Dangerous Edge—A Life of Graham Greene

If you’re curious to learn more about Graham Greene’s life and what made him tick, check out Dangerous Edge, a 70-minute PBS documentary, which originally aired 03/29/2013. It’s well worth watching and, while it moves along at a fast clip and highlights dramatic biographical details—including (to name a few) Greene’s bipolar disorder, suicide attempts, adulteries, loyalty to his friend Kim Philby—the film is more nuanced than this somewhat breathless promo (featuring, I imagine, an excerpt from Greene’s fiction) might suggest. And original footage is great.

Below, I’ve cut and pasted a summary from the Internet Movie Database, which fails to note that Shirley Hazzard also weighs in:

DangerousEdgeThis film is a portrait of a writer Graham Greene. It explores how Greene’s life both inspired great writing and drove him to attempt suicide. He was a British spy, a doubting Catholic, and a manic-depressive who wrote critically-acclaimed, best- selling novels, including The Quiet American, Brighton Rock, The End of the Affair and The Third Man. This documentary weaves Greene’s novels and movies into the story of his life: the struggle between good and evil. . .love and betrayal; it reveals an extraordinary man who traveled the globe to escape the boredom of ordinary existence and became a writer addicted to danger. The film is a journey in search of Greene’s most elusive character: himself. Sir Derek Jacobi narrates the film and actor Bill Nighy reads from Greene’s writing. Other major participants include novelist and screenwriter Sir John Mortimer, novelist and former SIS agent John Le Carre, award-winning literary critic and novelist David Lodge, acclaimed writer Paul Theroux, former CIA operative and author of The Great Game Frederick Hitz, Greene’s wife, Vivien, and his daughter Caroline Bourget.

From PBS–About the Program

Graham Greene’s 50 books spanned seven decades and sold tens of millions of copies in countless languages. More than 100 of his stories have been adapted for television, theater and film — some, such as The Quiet American and The End of the Affair, twice.

As a journalist for 60 years, Greene covered the most dangerous events of the past century: Kenya’s Mau Mau Rebellion, the Vietnam War, Haiti’s “nightmare republic,” the rise of Castro and the fall of the Soviet Union. [Note: If you watch the documentary, brief mention of Haiti and The Comedians begins around 49 minutes into the film.]

body_dangerous-edge_1.jpg

Here, Greene receives the Catholic Book Award for the novel, The End of the Affair.

Greene’s writing captures the essence of what it means to be human: The struggle between faith and doubt, love and betrayal, action and inaction, the individual and the state. Greene famously warned writers to avoid personal, political and ideological ties: A writer must “have a sliver of ice in his heart,” he said, and “be a piece of grit in the State machinery.”

While Greene’s work and influence are apparent, Greene the man remains an enigma. Despite repeated suicide attempts, he lived to be 86. He was a British spy who befriended traitor Kim Philby. He was a committed Catholic who referred to himself as a “Catholic agnostic.” He craved anonymity, yet his writing made him famous.

Greene attributed such incongruities to manic depression. Rather than allowing his condition to cripple him, however, he channeled it into enormous creativity, and from his death wish ultimately sprang an acute awareness of the value of life.

Where to find the DVD

Dangerous Edge is not offered through Netflix streaming, but it is available if your subscription covers DVDs. The DVD is also available at the BPL, and several copies are currently available through the Minuteman System:

Library Call No. STATUS
 FRAMINGHAM/Audiovisual  DVD B GREENE, G. Dangerous  AVAILABLE
 MEDFORD/Audiovisual  DVD/Biography  AVAILABLE
 WELLESLEY/Audiovisual  DVD BIOGRAPHY Greene, G.  AVAILABLE
 WELLESLEY/Audiovisual  DVD BIOGRAPHY Greene, G.  Out

 

 

The menace of Papa Doc

François Duvalier was elected president of Haiti in 1957, running on a populist/black nationalist platform. He rapidly consolidated power through constitutional changes, violence and oppression through the use of the Tonton Macoute militia and the creation of a personality cult intertwining nationalism and voodoo. He declared himself “president for life” in 1964 and ruled until his death in 1971.

