke & Lenin, plus hosts of artists, eccentrics & outcasts. Here in the 1960s Graham Greene became friends with Shirley Hazzard & her husband, the writer Francis Steegmuller; their friendship lasted until Greene's death in 1991. In GREENE ON CAPRI, Hazzard uses their ever volatile intimacy as a prism through which to illuminate Greene's mercurial character, his work & talk & the extraordinary literary culture that long thrived on this ravishing, enchanted island.

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Praise for Greene On Capri

  • A little masterpiece of reminiscence... reading a personal sketch of this quality makes me think that perhaps the conventional biography is just a grandiose dump-bin for all those elements of life that do not matter - MAIL ON SUNDAY

  • Her observations are penetrating, her style is superb, and her range of literary reference is the equal of his. Marvellous - TIME OUT

  • Shirley Hazzard achieves an astonishing amount in less than 150 pages ... Her memoir, like the island it so fondly describes, is a real gem to which the reader will wish to return - SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

  • Shirley Hazzard is highly observant and alarmingly intelligent; she is also erudite, precise and morally scrupulous. Her short book is not only a joy to read for its lucid, thoughtful prose, but also a refreshing antidote to biographical overkill and presumption. As a picture of Graham Greene, it is like an Ingres portrait drawing: small, but miraculously clear - Spectator

  • An affectionate but not uncritical portrait of a companion who could be charming but also provocative... it is a convincing picture of a man who has been much and excellently written about but seldom with so astute and yet so warm an eye - Times Literary Supplement

  • Charming... succinct and satisfying... her memoir, like the island it so fondly describes, is a real gem to which the reader will wish to return - Sunday Telegraph

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Shirley Hazzard

Born in Sydney in 1931 to a Welsh father and Scottish mother. After the end of the Second World War her father joined the Foreign Service and was posted in Hong Kong and there at the age of 16 Shirley Hazzard began working for the British Combined Intelligence Services before the family moved to New Zealand. At twenty she moved to New York and there she worked for the United Nations throughout much of the 1950s, which included a posting to Naples, a city that became much loved by her. She married Francis Steegmuller, translator and biographer in 1963 and they divided their time between Italy and New York. They were introduced by Muriel Spark.
Shirley Hazzard wrote three non-fiction books including a memoir of her friendship with Graham Greene, Greene on Capri. Her last novel, The Great Fire, won the 2003 National Book Award for fiction and the Miles Franklin Award, was shortlisted for The Women's Prize for Fiction (then called The Orange) and named a Book of the Year by The Economist. She died on December 12 2016 aged 85.

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