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Greene on Capri: A Memoir


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About the Author

Shirley Hazzard's (1931-2016) books include The Evening of the Holiday, The Bay of Noon, and The Transit of Venus (winner of the 1981 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction). She lived in New York City, always maintaining her ties with Italy.


Since Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius found refuge and inspiration on this magnificent, awe-inspiring rocky island in the Bay of Naples, Capri has been an escape, a place of inspiration for rulers, artists and writers. Hazzard (The Transit of Venus, etc.) and her husband, Francis Steegmuller, who have visited the island over the course of 30 years, starting in the late 1960s, developed a lasting relationship with fellow islander Graham Greene. Hazzard writes evenhandedly of their relationship with the sometimes volatile, contrary and often solitary Greene, who, she notes, was "visibly present on Capri" but "had no air of belonging." Periodically during those years, the three met at a restaurant called Gemma, took walks or dined at Greene's cottage, Il Rosaio, where he was working on The Honorary Consul. Hazzard evokes the island's charm and the spell it cast on such intermittent resident ex-pats as Norman Douglas, Henry James, Harold Acton, Maxim Gorky and Lenin. On Greene, however, Capri's charms were often lost: Hazzard observes that food, for example, "remained something of a tyranny" for Greene, who rarely indulged in and almost never commented on the tastiness of the local cuisine. While Capri was an escape for Greene, it also allowed him to form a few intense relationships: he spent time here with Catherine Walston (whom he fictionalized in The End of the Affair); Yvonne Cloetta, his last lover; and good friend Dottoressa Elisabeth Moor, who was an inspiration for Aunt Augusta in Travels with My Aunt. While Norman Sherry's biography, The Life of Graham Greene, is more comprehensive, Hazzard's precise prose beautifully captures the literary tone of the island through the decades. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

In this beautifully written and compact jewel of a memoir, Hazzard (winner of the 1981 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction for Transit of Venus) gives a completely rounded, fully fleshed miniature of the British novelist Graham Greene. Seen through the shared times that she and her husband, writer Francis Steegmuller, spent with Greene on the tiny Italian island of Capri, from their meeting in 1962 through Greene's last visit in 1988, this narrative somehow manages to give even the uninitiated a thorough insight into Greene's complicated personality, life, and writings. Miraculously, Hazzard also interweaves this with much of the long history of Capri as a beautiful island retreat for rebels and artists of all types, particularly the English. Highly recommended, both for the writing and its many levels of content, this is essential reading for fans of Greene.ÄShelley Cox, Southern Illinois Univ., Carbondale Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

"A model not merely of memoir but of the writer's craft." --Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World"The 'fascinating and irresistible' portrait of a great but difficult man and a legary island." --The New York Times

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