by Graham GreeneGetting To Know The General is a little known out-of-print nonfiction book by one of my favorite writers, Graham Greene. The story begins in 1976 when Greene inexplicably receives an invitation to visit Panama as the guest of then ruler General Omar Torrijos Herrar. He immediately accepts knowing only of Panama from the exploits of the pirate Henry Morgan and the mysterious death of Francis Drake in the area. In the process he becomes an intimate friend of the ruler and his fascinating friend/body guard-Chuchu, a former professor, soldier, pilot, and lothario with scores of ex-lovers and children. He will visit the country five times between 1976 and 1983. The beginning of the book is rife with tension as the General negotiates a treaty for the hand over of the Panama Canal with then President Jimmy Carter. From there the politics of South America and Central America have a routine background role in the story as it was a time of dictators and revolts in Latin America-many of them with unwanted intervention by the US through the CIA and other means. Even though politics play an important background role in Greene's travels, discussions, and meetings with the General-it is also a travelloge. Greene has been an intrepid traveller all of his life, thus every time he visits he is trying to see as much of the country as possible and as I read I would read up about each place and region he visited in my Panama Lonely Planet, because I will be limited to the area near Panama City since I don't have the time Greene had nor the use of the General's military planes. The novel also hints at personal problems Green had in France at the time as well as his struggles to writenovel about his experiences in Panama, which I believe would have made a fine novel-so instead we get this unclassifiable and intriguing short book instead. Even after the General dies Greene makes one final visit to Panama at the behest of Chuchu and the new administration. The later part of the book becomes more focused on the politics of the region and bears some resemblance to Salaman Rushdie's book about Nicaragua at a similar time, The Jaguar's Smile. Inexplicably, "that book" is still in print while sadly, this one is not. I think Greene is a more major writer than Rushdie and the cast of real life characters who populate the book are larger than life as well: Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, every Latin America leader of state from the time period including Fidel Castro and the soon to be infamous Manuel Noriega, Arthur Koestler, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Thus I think it would be of greater interest to the general public than Rushdie's. Needless to say I was happy to have been able to find a copy since it added a lot of enjoyment to my first journey to Panama.
|Title||Getting to Know the General|
|eBook format||Hardcover, (torrent)|
|File size||4.4 Mb|
|Book rating||4.38 (259 votes)