Posted in Short Stories

Graham Greene: Dream of a Strange Land

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I drew the Eight of Spades this week for my Deal Me In 2014 project which gave me my final Graham Greene story of the year, “Dream of a Strange Land”.  Greene’s work has been hit and miss.  When it’s a hit, I’ve really enjoyed his work.  When it’s a miss, I really haven’t.  I’ll call this story a hit.  My Deal Me In 2014 list can be seen here.  DMI is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

A doctor called Herr Professor receives a patient in his large home.  The patient makes a plea for the doctor to continue treating him as he has; however, the patient has Hansen’s disease, better known as leprosy, and anything less than putting the patient under quarantine would be against the law.  Greene begins to paint with subtle and unusual stokes the fear that grips the patient at the thought of isolation .  It seems that the patient is already significantly alone and isolated and taking away the small and minute pleasures that give him even an ounce of joy is more than he can stand.  I found it interesting that the patient didn’t have a huge family or a ton of social connections from which he would be taken away.  Greene tends to take things in a direction that one wouldn’t expect.  His subtlety in doing this reminds me of William Trevor’s stories.


Then we cut to a different scene where Herr Professor receives a military acquaintance who has decided that a party for his General will be moved to the doctor’s house including a large orchestra and gambling casino.  In a matter of hours, the doctor’s house is turned into a hustling and bustling “to do” with many guests, lots of drinking and gambling, and lively music.  The reasons behind this change of plans for the party is never really explained which is probably the one issue I would have with the story.

The patient makes his way back through snow and pine trees to the doctor’s house during the party (of which he is unaware) to make one final plea.  Not expecting to hear and see the party through the window, the patient almost feels he is dreaming in a strange land.  Through the window,  the doctor and patient exchange a final glance in which the patient realizes it’s not a dream.

This story is a great study in mood and atmosphere.  The difference between the extravaganza in the house and the quiet snowy evening outside gives the reader a contrast that works amazingly well and takes care of whatever shortcomings there might be in the plot.

Note:  Thanks to Emilia (see below) for pointing out that the story does contain a specific reason for moving the party to the doctor’s house.

7 thoughts on “Graham Greene: Dream of a Strange Land

  1. I’ve never read any of Graham Greene’s short stories, nor any of his novels except The Power and the Glory. However I read that probably 30 years ago, so maybe it’s time to give him another chance? 🙂

    1. I read The Power and the Glory last year and really liked it. I had read Brighton Rock a very long time ago and really don’t remember much about it. His story “Alas, Poor Maling” that I read earlier this year is probably my least favorite of the stories I’ve read for DMI 2014 so far. A Branch of the Service, though has been one of the funniest stories I’ve read. He’s kind of all over the place!

  2. Sounds like a good story. Im not sure why, but your description of the latter part reminded me of Wuthering Heights (the film version with Olivier & Oberon, which I saw long before reading the book) where Cathy and Heathcliff clandestinely view the dancing and the party at “The Grange” through a window – just before they are attacked by the Litton’s guard dogs…

    1. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre are two books that I need to read. I think I will try to “schedule” them for 2015. They’ve been on my shelf for ages.

      As far as Greene goes, I think I find his novels (the few I’ve read) more appealing than his short stories.

  3. Actually the colonel says very succinctly that the owner of the house they were planning to use found out a girl in some relation to him had scarlatina so the house was under quarantine. Hence why he called the doctor.

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