Graham Greene & Esperanto (2): The Confidential Agent

Graham Greene's novel The Confidential Agent (1939) contains an obvious parody of Zamenhof and Esperanto.

Kafejo.com : Auxlang Mentions : The Confidential Agent

Here we find a few quotes and samples of Entrenationo, the artificial language of Dr. Bellows, who greets his visitors in his language: "Me tray joyass."

There is an entry on Graham Greene in Vikipedio, the Esperanto version of Wikipedia, but no mention of Greene's references to Esperanto in several of his novels.

The Confidential Agent was watered down beyond recognition in a 1949 Escape radio adaptation, which you can listen to online. No Dr. Bellows here.

The novel was made into a film in 1945, in which the character Dr. Bellows appears. I have not seen this.

Greene's novel is mentioned in passing in this article:

Esperanto and the ideology of constructed languages
By Donald Broadribb, International Language Reporter, 2nd Quarter 1970, pp. 1-9.

The blog Running like hell in the land of overkill has an entry that begins:

June 5, 2003 Brookline
Up at seven A.M., Boston time. I weigh 184 pounds. Went downtown for an interview at the language school. Such an odd air to all of those places, captured perfectly by Graham Greene in one of his novels. Always remember the Esperanto teacher in his rubber shoes, poking his nose into classrooms.

Greene portrayed the informal (but high pressure) sales pitches that all these schools employ. It's quasi-religious. Remember how, returning from Rome to Paris, I saw an Esperanto school from the metro somewhere near Place d'Italie. What qualifications must one have to work there. Are there any native speakers of Esperanto, for example?
This article by a noted linguistics scholar gives us the most information on Greene's attitudes about language:

Going Especially Careful in The Third Man: A Linguistic Exploration by David Crystal.
Paper given to the Graham Greene Festival, Berkhamsted, September 2009.

Crystal finds the danger-signals in Greene's novel often connected with language. Artificial languages are markers of especially ominous developments. 

1 comment:

Edmundo said...

Dr Bellows is probably not a parody of Zamenhof as there's no noticeable similarity between the two. (If Greene were parodying Zamenhof surely he would have made Dr Bellows more obviously Jewish!) It would be interesting to know what the character of Dr Bellows is based on. Possibly an Esperantist, but not necessarily as there were other invented languages around at that time: Ido, Occidental, Novial, ...