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Authors: Graham Greene

Monsignor Quixote

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Graham Greene was born in 1904. On coming down from Balliol College, Oxford, he worked for four years as sub-editor on
The Times
. He established his reputation with his fourth novel,
Stamboul Train
. In 1935 he made a journey across Liberia, described in
Journey Without Maps
, and on his return was appointed film critic of the
. In 1926 he was received into the Roman Catholic Church and visited Mexico in 1938 to report on the religious persecution there. As a result he wrote
The Lawless Roads
and, later, his famous novel
The Power and the Glory. Brighton Rock
was published in 1938 and in 1940 he became literary editor of the Spectator. The next year he undertook work for the Foreign Office and was stationed in Sierra Leone from 1941 to 1943. This later produced the novel,
The Heart of the Matter
, set in West Africa.
As well as his many novels, Graham Greene wrote several collections of short stories, four travel books, six plays, three books of autobiography –
A Sort of Life, Ways of Escape
A World of My Own
(published posthumously) – two of biography and four books for children. He also contributed hundreds of essays, and film and book reviews, some of which appear in the collections
Mornings in the Dark
. Many of his novels and short stories have been filmed and
The Third Man
was written as a film treatment. Graham Greene was a member of the Order of Merit and a Companion of Honour. He died in April 1991.
The Man Within
It's a Battlefield
The Confidential Agent
The Ministry of Fear
The Third Man
The End of the Affair
Loser Takes All
The Quiet American
A Burnt-out Case
Travels with my Aunt
Dr Fischer of Geneva
The Bomb Party
The Human Factor
The Tenth Man
Stamboul Train
England Made Me
Brighton Rock
The Power and the Glory
The Heart of the Matter
The Fallen Idol
Our Man in Havana
The Comedians
The Honorary Consul
A Gun for Sale
The Captain and the Enemy
Short Stories
Collected Stories
Twenty-One Stories
The Last Word and Other Stories
May We Borrow Your Husband?
Journey Without Maps
The Lawless Roads
In Search of a Character
Getting to Know the General
Yours etc
Mornings in the Dark
Collected Essays
Collected Plays
A Sort of Life
Ways of Escape
Fragments of an Autobiography
A World of my Own
Lord Rochester's Monkey
An Impossible Woman
Children's Books
The Little Train
The Little Horse-Bus
The Little Steamroller
The Little Fire Engine


Monsignor Quixote

For Father Leopoldo Durán,
Aurelio Verde, Octavio Victoria
and Miguel Fernández,
my companions on the roads of Spain,
and to Tom Burns who inspired my
first visit there in 1946.
I acknowledge with gratitude my debt to J. M. Cohen's translation in the Penguin Classics of Cervantes'
Don Quixote
It happened this way. Father Quixote had ordered his solitary lunch from his housekeeper and set off to buy wine at a local cooperative eight kilometres away from El Toboso on the main road to Valencia. It was a day when the heat stood and quivered on the dry fields, and there was no air-conditioning in his little Seat 600 which he had bought, already second hand, eight years before. As he drove he thought sadly of the day when he would have to find a new car. A dog's years can be multiplied by seven to equal a man's, and by that calculation his car would still be in early middle age, but he noticed how already his parishioners began to regard his Seat as almost senile. ‘You can't trust it, Don Quixote,' they would warn him and he could only reply, ‘It has been with me through many bad days, and I pray God that it may survive me.' So many of his prayers had remained unanswered that he had hopes that this one prayer of his had lodged all the time like wax in the Eternal ear.
He could see where the main road lay by reason of the small dust puffs raised by the passing cars. As he drove he worried about the fate of the Seat which he called in memory of his ancestor ‘my Rocinante'. He couldn't bear the thought of his little car rusting on a scrap heap. He had sometimes thought of buying a small plot of land and leaving it as an inheritance to one of his parishioners on condition that a sheltered corner be reserved for his car to rest in, but there was not one parishioner whom he could trust to carry out his wish, and in any case a slow death by rust could not be avoided and perhaps a crusher at a scrapyard would be a more merciful end. Thinking of all this for the hundredth time he nearly ran into a stationary black Mercedes which was parked round the corner on the main road. He assumed that the dark-clothed figure at the wheel was taking a rest on the long drive from Valencia to Madrid, and he went on to buy his jar of wine at the collective without pausing; it was only as he returned that he became aware of a white Roman collar, like a handkerchief signalling distress. How on earth, he wondered, could one of his brother priests afford a Mercedes? But when he drew up he noticed a purple bib below the collar which denoted at least a monsignor if not a bishop.
Father Quixote had reason to be afraid of bishops; he was well aware how much his own bishop, who regarded him in spite of his distinguished ancestry as little better than a peasant, disliked him. ‘How can he be descended from a fictional character?' he had demanded in a private conversation which had been promptly reported to Father Quixote.
The man to whom the bishop had spoken asked with surprise, ‘A
‘A character in a novel by an overrated writer called Cervantes – a novel moreover with many disgusting passages which in the days of the Generalissimo would not even have passed the censor.'
‘But, Your Excellency, you can see the house of Dulcinea in El Toboso. There it is marked on a plaque; the house of Dulcinea.'
‘A trap for tourists. Why,' the bishop went on with asperity, ‘Quixote is not even a Spanish patronymic. Cervantes himself says the surname was probably Quixada or Quesada or even Quexana, and on his deathbed Quixote calls himself Quixano.'
‘I can see that you have read the book then, Your Excellency.'
‘I have never got beyond the first chapter. Although of course I have glanced at the last. My usual habit with novels.'
‘Perhaps some ancestor of the father was called Quixada or Quexana.'
‘Men of that class have no ancestors.'
It was with trepidation then that Father Quixote introduced himself to the high clerical figure in the distinguished Mercedes. ‘My name is Padre Quixote, monsignor. Can I be of any service?'
‘You certainly can, my friend. I am the Bishop of Motopo' – he spoke with a strong Italian accent.
BOOK: Monsignor Quixote
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