My Man in Antibes:

Getting to Know Graham Greene

When a writer tracks down his literary hero, Graham Greene, who is living quietly on the shores of the Mediterranean, the author finds his new friend is every bit as complex as the fiction he’s famous for.

While living in southern France in 1972, Michael Mewshaw engineered a meeting with Graham Greene. Mewshaw was an ambitious young journalist and novelist, Greene was an internationally revered elder statesman of letters. The pair became fast friends and corresponded for the next twenty years. My Man in Antibes is an intimate portrait of what it was like to eat, drink, and gossip with one of the most revered—and complicated—authors of the twentieth century.

Growing up Catholic with literary aspirations, Mewshaw believed Greene was the author to emulate. Not only did Greene demonstrate how religious belief and church dogma could be subjects for fiction, he also wrote murder mysteries and political thrillers where his characters’ inner conflicts played out dramatically in exotic settings. Under Greene’s sway, Mewshaw traveled through Mexico like the whiskey priest in Greene’s The Power and the Glory and honeymooned at the Hotel Oloffson in Haiti, the setting of The Comedians.

When Mewshaw tracked down Greene in Antibes, he found the author was far from a reclusive, close-mouthed figure: Greene garrulously recounted tales about the many women in his life—and husbands of those women—as well as his extraordinary interviews with political figures such as Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh. Over the next two decades, Mewshaw and Greene ate meals together, discussed their travels, and talked about writers they knew in common, such as Anthony Burgess, Shirley Hazzard, and Gore Vidal.

While young Mewshaw looked up to the world-weary Greene, their relationship was never simply that of mentor and mentee. My Man in Antibes bristles with misunderstandings, arguments, and one young writer’s desire to get to know a legendary older writer who, in many ways, actively sought to remain unknowable.

PRAISE

“This is a fond but never less than candid memoir of a defining figure of his time. Graham Green was calculatedly elusive, but Michael Mewshaw has given us a glimpse behind the altar at the man divested of his vestments. Wonderfully entertaining.”
John Banville, author of April in Spain

“Graham Greene, top British novelist of the twentieth century, his writing by turns (and often all at once) political, romantic, thrilling, satiric, curt, hilarious, his life full of old-school adventure, possibly even espionage, plenty of danger in any case: what more fascinating friend could a person have? And what better chronicler than Graham Greene’s friend Michael Mewshaw, eager young novelist in the orbit of the master, more and more trusted as time went on, closer than almost anyone got. This elegant account of decades of often warm, sometimes prickly companionship offers fascination, revelation, laughter, and ultimately pathos. A beautiful memoir of parallel lives, My Man in Antibes kept me turning pages into the wee hours, crisp glass of gin at my side.”
Bill Roorbach, author of Lucky Turtle

“Michael Mewshaw, an award-winning novelist, has already chronicled his fascinating friendships with Gore Vidal and Pat Conroy. Here he combines and contrasts the remarkable story of his deprived upbringing with that of an older and already established Catholic writer: Graham Greene. Mewshaw’s account of his long friendship with a notoriously private man joins Shirley Hazzard’s memorable account of Greene on Capri in providing an intriguing, entertaining and enlightening glimpse behind the mask of one of twentieth century literature’s most enigmatic authors. I found the book most fascinating.”
Miranda Seymour, author of I Used to Live Here Once: The Haunted Life of Jean Rhys

“The novelist Michael Mewshaw’s infatuation with Graham Greene, with whom he had a long and rocky friendship, is riveting. By artfully interweaving his own story with that of Greene’s, he shows his literary idol in all his complexity, as combative, querulous, secretive, unreliable, yet possessed of remarkable strength and courage. In a prose at times as vivid and dramatic as that of its subject, and with a comparably economical sense of place, Mewshaw’s memoir offers valuable lessons about the limits of the life Greene chose to lead, a life he himself has long admired and emulated.”
Zachary Leader, author of The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005

Michael Mewshaw’s five-decade career includes award-winning fiction, nonfiction, literary criticism, travel writing, and investigative journalism. In his memoirs, Mewshaw has written about authors such as William Styron, James Jones, Paul Bowles, Anthony Burgess, Pat Conroy, Gore Vidal, and Italo Calvino. He has published hundreds of articles, reviews, and literary profiles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Nation, Newsweek, Harper’s, and many other international outlets. Friends with Graham Greene for the last twenty years of Greene’s life, Mewshaw’s correspondence with the author is archived in its entirety at Boston College and the University of Texas.