Graham Greene was one of the outstanding writers of the twentieth century. He will be remembered for his wonderful books; books such as Our Man in Havana, Brighton Rock, The Heart of the Matter, and The Power and the Glory.
Shortly before he died he was visited by two women at the hospital in Vevey, Switzerland. One was his daughter Caroline. The other was Yvonne Cloetta and he asked her to prepare his dream diary and to publish it following his death. This posthumous book he would call A World of My Own after a quote from Heraclitus of Ephesus (500 BC): The waking have one world in common, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own.
Greene kept a dream diary for almost twenty-five years. The result ran to more than 800 pages. He began the diary in 1965 and completed it in 1989. The published selection, chosen by Greene, runs to 116 pages. It was published in 1992, the year after Greene's death.
A few of my short stories have been drawn from [dream] memories, Greene admits. In Dream of a Strange Land he recorded his dream experience as a leper seeking treatment in Sweden. Only the sound of a shot with which the printed tale ends has been added, he reveals. Another story The Root of All Evil takes place in 19th century Germany. In this story he changed nothing after he woke.
There is another side to dreams that interests Graham Greene and this is when dreams contain what he calls scraps of the future. He points us to J W Dunne's interesting and investigative book Experiment with Time. I note time and again incidents ... a few days after the dream, Greene says. He is convinced Dunne was right when he claims that some dreams can foreshadow future events.
In his dream diary Graham Greene recorded a dream in which he found himself writing a poem for a competition in a magazine called Time and Tide. It was about my own death, he tells his readers
The Room Next Door
From the room next door
The TV talks to me
Of sickness, nettlerash, and herbal tea.
My breath is folded up
Like sheets in lavender.
The end for me
Arrives like nursery tea.
(title idea and verse construction by P-i-R)
When World War I broke out Graham Greene was a young boy. But in A World of My Own he records two dreams about the so-called Great War. The dream that interests Poet-in-Residence is the one where Graham Greene finds himself in the body of Wilfred Owen the poet. In fact he is Owen. He is wearing a steel helmet and an officers uniform and he is in a dug-out. There he begins to recite a verse he has called Givenchy to a girl in a photograph.
Imagine, dear, the shallow trench,
An impregnable redoubt
For this good night and more...
But suddenly the weariness of the war overcomes him and he begins, as Wilfred Owen, to weep. And as he sobs a voice cries out, "The Germans have dropped gas bombs..."
In her foreword written at Vevey in October 1991 Yvonne Cloetta writes,-
In The Power and the Glory you wrote: 'The glittering worlds lay there in space like a promise; the world was not the universe. Somewhere Christ might not have died.'
If such a place exists, you have certainly found it.
A World of My Own a dream diary
Penguin Books, Reinhardt Books, Alfred A Knopf
c) 1993, 1992, 1992