This photo was taken by Robert W. Kelley in 1957 for Time Life Pictures:

Papa Doc, 1957

Papa Doc, 1957

My guess is that the following 1971 newsreel about the Francois Duvalier dictatorship will shed a lot of light on Papa Doc. I can only hope that the off-putting voiceover (that appears at least upfront in the video) becomes easier to bear as the film progresses:

A Greene “character” we feel, but never see

I believe the fact that Papa Doc never physically appears in the novel enhances the sense of menace. Interesting to note that in the passage, below, Greene refers to “the character of Doctor Duvalier’s rule.” As a side note, in “The Comedians” film, we see Papa Doc only very briefly in the background, surrounded by thugs as he begins to ascend stairs.

Here’s an excerpt from the dedicatory “Dear Frere” letter upfront in the book:

“Poor Haiti itself and the character of Doctor Duvalier’s rule are not invented, the latter not even blackened for dramatic effect. Impossible to deepen that night. The Tontons Macoute are full of men more evil than Concasseur. . . .”

 

Papa Doc hosts a reception at the Palace, 1963

Papa Doc hosts a reception at the Palace, 1963

Pap_Doc_Unicef_Stamp_1963

Duvalier UNICEF stamp, 1963

Papa and Bébé

Papa and Bébé

 

 

Fatal Assistance

“We learned a few years back what their counsel meant”

A morning email from JamesC prompted me to search out the scene, toward the end of the novel (Part III, Chapter 2, 2), where Dr. Magiot pays Brown a surprise visit. Magiot has received a message from Philipot and wants to discuss next steps with the hotelier.

Magiot says:

“‘I will make you a bet of ten to one that, in a matter of months, relations are healed and the American Ambassador returns. You forget—Papa Doc is a bulwark against Communism. There will be no Cuba and no Bay of Pigs here. Of course there are other reasons. Papa Doc’s lobbyist in Washington is the lobbyist for certain American-owned mills (they grind grey flour for the people out of imported surplus wheat—it is astonishing how much money can be made out of the poorest of the poor with a little ingenuity).’

The Flour Mill, Jacmal, Haiti, photo by Rodney Smith

The Flour Mill, Jacmal, Haiti, photo by Rodney Smith

“‘And then there’s the great beef-racket. The poor here can eat meat no more than they can eat cake, so I suppose they don’t suffer when all the beef that exists goes to the American market—it doesn’t matter to the importers that there are no standards here of cattle-raising—it goes into tins for underdeveloped countries paid for by American aid, of course. It wouldn’t affect the Americans if this trade ceased, but it would affect the particular Washington politician who receives one cent for every pound exported. . . . We are an evil slum floating a few miles from Florida, and no American will help us with arms or money or counsel. We learned a few years back what their counsel meant. There was a resistance group here who who were in touch with a sympathizer in the American Embassy: they were promised all kinds of moral support, but the information went straight back to the CIA and from the CIA by a very direct route to Papa Doc.'”

duvalier-58-life-2

 

Update on US aid and counsel

Now, key content from JamesC’s email:

This GAO study on Haitian aid may be a bit dry for readers of The Comedians, but it does, albeit in arid government prose, underline the serious shortcomings (and worse) of the USAID program for earthquake recovery in Haiti. The quake was nearly four and a half years ago (12 January 2010).

This Wall Street Journal Opinion piece by Latin America columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady is decidedly more blunt, and may risk diversion of Monday’s discussion from a literary to more of a political conversation. (Not that this and many other Greene novels aren’t intensely political, at least in part.)

You may want to judge how conducive such posts are to our discussion, as literature, of a book set in the years around 1957-65.

Still . . .

It’s not that Greene isn’t saying that US-Haiti relations had long been and at that time remained troubled by exploitation, corruption, croneyism, and sometimes frank intervention — and likely would remain so. Indeed, the recent GAO conclusions about the failure of the housing relief program do seem but a mere variation on the Duvalierville visit that Brown and Smith make.

