“There were a lot of microphones on the table,” he continued, “and I said I wanted to see how many people understood English; there were 200 to 300 people there. I said, ‘I hate these Microphones. I never know which one to speak into. What I don’t mind are the ones up there,’ pointing to the ceiling,’and the ones down there,’ pointing to the floor. There was sufficient laughter for me to know that most of them could understand English.

“I lost my passport. But the Russians allowed me out without it. I think they were glad to be rid of me!”

Greene said he was delighted by Havel’s ascent to political power.

“I got a letter from him in January,” he said. “And I had another letter the other day from him. I like Havel very much. I think he may be very dangerous because he might be an honest politician.”

People who knew Greene had warned me not to burden him with cosmic questions. Since the world decided he was a “Catholic writer” with a direct line to God, he’d gotten that constantly. And he’d written with annoyance about being stereotyped as such.

But I did ask if he was a man of the left. And whether such titles mean anything anymore.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve always said that ever since the age of 19 I’ve been on the left, but I don’t know if in means anything or whether it’s just my way of thinking. I think it means being against dictatorship. And it’s against the extremes of capitalism. Which I think is represented by the United States. I don’t think we can do entirely without capitalism. But the extremes are disagreeable and dangerous”

I asked if his persistent criticism of Americans meant that he’d never met any he liked.

“Yes,” he replied with a grin. “But they never seemed quite American.”
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