Books: Canal Caper

GETTING TO KNOW THE GENERAL by Graham Greene

Simon & Schuster; 249 pages; $14.95

In the winter of 1976, a telegram arrived for Graham Greene in Antibes. Would he come to Panama as the guest of its leader, Brigadier General Omar Torrijos Herrera? "I thought of it as only a rather comic adventure," recalls Greene, "inspired by an invitation from a complete stranger." But the comedy was to pass through surrealism to tragedy, and the stranger was to become an intimate.

Torrijos, who had wrested power from the ruling Arias family in 1968, was a showman, a strongman and a dreamer, an irresistible...

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