Duvalierville_Entrances

Pity these poor people who have so very little and even that little is siphoned away from them. The earth shakes down their homes and workplaces, international aid dollars are filched on a massive scale, and the UN peacekeepers bring them cholera.

Nice life. No wonder they risk all to flee in their unseaworthy boats.

Betrayal

I agree with James that we will want to stay focused on The Comedians Monday evening, and I’m thinking one topic we might explore is the theme of betrayal, which runs strong through Graham Greene’s novel, as well as through Haitian history.

Finally, I’m glad JamesC  shared these ancillary materials because the WSJ  piece alerted me to another film I’ll want to see:

 

“The Catholic Novelist”

For added texture…

Peacock_feathers

“When it suits him, the peacock will face you. Then you will see in a green-bronze arch around him a galaxy of gazing, haloed suns. This is the moment when most people are silent. ‘Amen! Amen!’ an old Negro woman once cried. . . .” –Flannery O’Connor, “King of the Birds”

Flannery O’Connor

“The type of mind that can understand good fiction is not necessarily the educated mind, but it is at all times the kind of mind that is willing to have its sense of mystery deepened by contact with reality, and its sense of reality deepened by contact with mystery.”

Flannery O’Connor, “The Nature and Aim of Fiction

“A Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South”

"The universe of the Catholic fiction writer. . .is founded on the Fall, the Redemption, and the Judgment. . .doctrines the modern secular world does not believe in."

“The universe of the Catholic fiction writer. . .is founded on the Fall, the Redemption, and the Judgment. . .doctrines the modern secular world does not believe in.”

Finding it difficult to escape Greeneland last night, I pulled from my shelves Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners and turned to “The Catholic Novelist In the Protestant South.” Thinking that some of what I read at least semi-relates to our imminent Comedians conversation, I have collected a few excerpts here:

“Unfortunately, the word Christian is no longer reliable. It has come to mean anyone with a golden heart. And a golden heart would be a positive interference with the writing of fiction.”

“Fiction is the most impure and the most modest and the most human of the arts. It is closest to man in his sin and his suffering and his hope, and it is often rejected by Catholics for the very reasons that make it what it is. It escapes any orthodoxy we might set up for it, because its dignity is an imitation of our own, based like our own on free will, a free will that operates even in the teeth of divine displeasure.”

“I won’t go far into the subject of whether such a thing as a Catholic novel is possible or not. I feel that this is a bone which has been picked bare without giving anybody any nourishment. I am simply going to assume that novelists who are deeply Catholic will write novels which you may call Catholic if the Catholic aspects of the novel are what interest you. Such a novel may be characterized in any number of other ways, and perhaps the more ways the better.”

“We are limited human beings, and the novel is a product of our best limitations. We write with the whole personality, and any attempt to circumvent it, whether this be an effort to rise above belief or above background, is going to result in a reduced approach to reality.”

“Conrad wrote that the artist ‘descends within himself, and in that region of stress and strife, if he be deserving and fortunate, he finds the terms of his appeal.'”

Flannery O'Connor

“Possibility and limitation mean about the same thing.”

Graham Greene

“I should never have gone to this funeral, I should never have come to this country, I was a stranger. My mother had taken a black lover, she had been involved, but somewhere years ago I had forgotten how to be involved in anything. Somehow, somewhere I had lost completely the capacity to be concerned. Once I looked out and thought I saw Philipot beckoning to me through the glass. It was an illusion.”

The Comedians, Part 2, Chapter 2, 1

“…saved by my disloyalty”

Reading Greene and, subsequently, a bit of Flannery O’Connor (see below), I find myself wading into waters I’m ill-equipped to sound. Nevertheless, a topic I’d love to explore with you all is how faith and doubt shape characters and events in The Comedians.

