The Lawless Roads, Paperback
2 out of 5 (1 rating)


In 1938 Graham Greene was commissioned to visit Mexico to discover the state of the country and its people in the aftermath of the brutal anti-clerical purges of President Calles.

His journey took him through the tropical states of Chiapas and Tabasco, where all the churches had been destroyed or closed and the priests driven out or shot.

The experiences were the inspiration for his acclaimed novel, "The Power and the Glory".


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240 pages, map
  • Publisher: Vintage Publishing
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Travel writing
  • ISBN: 9780099286240



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Mexico is remarkably similar to the People's Republic of China in the sense that the country, i.e. Mexico, has been ruled by a single, socialist revolutionary party since 1929. That revolutionary party, which was originally Communist, and a member of the Socialist International, is now considered a centrist party with a neo-liberal ideology, another similarity it shares with the CPC. This revolutionary party came to power following the Mexcican Revolution, which, in effect, consisted of a civil war, which lasted for 19 years, from 1910 - 1929. Particularly, the final three years of that period were characterized by fierce suppression of Catholicism in Mexico. The new constitution of 1917 already effectively banned many features and expressions of the Catholic faith from public view, but the repression was intensified when in 1926 the Calles Laws came into effect. This led to, initially peaceful, and later armed resistance from Catholic rebels, who murdered the president-elect, and fought as "crusade", the Cristiada against these laws between 1926 and 1929.In The lawless roads, Graham Greene chronicles the aftermath of these historical events which are almost completely forgotten. In 1938, Greene was commissioned to travel through Mexico to record and describe the situation in which the country and the catholic faith found itself after the forced anti-Catholic secularisation. It is widely assumed that the commission came from the Vatican, while Longman Publishers are mentioned as instigator for the book. Recent scholarship suggests that Graham Greene actually spent three months in exile in Mexico for much more profane reasons, fleeing possible prosecution in the United States in what is becoming known as the "Shirley Temple scandal."In 1938, Graham Greene was 32 years old. He was already a well-known, published author, with seven novels to his name. Still a fairly young man, keen on adventure, but also a certain degree of comfort, The lawless roads is a travelogue of Greene's trip through war-torn Mexico. It is clear that Greene did not enjoy his journey, and towards the end of it, he increasingly complains of boredom, discomfort and general malaise, both his own suffering and that of the country he is travelling through.The book is a rather straightforward report of the towns they travelled through and the people met or encountered on the roads. There are numerous references to Mexican politics, which are now but vague to construe, and would require quite some background knowledge to decipher.The lawless roads is a rather boring book, reflecting Graham Greene's boredom and disinterest in his commission. Suggested readership would be limited to aficionados of Graham Greene or Catholics with the obscure interest in the role of militant resistance during the Mexican Revolution, or some similar obscure interest in Mexico or Chiapas.

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