Of Monsignors & MonkeysnGraham Greene: Momignor Quixote;nSimon & Schuster; New York.nBernard Malamud: God’s Grace; Farrar,nStraus & Giroux; New York.nby Robert C. SteensmanVjraham Greene and Bernard Malamudnare two writers whose novels arenrarely received apathetically by eithernreviewers or general readers. Unlikenmany of their contemporaries who infestnthe best-seller lists, both are masters ofnthe delicate airt of reaching, touching,nand holding the hearts and minds ofntheir readers. Greene’s Monsignor Quixoten(his twenty-second novel) and Malamud’snGod’s Grace (his ninth) are notnexceptions, for both men are fascinatednwith a theme highly unpopular in trendyncircles these days: the relationship betweennGod and man in a modern worldnwhich has sold its spiritual and intellectualnbirthrights for a mess of pottage.nConsequently neither novel has madenthe best-seller lists, and neither will donmuch to soften the indignities that bothnauthors have suffered at the hands of thenNobel Prize committee for literature.nSince neither Greene nor Malamud is addictednto anti-American posturizing or toncatering to Third World chic, it is understandablenthat the committee wouldnaward the 1982 prize to Gabriel GarcianMarquez, a Colombian whose talent isndistinctly inferior to that of Greene ornMalamud.nBoth novels deal with men—an agingnSpanish priest and a young Americannscientist—who try to find their way innworlds which have crumbled—figurativelynin Greene’s story, literally in Malamud’s—asnthe foundations have beenneaten away by the termites of modernnsecularism or blasted to bits by nuclearnweaponry. These men often despair ofnProfessor Steensma teaches English at thenUniversity of Utah.nSOaH^MHMBMMnChronicles of Cttlturentheir worlds and see themselves as whatnthe priest’s companion describes as “fictionsn… in the mind of God.”nGreene’s story is that of Father Quixote,na descendant of Cervantes’s famousninnocent, who tends his spiritual flock inna small Spanish town. Harassed by hisnbureaucratic bishop, he stumblesnthrough his pastoral duties, is elevated tonthe rank of Monsignor when he humblynbefriends a traveling Vatican official, andnsets out on a brief vacation trip with hisnfaithfiil friend, a communist ex-mayornaffectionately nicknamed Sancho. Asnthey rattle across the countryside in Rocinante,nthe priest’s wheezing old car, theynare involved in a number of seriocomicnepisodes before Monsignor Quixotenreturns to El Toboso, badly bmised innheart and mind by his encounters withnthe church hierarchy and the police, toncelebrate a hallucinatory last mass and tondie in the arms of his faithful Sancho.nMalamud’s plot, too, is modern in itsnsetting and its implications. CalvinnCohn, an American paleologist and sonnof a rabbi, is the only human survivor of annuclear war between Djanks and thenDrushkies; he is living on a tropicalnisland with a young chimp named Buznwho has been trained to speak English.nLike Robinson Cmsoe, Cohn tries to recreatenhis civilization, but he must do sonwith a group of simians with biblicalnnames like Esau and Mary Madelyn. Innthis overly long parable, as in so much ofnhis work, Malamud’s symbolism is bothnimpressive and at times heavy-handed.nThose unfamiliar with scripmral echoesnof Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac,nand Christ and Mary Magdalene arenfaced with some heavy reading.nOne fact is clear: both Greene andnMalamud arc probing the dilemma ofnmodern man in a world that he did notncreate and does not understand, a worldnin which God is either playing hide-andseeknwith His creation or has chosen tonlive and rule elsewhere. The Monsignor,nSancho, and Cohn are men who havennnfound that the modern world is anspiritual desert and that the only hope fornsurvival is to be found in the Church (fornthe Monsignor), the Communist Partyn(for Sancho), or whatever world one cannrebuild from the mbble (for Cohn).nJVlonsignor Quixote, despite thendaily disappointments he receives fromnhis condescending bishop, his shrewishnhousekeeper, his well-meaning Sancho,nand his poor, sinful parish, tries to perseverenin his Christian vision, which isnviewed by others as “deeds of chivalry inna world that didn’t believe in those oldnstories.” He tries to find spiritual comradeshipnin Sancho, but the two spendnmost of their time vigorously debatingntheir different beliefs: Christianity versusnMarxism, spirituality versus materialism,nChrist versus Brezhnev. Sancho claimsnthat communism has survived despitenStalin and the Politburo; Quixote assertsnthat Christianity has endured in spite ofnJudas and the Catholic Curia. The politiciannSancho longs for a world in which allnmaterial needs are satisfied by the state;nQuixote’s eyes are on the next world, butnhe never forgets the present one. Ancurious pair, an odd couple, but Quixotenand Sancho symbolize the enduringnhuman dilemma. Quixote is an innocent,nbut so is Sancho, and they are not asnfar apart as they might seem. Each has hisnscriptures, his saints, his doubts; each isndeeply disturbed by injustice. Stoppingnto eat under a rock which has beennpainted with a red hammer and sickle,nthe Monsignoi says that he would ratherneat under the sign of the cross, but Sanchonreplies, “What does it matter? Thentaste of the cheese will not be affected byncross or hammer. Besides is there muchndifference between the two? They arenboth protests against injustice.”nFather Quixote falls into several comicnmistakes as a result of his Christian innocence.nHe mistakes a condom for anballoon, spends a restful night in anbrothel he believes to be a hotel over-n