Graham and Vivien Greene, Catholic converts, both

Graham and Vivien Greene, Catholic converts, both

If you’ve read biographical basics at Wikipedia and elsewhere, you’ll know that although Graham Greene converted to Catholicism in 1926, when he was 21 years old, he disliked being typed “a Catholic novelist” and, according to Jessica Sequeira in “Faith Noir—On Graham Greene and the Catholic Novel,” Greene wrote,

“Being a member of the Catholic Church would present me with grave problems as a writer if I were not saved by my disloyalty.”

Sequeira continues,

“Seeking to define himself as a novelist first, Greene rebelled against the label of Catholic writer and all the heavy-handed religious expectations that accompanied it. His prose takes on a self-lacerating quality, rubbing at the raw wounds of skepticism . . . .”

For discussion

Flannery O’Connor, in “The Catholic Novelist In the Protestant South,” an essay you can find in the posthumously assembled 1969 collection Mystery and Manners, wrote:

“Alienation was once a diagnosis, but in much of the fiction of our time it has become an ideal. The modern hero is the outsider. His experience is rootless. He can go anywhere. He belongs nowhere. Being alien to nothing, he ends up being alienated from any kind of community based on common tastes and interests. The borders of his country are the sides of his skull.”

Does  O’Connor’s characterization of the alienated “modern hero” apply to narrator Brown? What about the other comedians?

To what extent were “the borders of his country” the sides of Brown’s skull?

To what extent were “the borders of his country” the sides of Brown’s skull?

“The Comedians” timelines by JamesC

First, a little background context:

Haiti timeline before Greene's "comedians" disembark at Port au Prince

Haiti timeline before Greene’s “comedians” disembark at Port au Prince

 

Big thanks to JamesC for working out the following timelines. James’ latest version appears first, just beneath the Preface.

Preface

Narrator Brown’s “present” is 1965; the rest is flashback

The principal anchor point to get the sequence straight is to realize that Brown is looking back and writing at some point not long after the US occupation of the Dominican Republic (which shares with Haiti the island of Hispaniola) that began on 28 April 1965. That is the present; the rest is flashback (sometimes flashback within flashback is at work: Part Three [4] ii is the prime examplar of this as Brown sits in the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel).

All I would add is that the following paragraphs are an iterative attempt to sort out and make sense of the novel’s fragmented and shuttling time sequence and to do so by identifying time-and-event-related references in the text (so there’s a bit of repetition as I stumbled about). These text references are then plotted against known historic milestones in US, Dominican, and Haitian history (with a couple of forays into events of the 1930s and ’40s: e.g., Imphal; Brown’s 1934 meeting with his mother). The exercise was (at least for me) useful in understanding the shifting events — but of most value in appreciating Greene’s striking craft as a story teller, even apart from the art of his characterizations, his themes, and his political acuity (whether one shares his views or not).

First PSYWAR battalion trooper hands newspaper to Dominican civilian

First PSYWAR battalion trooper hands newspaper to Dominican civilian

Timeline 3

The time line really is like some knot one has to pick apart, isn’t it? As to Greene’s choice of the 1948 US election for Smith’s moment of fame, here are some thoughts that come from thinking about Brown’s comings and goings in Haiti. I think ’48 does gibe well for the reasons below.

Brown, of course, makes two arrivals in Haiti: the first is when he comes at his mother’s invitation (he had seen her but once, in Paris in 1934, since she left him at the College of the Visitation in Monte Carlo [Part One [3] ii]) when he comes alone by plane after a stop in Kingston, Jamaica; the second is when he returns from the US on board the Medea after fleeing Haiti the first time.

Brown’s First Arrival in Haiti:

Brown’s earlier arrival in Haiti (his first as we are told in the Part Two flashback concerning his mother’s invitation and its consequences) occurs, of course, in the run-up to Duvalier’s election in September 1957. That election campaign began some time after December 1956 when the military dictator Magloire had to flee Haiti, following his loss of popularity over the theft of recovery funds collect to respond to damage from Hurricane Hazel (some 14 months earlier in October 1954 — Hazel is mention in The Comedians, as I’m sure you will have noticed). Dr. Magiot’s reference to fearing the possible election of a country doctor unknown to Brown makes it clear Brown’s first arrival in Haiti must have been sometime in 1957, but enough before September to make Duvalier unknown to Brown.

