Book Of A Lifetime: No Other Life, By Brian Moore

These are the days of skittish stock markets, of course, but what of the equally fickle, if lesser-known, index that tracks the popularity of dead writers? Those who follow this ghoulish bourse have noted that death often leads to a sharpish tailing-off in interest before a resurgence – though not in every case. Sentiment in Kingsley Amis is hardening, but there's no obvious rallying around Brian Moore, the Irish-born novelist who died ten years ago. At one time, he was the "greatest living author", according to Graham Greene, no doubt because Greene shared his preoccupation with Catholicism and the spiritual travails of his heroes. It doesn't seem inappropriate to speak of Moore's characters in this way, because readers turned the pages of his novels as avidly as if they were genre potboilers. Moore's style was deceptively unvarnished. He was an unassuming writer who had the rare knack of not repeating himself. These sterling qualities almost certainly counted against him on the Footsie of literary reputation.

He was capable of writing a scene with a piercing insight into religious despair such as Greene himself, the doubting Catholic, would have envied. In No Other Life, a missionary recalls his mother's deathbed recantation. "Do you remember when you were a little boy and you did something bad? I would say to you, 'Remember, Paul, the Man Upstairs is watching you.' I was wrong to tell you that,' my mother said. 'There is no one watching over us'." It was an episode apparently drawn from Moore's own experience.

In No Other Life, the missionary rescues a boy from poverty and watches him become a revolutionary priest and the messianic president of his Caribbean homeland. By setting the narrative in a fictionalised Haiti, Moore was parking his tanks on Greeneland, or rather his bicycling priests. Halfway through writing the novel, the Irishman remembered The Comedians and sprang to his bookshelves to reassure himself that he wasn't transcendentally retyping Greene's book.

His own effort, which good judges consider the finer, took a lead from the story of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his real-life progress from rags to spiritual riches. Aristide became president of Haiti in 1991 before being toppled in a coup, though he was later restored to office. Moore struggled to complete No Other Life until he hit on the idea that his politician-priest would disappear into mythology, with the suggestion that he had a hand in his own sensational eclipse. The book was published in 1993. Aristide finally left Haiti in 2004, in circumstances that remain opaque. He insisted from exile that he was the legitimate president and that US forces had kidnapped him. Moore's literray prescience, comparable to Greene's prefiguring the Cuban missile crisis in Our Man in Havana, has to the best of my knowledge never been remarked on.

Stephen Smith's 'Underground England' is published by Little, Brown

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas