As I am just a few weeks away from my trip to India and Istanbul, I was itching to read something to get me into the spirit of things. I started with Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul but the book was not what I was looking for. His Istanbul is black and white, always cold and inhabited by jinns. I am sure there is much more cheer as I read ahead but for now I put it away. I don’t know what it is with Pamuk and me. I love his writing, the prose is poetic, but I can never seem to get through any of his books in one go! I have started My Name is Red so many times and left it exactly at the same spot. Sigh.
Since I am such a fan of Graham Greene, I thought of giving “Travels with my Aunt” a shot. I really did not know what I was getting myself into. I had expected something funny and witty and in general a fictional travelogue. After having just completed the novel, one thing is for certain “Travels with my Aunt” is most definitely NOT a travelogue.
It’s a very strange but extremely entertaining story of Henry Pulling, a middle aged lonely banker, who meets his estranged Aunt Agatha after fifty years. The aunt than literally hijacks his life (and the novel) and takes him and us the readers along with us on a journey across continents, both in the past and present.
Greene wrote the book for “the fun of it” and you can tell. It’s full of ridiculous characters, unbelievable escapades involving war criminals, smugglers, CIAs and despotic generals and you along with Pulling you try keep pace with jaws hanging open.
While I enjoyed reading it, I was also trying to get through it, because it did not possess the slow melancholy quality of Greene’s works, which seep into your psyche with every word. There is this one incident in the book where Aunt Agatha tells Henry why she prefers romantic novels to Walter Scott – “It moves a great deal quicker and there are fewer descriptions”.
It wouldn’t be completely unfair to say the same about Travels with My Aunt. I did like it though, because Greene has flexed his literary muscle to create a comical delight which at times is funny, predictable and sad.