Brown’s Second Arrival in Haiti:

Smith’s visit coincides with Brown’s return to Haiti (his second arrival) on board the Medea. That return is after Brown had flown, at some indeterminate date (though it could not have been very long before, because his hotel staff had not completely dissolved) to New Orleans and on to NYC. While it is hard to say just when that return would have been, yet, an educated guess is possible — and it’s not likely to be too far off the mark: If Brown’s second escape from Haiti to the Dominican (where he is aided in Santo Domingo by Smith, who happens to be staying at the Ambassador Hotel) can be assigned (and evidence in the text suggests it can be) to sometime in D.R. President Juan Bosch’s seven-month term, then the date of Brown’s second escape from Haiti must be (may be?) sometime between late-February and late-September 1963, when Bosch was still in office and not yet ousted by a military coup.

Judging from just how quickly events roll out after Brown, Jones, and Smith arrive in Port-au-Prince, the Medea must have docked some time in the second half of 1962 — as near as I can guess (and guess it is).

Why Greene chose the 1948 Truman-Dewey election year into which to inject Smith’s splinter candidacy, instead of the Ike-Adlai elections of ’52 and ’56, I can only guess. Possibly, being 14 years and four election cycles back, the ’48 election was long just enough back to seem vaguely within memory, but still not sharply recalled, at least as to who the splinter candidates (save Strom Thurmond) were. In 1962, Truman was still alive and in the news (recall his famous open spat with JFK at the Los Angeles convention), and Truman had been out of the White House a mere nine years around the time the Medea would have docked. (Truman was still alive when The Comedians was
published, though his health had been in decline since a fall in 1964.) There were a number of splinter candidates in 1948, including a Prohibition party candidate (Watson) and a Socialist VP-candidate named Tucker P. Smith (a name that somehow resonates with Smith, our Vegetarian party character).

That’s my best guess in trying to unravel Greene’s time line. I must confess I find it an enjoyable brain-teaser to sort it out, because the historical events all lie in memory.

Graham_Greene


 Timeline 2

Here is a revision to the time line proposed in an earlier email (see below):

The revision concerns only the first segment of his in-Haiti years that Brown describes: these two in-Haiti segments are, first, his initial arrival in Port-au-Prince at his mother’s invitation and, second, his return there after his flight to New Orleans and thence to New York.

(The back-and-forth shuttling of Brown’s account and of his reminiscences of his early life, his pre-Haiti years, is a separate matter. That he held a position of some responsibility in war-time London suggests his age circa 1940 was likely mid-30’s or so, perhaps as much as 40; but that matter is left vague. At the time he is narrating his story in the novel, he twice or more describes himself as old. As we know, he writes just post-LBJ’s invasion of Santo Domingo in 1965. Brown would seem to be 60-ish, suggesting a birth year of circa 1905; but that too is vague. Incidentally, Greene was born toward the end of 1904 — not to identify author and character with each other, however.)

Back to the dating of Brown’s initial arrival in Port-au-Prince:

A couple of hints in Part One [3] iii (pp. 75 and 91 of the Viking Uniform Edition) help to place the time of Brown’s first arrival in Haiti at his mother’s invitation. Looking back from 1965 (the year US troops were sent to Santo Domingo), Brown describes his initial arrival thus: “Port-au-Prince was a very different place a few years ago.” Then, he elaborates, though the capital was dirty and corrupt, even beggars had at least some hope. Later in that same subsection, after he is settled in the Trianon, Brown dines with Dr. Magiot who expresses his fear of impending political changes: “I fear a small country doctor. His name would mean nothing to you now. I only hope you don’t see it one day stuck up in electric lights over the city. If that day comes I promise you I shall run to cover.” This would date Brown’s first arrival and his inheritance of the hotel Trianon as not long before Dr. François Duvalier was first elected and took office as President of Haiti in September and October 1957. (With the backing of the military, Duvalier had run a populist, noiriste campaign against his mulatto opponent. This was before military elements tried in mid-1958, to oust him in a failed coup and before he supplanted the military with his rural militia, the MVSN or Tonton
Macoute.)

