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Graham Greene's classic exploration of love, innocence, and morality in Vietnam "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused," Graham Greene's narrator Fowler remarks of Alden Pyle, the eponymous "Quiet American" of what is perhaps the most controversial novel of his career. Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious Graham Greene's classic exploration of love, innocence, and morality in Vietnam "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused," Graham Greene's narrator Fowler remarks of Alden Pyle, the eponymous "Quiet American" of what is perhaps the most controversial novel of his career. Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious mission to Saigon, where the French Army struggles against the Vietminh guerrillas. As young Pyle's well-intentioned policies blunder into bloodshed, Fowler, a seasoned and cynical British reporter, finds it impossible to stand safely aside as an observer. But Fowler's motives for intervening are suspect, both to the police and himself, for Pyle has stolen Fowler's beautiful Vietnamese mistress. First published in 1956 and twice adapted to film, The Quiet American remains a terrifiying and prescient portrait of innocence at large. This Graham Greene Centennial Edition includes a new introductory essay by Robert Stone.


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Graham Greene's classic exploration of love, innocence, and morality in Vietnam "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused," Graham Greene's narrator Fowler remarks of Alden Pyle, the eponymous "Quiet American" of what is perhaps the most controversial novel of his career. Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious Graham Greene's classic exploration of love, innocence, and morality in Vietnam "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused," Graham Greene's narrator Fowler remarks of Alden Pyle, the eponymous "Quiet American" of what is perhaps the most controversial novel of his career. Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious mission to Saigon, where the French Army struggles against the Vietminh guerrillas. As young Pyle's well-intentioned policies blunder into bloodshed, Fowler, a seasoned and cynical British reporter, finds it impossible to stand safely aside as an observer. But Fowler's motives for intervening are suspect, both to the police and himself, for Pyle has stolen Fowler's beautiful Vietnamese mistress. First published in 1956 and twice adapted to film, The Quiet American remains a terrifiying and prescient portrait of innocence at large. This Graham Greene Centennial Edition includes a new introductory essay by Robert Stone.

30 review for The Quiet American

  1. 5 out of 5

    Agnieszka

    I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused. I assume that everyone for once in own life had to face such a moment that, though convinced about doing the right thing, felt nevertheless poorly and uncomfortably. How is it possible, we asked then, we acted righteously so why such bad feeling, such turbulence in our mind? We did a good choice so why this bile that fills our mouths? Why that need to rationalize our deeds? There was no other way, we say. But really? And th I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused. I assume that everyone for once in own life had to face such a moment that, though convinced about doing the right thing, felt nevertheless poorly and uncomfortably. How is it possible, we asked then, we acted righteously so why such bad feeling, such turbulence in our mind? We did a good choice so why this bile that fills our mouths? Why that need to rationalize our deeds? There was no other way, we say. But really? And this is a feeling Graham Greene leaves me with almost every time. Something that still bothers and troubles me and pours cold water over me, my whole self - confidence and well-being. Because no matter how much we abide by our principles and sense of morality we constantly collide with the concept of the lesser evil and the common good, in short with situations that allow us or even encourage to justify our actions or omissions. And so is Thomas Fowler, somewhat cynical English reporter, for years residing in the East, whose life motto is to be not engaged . But is it really possibly to live without being involved? Thomas seems to care only for a few things in his life: willing body of young mistress in his bed and some pipes of opium to detach himself not only from the outside world, the whole thing takes place in the fifties during French-Vietnamese war, but also from own conscience. And one day in this more or less organized world enters the title quiet American, young and naïve impregnably armored by his good intentions and his ignorance Alden Pyle, with his head stuffed with bookish knowledge and mouth packed with platitude on democracy and justice. He comes with his sense of mission to save the world and by the way of course falls in love with Fowler’s mistress. One could say that it is a banal situation only wrapped up in exotic costume and cast in some unusual scenery to add some spice. You couldn't be more wrong since this collision of East with West, old with new, that clash between youth and maturity, experience and naivety Greene played masterfully. And in the end neither youthful idealism of Pyle nor disillusioned stoicism of Fowler allows anyone to remain nonaligned. There is always that moment one must espouse whose side we are on. Because in fact, no matter how much we turn our eyes and try to stay neutral, even though we choose our own side, it is always a pure act of being irretrievably engaged.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy

