In the evocative medieval town of Ribadavia, Graham Greene’s fondness for Ribeiro wines is well known. The creator of the image of the modern spy shared very good moments with the people of the region thanks to his guide and mentor in Spain, the priest and professor Leopoldo Durán, who after writing his doctoral thesis on the creator of “The Third Man” a strong friendship with him and he acted as a guide on a series of trips that, between 1976 and 1989, they made throughout the peninsula.
The picturesque friendship between Graham Greene and Father Leopoldo Durán always attracted the attention of the press and fans of literature, and their presence in Ribadavia or the Monastery of Oseira was the subject of media coverage. Today it is commented on in the aromas tunnel of the Museo do Viño de Galicia, along with its fondness for the white varieties of the area made with fragrant treixadura, side and torrontés grapes.
But what was not known until today is that the journeys of the writer and the priest could not be as playful as they were presented, but that his real intention was to exercise the profession that he had once had and that he portrayed with so much success in his novel characters : spy. As Carlos Villar Flor hints at in his recent work “Viajes con mi cura. Grahan Greene’s adventures in Spain and Portugal”, Greene was not only a spy, but he never stopped being one.
Thus, in addition to his confessed fondness for wines and the regions of Spain, after his “adventures” with the priest from Ourense, the need for the secret services of His Gracious British Majesty to know the ins and outs of the Spanish transition could be hidden. In an economic context in which the incorporation of bullskin into the European common market and NATO could be valued, the expert vision of a visitor who was welcomed with admiration by all and to whom everything was taught was priceless.
The third man
Just as the plot of “The Third Man” takes place in a Europe in full change, the Spain that Graham Greene wanted to know was in full political turmoil, and from the United Kingdom it was not very clear where the situation could evolve. At the hands of a learned and highly regarded priest, a professor at the Complutense University of Madrid, the alleged spy had all the doors open.
This journey ended up being a Greene novel, “Monsignor Quixote”, performed for tv by Alec Guinnes. Father Durán himself reflected his relationship with the writer in several writings, but he always kept but very much to include data and specific dates of his travels, and it seems that he even deliberately confused them. Chance or track erasure?
If we are to believe the legend, there was even talk of a safe kept in a bank in Vigo (where Leopoldo Durán spent his last years) that housed Greene’s unpublished documents and writings.
Not without reason, many wonder if Greene received the UK Order of Merit for more “merits” than simply literary or service. The work of his official biographer, Norman Sherry, credits him with having continued to be an informant all his life, in which he would never have stopped sending documents to the British secret service.
Fact or fiction, “My trips with the priest” is a lucid analysis of those trips in which, at the stroke of Ribeiro (white in the morning, and red in the afternoon) the two “Quijote” and “Sancho” traveled through Spain with the bottle box jammed between the utility seat and the long legs of “our man in Havana -in Spain-“.