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Serendipity: Graham Greene Dreams of Khrushchev

Graham Greene

Graham Greene

I have just finished reading a fascinating little book of dreams that British writer Graham Greene had transcribed and edited. It is called A World of My Own: A Dream Diary, which I had just picked up by chance yesterday at L.A.’s The Last Bookstore. Here are a number of short dreams the author had about former Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev:

In the Common [i.e., Real] World I always felt a certain affection for Khrushchev in spite of his invasion of Hungary. In the Cuban crisis I felt he had made a favourable bargain with John F. Kennedy—no further invasion in return for no defensive nuclear weapons for Cuba, which in any case would have reached no farther than Miami. I liked the way he had slapped he table with his shoe at a meeting of the United Nations. Perhaps I was influenced in my affection by the meetings I had with him in My Own [i.e., Dream) World in 1964 and 1965.

My first meeting with him was at the Savoy, with a group of Russians including Mr. Tchaikovsky, whom I had met in the Common World when he was the editor of Foreign Literature magazine. Khrushchev looked cheerful, healthy, and relaxed, and he was only amused when two of his party disputed noisily. We talked together about the method of financing films in England and the bad influence of the distributors. I said that this is one difficulty the Russians did not suffer, but Khrushchev told me that films in Russia were often delayed for six months as a result of overspending and then waiting for bureaucratic permission to increase the budget. He was very cordial and invited me to lunch the next day.

On the next occasion … I sat next to him at dinner and he spoke no word to me until near the end, when he remarked that I had left a lot of my chicken uneaten. ‘So much better for the workers in the kitchen,’ I said. ‘Surely a Marxist believes in charity.’

‘Not in Vatican charity,’ he replied with a smile.

At our last meeting he was personally dealing with visas for the Soviet Union. He noticed that my profession was listed as ‘writer’, and he expressed the hope that I would write about his country. I noticed how clear and blue his eyes were, and when I rejoined my friends I told them, ‘When you see him close, he has a beautiful face, the face of a saint.’