    'I shut my eyes and she was again the same as she used to be: she was the hiss of steam, the clink of a cup, she was a certain hour of the night, and the promise of rest.' Sometimes a few notable books cause me to start thinking just I turn the last page. So, excuse me for beginning this review with some of my latest ruminations. When I reflect on the meaning of life, although I am not a philosopher I do that sometimes, the fact that we are here for such a short while strikes me as so dismal. 'I shut my eyes and she was again the same as she used to be: she was the hiss of steam, the clink of a cup, she was a certain hour of the night, and the promise of rest.' Sometimes a few notable books cause me to start thinking just I turn the last page. So, excuse me for beginning this review with some of my latest ruminations. When I reflect on the meaning of life, although I am not a philosopher I do that sometimes, the fact that we are here for such a short while strikes me as so dismal. If we are to have such a short life, how can we live it to the fullest?, I often ask myself. Our lives might be inconsequential, what are 70 or even 80 years compared with the history of humanity? And what is within our control? I hope to live up to my 80’s, but will I? As you might have guessed, I am an atheist and have no religion to alleviate my doubts. One thing I know is that there is always a beginning and an end. So I sometimes get melancholic by this musings. But how can we make the best of it? Then one day I read Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, and everything makes sense again. Everything is suddenly all right. Oh, I am relieved not to have read it before, for now, it enthralled me for the first time. And probably tomorrow it will be another gem that will prove to me how right life is. And in reading it I convince myself that Greene shared a little in what I will call here my contemplation moments: From childhood I had never believed in permanence, and yet I had longed for it. Always I was afraid of losing happiness. This month, next year... If not next year, in three years. Death was the only absolute value in my world. Lose life and one would lose nothing again forever. I envied those who could believe in a God and I distrusted them. I felt they were keeping their courage up with a fable of the changeless and the permanent. Death was far more certain than God, and with death there would be no longer the daily possibility of love dying. What is The Quiet American all about, after all? Many see it as a mere allegory between the forces involved in the conflict portrayed by Greene. Others recognize it as just a war or spy novel. I prefer to read it as a love triangle where Fowley, the surly middle-aged British war correspondent; and Pyle, the young and naïve American spy; dispute the love and possession of the young and beautiful Vietnamese Phuong. Their tangled relationship could, of course, stand for the intricacies of the conflict that was ravaging Viet Nam and what was yet to come. But let’s just leave at that. Like The End of the Affair, this is a Greene novel that affects you viscerally. A naïve American CIA operative, fresh from Yale, arrives in Vietnam and promptly steals the narrator's lover then gets himself and several Vietnamese killed. That seems a pretty straightforward plot. But it is far from it. The story goes back and forth in time and thus increasingly reveals all that is brewing inside the protagonist and narrator Fowler. From the beginning, he felt protective of Pyke, and despite their dispute over the girl, they remain quite good friends: “I stopped our trishaw outside the Chalet and said to Phuong, “Go in and find a table. I had better look after Pyle.” That was my first instinct – to protect him. It never occurred to me that there was greater need to protect myself. Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it; innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.” But the triangle of Fowler, Pyle and Phuong was even more intricate. That is the beauty of it, how they dealt with each other and their desires openly: "What can you offer her?" he asked me with anger. "A couple hundred dollars when you leave for England, or will you pass her on with the furniture?" "The furniture isn't mine." "She is not either. Phuong, will you marry me?" "What about the blood group?" I said. "And a health certificate. You'll need hers, surely? Maybe you ought to have mine too. And her horoscope - no, that is an Indian custom." "Will you marry me?" "Say it in French," I said. "I'm damned if I'll interpret for you anymore." With each word, each line and each paragraph Greene demonstrates, through his protagonist, how he articulates internal struggles exceptionally well: the meditating but judgmental mind, the bustling innermost turmoil. He articulates like few the dark side of love – the narrator with his quick and keen mind; with a fastidious view of the world, and a hardened heart. Despite death, anguish, and hardship, there is hope in the end. And each sentence is a treasure, making it a pleasure to quote Greene. And we first hear of Fowler’s cynical views: "To be in love is to see yourself as someone else sees you, it is to be in love with the falsified and exalted image of yourself. In love we are incapable of honour – the courageous act is no more than playing a part to an audience of two. Perhaps I was no longer in love but I remembered." And how he always preferred escape to