Bernard Diederich

We are saddened to report the passing of Bernard Diederich aged 93. The journalist was a close friend of Graham Greene during the last decades of his life. Notably, he was instrumental in alerting to Greene to the atrocities of the Duvalier regime in Haiti. Greene had visited Haiti briefly in 1963, and had experienced a flavour of life under the brutal dictatorship. Two years later, Diederich took him for a trip along the border dividing the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Greene wrote The Comedians (1966) largely on the basis of those two visits.

The friendship between the two men continued during a period when Greene became increasingly interested and involved in the politics of Latin America. In this respect, Diederich, using his knowledge and contacts as a journalist, was able to instruct and advise his author friend. In the 1970s he introduced Greene to General Omar Torrijos, President of Panama, which resulted in the memoir, Getting to Know the General: The Story of an Involvement (1984). Diederich was also instrumental in bringing Greene in contact with, among others, Daniel Ortega, Ernesto Cardenal and Fidel Castro.

Bernard Diederich, of New Zealand origin, lived a full and and often adventurous life. Early experience during World War II sailing the world on an oil tanker gave him a taste of the harsh realities of life at all levels. Richard Greene, in the introduction to Diederich’s own book about his 1965 tour of the Haitian border with Greene, Seeds of Fiction (2012), described the journalist as ‘a mixture of old-fashioned virtues – courage, endurance and a sense of justice – all of them toughened by the demands of his life at sea’. It is little wonder that his personality appealed to Graham Greene.

Bernard Diederich spoke at the 2001 Festival.