2008: 145. The Quiet American

“After dinner I sat and  waited for Pyle in my room over the rue Catinat; he had said, ‘I’ll be with you at latest by ten,’ and when midnight struck I couldn’t stay quiet any longer and went down into the street.”

The Quiet American, Graham Greene

For some reason I only tend to read from our extensive collection of the works of Graham Greene when I am playing my commuting book game (see e.g., Stamboul Train, Doctor Fischer of Geneva, and The Ministry of Fear).  Which makes absolutely no sense, because every time I do I remember how much I love Greene (although at least I am better than my husband, who buys all the Greene and never reads it!!).  The Quiet American is vintage Greene - it is the story of a cynical Englishman living in Vietnam during the Indochine war, and of an idealistic young American who comes as an “economic advisor” to the situation (read, CIA), and the young Vietnamese woman that they both love.  And it works as an allegory, and as spy story, and as a bit of historical fiction, and as a criticism of U.S. policy in Vietnam - and as a novel itself, so what I’m saying is that the novel works.  And, Greene wrote it in 1955- before the Indochine war became the Vietnam War, but he saw where it was going even then - which makes the American failure even more damning, if an novelist could have figured it out.*

Anyway, this is a great book.  Read it. 

*It’s interesting because after reading the book I rented the movie, which I’d never seen, and without giving away the denouement, the movie had a very different feel to the same ending because the movie definitely played off what actually happened in Vietnam, and made the ending seem more futile than the novel did - where you could almost believe that the ultimate action might have made a difference - though of course we as readers know that it didn’t. 


Date/Place Completed:  9/22/08, D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Commuting Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017