the possibility of loss: "No, that woman came earlier. When I left my wife." "What happened?" "I left her, too." "Why?" Why indeed? "We are fools," I said, "when we love. I was terrified of losing her. I thought I saw her changing – I don't know if she really was, but I couldn't bear the uncertainty any longer. I ran towards the finish just as a coward runs towards the enemy and wins a medal. I wanted to get death over." "Death?" "It was a kind of death. And I came east." Thus, when Pyke saves his life, Fowler was far from thankful, for he had been looking for exactly that escape when he came to Saigon: "We've made it," Pyle said, and even in my pain I wondered what we'd made: for me, old age, an editor's chair, loneliness; and for him, one knows now that he spoke prematurely. Then in the cold, we settled down to wait. Along the road a bonfire burst into life: it burnt merrily like a celebration. "That's my car," I said. All through Greene’s narrative, we catch glimpses of how his protagonist recognizes that love, even for the toughest of them, brings with it the possibility of pain. 'Her pain struck at my pain: we were back at the old routine of hurting each other. If only it were possible to love without injury – fidelity isn't enough.' But despite knowing from experience the damage of loss, the pain was not any less. 'I wish I could have those nights back. I'm still in love, Pyle, and I'm a wasting asset.' But there was more to it, even if less hurtful. 'Oh, and there was pride, of course. It takes a long time before we cease to feel proud of being wanted.' But our protagonist fights all that he believes to be true. However, he cannot escape; to comprehend it all seems impossible and a recurring theme with Greene. 'Wouldn't we all do better not trying to understand, accepting the fact that no human being will ever understand another, not a wife a husband, a lover a mistress?' It is unforgivably poignant in its sufferings. 'I began to plan the life I had still somehow to live and to remember memories in order to eliminate them. Happy memories are the worst, and I tried to remember the unhappy.' Above all, these passages touch us all the more and never go away for their flashes of beauty. Thus, the story of the quiet American is the story of idealism, of naiveté, with not knowing but supposing to know best. Pyle’s good intentions may seem endearing, but they come from ignorance, and Fowler recognizes from the beginning how dangerous, and guesses that his fate was so sealed. "Have you any hunch," he asked, "why they killed him? and who?" Suddenly I was angry; I was tired of the whole pack of them with their private stores of Coca-Cola and their portable hospitals and their wide cars and their not quite latest guns. I said, "Yes. They killed him because he was too innocent to live. He was young and ignorant and silly to get involved.” Despite the fact that some can view the Vietnamese as weak and ignorant, Fowler by the end presents us the reality of Phuong, and for me, it could not be more honest, for these are people that in their effort to survive have to make the most of what they have. Talking to Pyke, when they discuss Phuong’s future we read how well he can judge her: "She's no child. She is tougher than you'll ever be. Do you know the kind of polish that doesn't take scratches? That's Phuong. She can survive a dozen of us. She'll get old, that's all. She'll suffer from childbirth and hunger and cold and rheumatism, but she'll never suffer like we do from thought, obsession-she won't scratch, she'll only decay." One of the dilemmas that Fowler faces since arriving in Viet Nam is that he avoided getting involved. He was always the mere correspondent, just relaying the news he imagined his editors would want to see published. He had an assistant that was his way of staying distant. "'You can rule me out,' I said. 'I'm not involved. Not involved,' I repeated. It had been an article of my creed. The human condition being what it was, let them fight, let them love, let them murder, I would not be involved. My fellow journalists called themselves correspondents; I preferred the title of reporter. I wrote what I saw. I took no action – even an opinion is a kind of action." But what he discovered is that frequently we do not have the luxury of staying neutral. Fowler realizes late in his affair that he loved Phuong, also discover that life sometimes has its way of forcing on us to make a stand. Suffering is not increased by numbers: one body can contain all the suffering the world can feel. I had judged like a journalist in terms of quantity and I betrayed my own principle; I had become as engaged as Pyle, and it seemed to me that no decision would ever be simple again. I loved The Quiet American. It has everything that a discerning reader might want in a book. An astute glimpse of American foreign policy, depicted as a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm. It has a credible and fascinating love triangle set in a hazy and exotic setting. It has challenging characters uncovered as thoroughly human with all their imperfections. All this delivered through a majestic narrative. This novel will grab hold of you; and by the end, as with most great examples of literature, you'll be a little wiser and more enchanted with life because of it. ___ I want to thank my friend Vessey for granting me the privilege of reading The Quiet American with her.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Adina

