It’s Saturday and it’s Easter but this is urgent. I’ll make it quick. I’m currently reading Graham Greene: A Life in Letters (it’s a great book!) and this morning, as I neared the end, I came across these brutal letters that effectively ended Greene’s decaying friendship with fellow writer Anthony Burgess. There’s much to marvel at but I can’t quite get over the “(not one of your best)” near the end of the first letter. That must’ve hurt. (FYI, the book that Burgess dedicated to Greene was Devil of a State in 1961.)
Enjoy your weekend.
June 13 ‘88
My dear Anthony Burgess,
I hear you have been attacking me rather severely on the French television programme Apostrophes because of my great age & in the French magazine Lire because of my correspondence with my friend Kim Philby.
I know how difficult to it is to avoid inaccuracies when one becomes involved in journalism, but as you thought it relevant to attack me because of my age (I don’t see the point) you should have checked your facts. I happen to be 83 not 86 & trust that you will safely reach that age too.
In Lire you seem to have been quoted as writing that I had been in almost daily correspondence with Philby before his death. In fact I received ten letters from him in the course of nearly 20 years. You must be very naïf if you believe our letters were clandestine on either side. Were you misinformed or have you caught the common disease in journalism of dramatising at the cost of truth?
Never mind. I admired your three earliest novels & I remember with pleasure your essay on my work in your collection Urgent Copy, your article on me last May in the Sunday Telegraph & the novel (not one of your best) which you dedicated to me.
Later that day…
I have now received another cutting in which you claim I told you of an aggrieved husband shouting through my window (difficult as I live on the fourth floor). You are either a liar or you are unbalanced and should see a doctor. I prefer to think that.