The later events — following Brown’s return to Haiti from the US — can fairly be placed in the late JFK and early LBJ years (1962-65). But again, save for being able to match Brown’s references to historic events (Bosch’s presidency of the Dominican Republic and LBJ’s dispatch of forces), the time line is hazy.

greene


Timeline 1

Do others find the time line of The Comedians a bit hard to unravel? I know I did and so I tried to sort it out.

Here’s what I’ve been able to unravel:

It appears that, at the start of Part One, Brown, as narrator, is looking back on his Haitian experience and is writing in Santo Domingo some time after April 28, 1965.

That was the day when the US Marines and 82d Airborne were dispatched to Santo Domingo by LBJ to stop the civil war that had broken out between the junta and the supporters of Dominican President Juan Bosch, who had two years earlier been ousted from office by a junta after his brief term from February 27 to September 25, 1963.  (As a time benchmark, Bosch’s ouster was about a month before the Diem brothers were overthrown in Saigon and just two months before JFK’s death.)  Bosch himself had become president in 1963 after the nearly two-year period of unrest in the Dominican following the assassination of President Raphael Trujillo on May 30, 1961.  That was about a month after the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.

Greene tips us as to the rough timing, but does not make it explicit.

At the start of Part Three [4] i, Brown looks back to describe his trip to meet Schuyler Wilson at the mining estate:  “[…] there were no roadblocks in those days in the Dominican Republic and all was peace — there was no military junta — the American Marines had not yet landed.”  The only period in Dominican history that answers this description of Brown’s trip to the mining estate can be the February-September 1963 rule of President Juan Bosch.  This interval would mesh, if just barely, with the undetailed references in The Comedians to deteriorating US-Haiti relations:  namely, Duvalier’s barring, on June 14, 1963, the return of US Ambassador Raymond Thurston, who had gone to Washington for consultations about declining relations (the US had earlier maintained that as Duvalier’s elective term had ended on May 15, he thus was no longer constitutionally in office — a position that enraged Duvalier).

(Background:  François Duvalier, of course, took power in Haiti in October 1957.  After an unsuccessful 1958 coup against him, Duvalier in 1959 created his paramilitary force to counterbalance and then supplant the unreliable army, calling it the Milice Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (National Security Volunteer Militia), more commonly known as the Tonton Macoute (or TTM — Tontons Macoute as Greene prefers).  It grew quickly to largely replace the army.)

So, given that the TTM are already in firm control when Brown arrives, given further that he must have taken a couple of years to put the Trianon on a sound footing, only to see it decline (prompting his trip of some length to New York, traveling through Idlewild, which he calls it at the end of Part Three [4] i, and which was not renamed JFK until December 1963), and given finally that his trip to the Dominican mining estate had to be during Bosch’s 1963 term, the events of the book must (to avoid anachronism) unfold somewhere between 1960 and mid-1963.  The comment in Greene’s “Dear Frere” introduction suggests he may have revised the novel a bit between the April 1965 Dominican invasion and its publication — which may account for the haziness of its time line.

Graham-Greene

‘The Agronomist’—A documentary

“Elegy for the unflinching conscience of Haiti”

Another documentary–this one profiling activists Jean Dominique and Michele Montas, owners/operators of Radio Haiti, the country’s only free radio station–is worth a look.

