David Hawksworth is a member of the Graham Greene Birthplace Trust who lives in Munich in Southern Germany. Recently, he visited Switzerland in search of Graham Greene’s last resting place and other nearby places associated with the final months of his life. Here is his illustrated account.
SEARCHING FOR GRAHAM GREENE IN SWITZERLAND.
Since I knew and it is not that long ago that Graham Greene was buried close to Lake Geneva I wanted to go and see his grave stone. The cemetery is in the small village of Corseaux which lies above Vevey a town in the canton of Vaud on the north shore of Lake Geneva. To plan my trip I used a lot of the information in the excellent dual language book (French and English) Graham Greene – The Swiss Chapter by Pierre Smolik. To help any readers I have given below a short summary of his time in Switzerland with most facts taken from the aforementioned book
Graham Greene had lived in Antibes on the French Riviera from middle of the 1960’s until late 1990 when he finally moved to Corseaux. Graham Greene visited Switzerland several times a year especially at Easter and Christmas as his daughter Caroline Bourget lived first in the region of Chaulin before moving in 1973 to Jongny a village in the surrounding hills close to Vevey. It was in fact playing pulling crackers at Christmas 1979 in Jongny that inspired Greene to write Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party published in 1980 which was then followed by a BBC film adaption in 1984.
In the spring of 1990 Greene bought an apartment in Corseaux and moved in on 2 July 1990 but it was not until 26 October 1990 that he settled there for good. Greene was by then 86. Greene who suffered from plastic anaemia died in the hospital in Vevey on Wednesday morning 3 April 1991 at 11.40 am and was buried in the cemetery in Corseaux.
Before writing about my trip I need to explain about some of the research I did about exactly where Graham Greene was buried. Looking back it all sounds very easy but I got myself somewhat confused. In Smolik’s book it clearly states he was ‘in the little cemetery in Corseaux just a few hundred meters from his home’, ‘Graham is buried in the little cemetery in Corseaux’ as stated on page 196 of In Search of a Beginning my life with Graham Greene by Yvonne Cloetta and confirmed as Corseaux in the November 2020 Graham Greene Birthplace Trust newsletter. No doubt also in many other sources but not in the website https://de.findagrave.com/cemetery. The cemetery is given as Cimetiére des Monts-de-Corsier and I decided that is where I needed to go to see his grave so I will now tell you the story.
THE STORY OF MY TRIP 25 APRIL TO 29 APRIL 2022.
I arrived late afternoon in Vevey on the Monday having travelled by train from Munich and though I was staying for four nights I decided that the next day, Tuesday would be my main ‘Graham Greene Day’
To get to the Cimetiére des Monts-de-Corsier I needed to catch the 212 bus from the centre of Vevey to the final stop Fenil sur Corsier, Vielle rte and then walk about 3K. It was very overcast and rather cool and when I caught the bus about 10.00 am it started to rain and by the time the bus reached the terminus the rain was so heavy that I stayed on the bus and went back into town.
It was not until after midday that the rain stopped and then I decided to go and see his apartment on chemin du Cháno 26, Corseaux. The bus 211 took me directly to the stop ‘Cháno’ but I was somewhat confused as there was no street name but I asked a lady and she pointed me up the hill (the street name was at the top of the street).
Number 26, like many of the properties, was on a drive leading from the street.
I decided to go back into Vevey a different way but also on a bus route. At the first stop I came to I looked at the timetable and saw that one was due but I had looked at the Saturday timetable by mistake and in fact I had just missed one. This was the best thing that could have happened. My luck was in. I carried on walking which took my through Rue du Village and there it was a sign ‘tombe de Graham Greene 5’ and five minutes later I stood in front of the wrought iron gates and the plaque to Graham Greene at the entrance to Cimetiére de Corseaux.
I opened the gate I must admit with a certain amount of trepidation and slowly walked passing the rows of graves. I looked across and recognised Graham Greene’s grave. Standing in front of it was a very special, emotional and reflective moment for me. My Graham Greene journey had started with reading Brighton Rock in the early 1990’s and his journey as a writer had started with his first novel The Man Within published in 1929 and ended in a beautiful setting of the small cemetery in Corseaux, Switzerland. I felt very privileged to stand in front of his grave.
On the edge of the grave was a simple wooden cross as in the photograph.
Graham Greene’s daughter Caroline had died in Corseaux at the age of 87.
It had turned into a wonderful blue sky sunny early afternoon. As I left the cemetery at around 13.30 I realised I had on the walk down passed a hotel which was in fact the Hôtellerie de Chátonneyre in Corseaux where Graham Greene occasionally went to for lunch. Of course I walked back there and sat on the veranda in the sun drinking a small beer. I thought a beer was not very appropriate so I ordered a glass of red wine which I think Graham Greene would have given his approval to. As I paid I showed the waitress the short passage in Smolik’s book where the hotel was mentioned.
From the hotel I walked to the funicular railway station in Corseaux and went down to the station in Vevey. From there I walked across to Cimetiére de Corsier-Sur-Vevey to see the grave of Charlie Chaplin who lived in Vevey for 25 years prior to his death in 1977. There is a connection with Charlie Chaplin and Graham Greene with Greene and Max Reinhardt the director of The Bodley Head. Greene’s publishers visited Charlie Chaplin to discuss his announced autobiography at his home, the Manoir de Ban. One such meeting took place at Hôtel des Trois Couronnes in Vevey in 1960 which I was to see the next day.
The main reason why I wanted to visit the cemetery was to see the grave of the British actor James Mason (1909-1984) who played the role of Dr Fischer in the TV film production of Dr Fischer of Geneva. As you will see from the photographs below the grave of James Mason which is only a few steps from the Chaplin grave is in rather a neglected condition compared to that of Chaplin
To the left is a photograph of James Mason in his role as Dr Fischer.
On the Wednesday I took a boat trip and could see on the promenade Hôtel des Trois Couronnes (in the evening I also passed the hotel) which I mentioned above. There is a further connection of the hotel to Graham Greene in his book Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party. Following the civil marriage of Jones and Anna-Luise (daughter of Dr Fischer) at the Town Hall in Vevey they went to the hotel for an aperitif.
There was still one place to be discovered which was Saint-Jean’s Church in Corsier-sur-Vevey where mass was celebrated following Graham Greene’s death. I went there on the Wednesday afternoon.
Since I ‘discovered’ Graham Greene back in the early 1990’s I have had so much pleasure in reading and collecting his books and this trip ‘Searching for Graham Greene in Switzerland’ was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed it immensely.