New York Times review

Here’s a cut and paste from A.O. Scott’s review for the New York Times:

Excellent documentary about Jean Dominique, activist owner and operator of Haiti's only free radio station until his assassination in April 2000

Jonathan Demme documentary profiling Haiti activist Jean Dominique until his assassination in April 2000

“Dominique and Ms. Montas both grew up as part of Haiti’s light-skinned, Catholic, French-speaking elite, but their rapport with the nation’s poor — especially its peasants, whose plight Dominique discovered during his first career as an agronomist — is unmarked by either bourgeois guilt or paternalist condescension. Radio Haiti Inter was the first station to broadcast in Creole, the first language of the county’s majority, and Dominique’s advocacy on behalf of peasants, laborers and other disenfranchised citizens frequently got him in trouble with the country’s rulers.

“In the 1960’s, Papa Doc Duvalier shut down a cinema club Dominique had founded because it was showing ”Night and Fog,” Alain Resnais’s movie about the Nazis, with parallels that were perhaps all too clear to the strongman. (If you see a good film correctly, Dominique notes, giving ”The Agronomist” a potential slogan, the grammar of that film is a political act.) In subsequent decades Radio Haiti Inter was subject to raids, violence and harassment, especially in the tumultuous 1980’s, when the two-generation Duvalier dictatorship was finally kicked out.

“Mr. Demme retraces the ups and downs of the next decade — through the election of Mr. Aristide, the coup that removed him and the American intervention that returned him to power — as every advance toward democracy seems to yield compromise, brutality and failure.”

Movie trailer

Movie Excerpt

This 5.5-minute excerpt zeros in on human rights in Haiti under US Presidents Carter and Reagan.

1948 US Presidential Campaigns

Candidate Smith

First, a tidbit to consider from the early pages of the novel when we first meet 1948 Presidential Candidate Smith:

“‘Anyone can run for President,’ the Candidate explained with gentleness and humility. ‘That is the pride of our democracy.'”

I’m wondering how this relates to the novel’s epigraph [‘. . .Aspects are within us, and who seems Most kingly is the King’], as well as whether the Smiths’ pride in US democracy changes over the course of The Comedians.

Vegetarians

The American Vegetarian Party candidate received received only 4 votes but won full-page coverage in Life

The American Vegetarian Party candidate received received only 4 votes in 1948, but garnered full-page coverage in Life

Trolling through Life archives yielded a page highlighting the 1948 US presidential candidacy of John Maxwell of the American Vegetarian Party.

And here’s a bit of background from Sins of the Flesh–A History of Ethical Vegetarian Thought:

“In 1948 Symon Gould of the American Vegetarian founded the American Vegetarian Party with John Maxwell as presidential candidate, far less to make any serious incursions into the dominant two-party system of the United States and far more to advertise the vegetarian agenda to the American public. The ploy worked. Newspapers covered the presidential candidates and reported on the vegetarian program, including Maxwell’s adamant opposition to the killing of animals for food, fun, or fashion.”

Below, a screen grab from a page in Life, April 26, 1948:

What, no Yeastrel, Candidate Maxwell?

What, no Yeastrel, Candidate Maxwell?

 

580VegetarianPin

 

Progressives

Thanks to MaryH for sending along the following:

“Regarding the 1948 US presidential election please don’t forget the candidacy of Henry Wallace of the Progressive Party for which Ben Shahn made the attached campaign poster. (It is hanging in my home.)”

1948 US progressive Party poster, Ben Shahn

1948 US progressive Party poster, Ben Shahn

 

Ben_Shahn_Poster_Detail

JamesC’s response:

“‘You’re quite right about Henry A. Wallace, Mary.

‘FDR’s former Agriculture Secretary and Roosevelt’s controversial 3rd-term VP (whom Roosevelt dropped in 1944 in favor of Truman but then curiously reappointed to his 4th term cabinet as Commerce Secretary) also appeared on the ballot in ’48 for the Progressive/American Labor Party against Truman and Dewey et al. (getting about 2.4 % of the popular vote). Wallace, a student, as a little boy, of botanist George Washington Carver, may have been enough of the sort of decent but unconventional or off-beat political figure to have suggested the Smith character to Greene — but who knows? He abandoned his left-of-center views and publicly supported Nixon in the 1960 election. He died in 1965, right around the time The Comedians was published and six months after LBJ’s Santo Domingo occupation.'”