    This is a cautionary tale about the involvement of America and Britain in the Vietnam war. Reading this book was a great way to learn more about the Vietnam war. The two main characters are symbols of the American and British participation in Vietnam. The British does not want to get involved in the war, and he is deluding himself that he is only an indifferent spectator. Pyle, the American, represents the idealistic principles that the Americas brought in the Vietnam war and the lack of guilt fo This is a cautionary tale about the involvement of America and Britain in the Vietnam war. Reading this book was a great way to learn more about the Vietnam war. The two main characters are symbols of the American and British participation in Vietnam. The British does not want to get involved in the war, and he is deluding himself that he is only an indifferent spectator. Pyle, the American, represents the idealistic principles that the Americas brought in the Vietnam war and the lack of guilt for the damage they had created by their innocent causes. "Innocence is a kind of insanity” “Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.” One of the conclusions of the books is that “Sooner or later...one has to take sides. If one is to remain human.” Another is somehow similar to the other book that I was reading in the same time, Blindness. It is about peoples's ignorance to human suffering, futility of life and the permanence of death. This is the first book I read by Greene and it won't be the last. I enjoyed his subtle tone.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Hanneke

    An absolutely brilliant book. I think it is a genuine masterpiece to be enjoyed on numerous different levels. It goes straight to my favorites ever list! Graham Greene employs the right tone for this book, cynical yet compassionate. Correspondent Fowler's non-commitment is the best attitude for the place and time of his assignment in Vietnam, but whether it is psychologically healthy cannot be said with certainty. Written in 1955, it is shocking to see how very relevant the book still is today, An absolutely brilliant book. I think it is a genuine masterpiece to be enjoyed on numerous different levels. It goes straight to my favorites ever list! Graham Greene employs the right tone for this book, cynical yet compassionate. Correspondent Fowler's non-commitment is the best attitude for the place and time of his assignment in Vietnam, but whether it is psychologically healthy cannot be said with certainty. Written in 1955, it is shocking to see how very relevant the book still is today, perhaps even increasingly so. The ignorance and misconception of the stereotypical American proves to be truly deadly. In his ignorant fanatism CIA agent Pyle stays convinced of his good intentions, even when witnessing with his own eyes the devastation he brings about. I thought a few times that the saying: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” was very applicable. And that is still applicable in the world today. A pity that this book was not a mandatory book to be read by the U.S. military when sending the first troops to Vietnam halfway the 1960s. Might have warned them for a hopeless endeavour. I am so impressed by this book and decided to read more Graham Greene novels this year. It was purely coincidental that I read Greene for the first time when reading 'The End of the Affair' with its annoying catholicism and that is exactly what kept me from reading his other novels. I found out that this was just a phase in his life which he abandoned after he divorced his very catholic wife.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    “That was my first instinct -- to protect him. It never occurred to me that there was a greater need to protect myself. Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.” As if this book were not brilliant enough for its multi-layered plot and meaningful, carefully written prose, it was also a harbinger of the disaster awaiting the United State's inv “That was my first instinct -- to protect him. It never occurred to me that there was a greater need to protect myself. Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.” As if this book were not brilliant enough for its multi-layered plot and meaningful, carefully written prose, it was also a harbinger of the disaster awaiting the United State's involvement in Vietnam. If policy makers would have read this book and realized that they were consulting an oracle, many unnecessary deaths would have been avoided; many lives would have never been shattered, and the billions of dollars spent trying to destroy a mythical idea could have been spent advancing humanity in numerous more productive ways. Instead of being lauded as a cautionary tale, the book was declared anti-American. Alden Pyle, not the typical blustering, pushy American abroad but a rather quiet American, was in Vietnam. He wasn’t there to learn about the culture. He was there to figure out the best way to impose his Western point of view on a country in turmoil. He had been fully indoctrinated into the idea of American Exceptionalism. This was a strength because believing in oneself and a cause is essential to achieving success, but it was also a weakness because it potentially keeps an American from recognizing what has gone wrong for others will also go wrong for them. It also keeps an American from seeing the value in a foreign culture and that the concepts of others of what makes a wonderful life may be completely different from what Americans are being led to believe is an exceptional way of life. Alden Pyle, in other words, was a very dangerous man. Thomas Fowler was a world weary British journalist, addicted to opium, and living with a 20 year old Vietnamese woman named Phuong. There were some reverential descriptions by Fowler about his relationship with opium and Phuong dutifully serving him his pipe in a manner reminiscent of Japanese tea ceremonies. ”It was a superstition among them that a lover who smoked would always return, even from France. A man’s sexual capacity might be injured by smoking, but they would always prefer a faithful to a potent lover. Now she was kneading the little ball of hot paste on the convex margin of the bowl and I could smell the opium. There is no smell like it.” Fowler had found a simple way of life that made him way happier than I think he ever expected to be. He had a job that he understood. He had a reasonably nice apartment. He had a beautiful girlfriend who provided him with the comfort of companionship and sexual gratification. He didn’t need anything more than this. With the arrival of Pyle, this nirvana existence was suddenly in jeopardy. Pyle became enamored with Phuong. Fowler had a dilemma which Pyle soon exploited in his quest to “save” Phuong from the lecherous clutches of this old world colonizer. I hadn’t really thought about it until this reading, but Pyle’s need to save Phuong was symbolic of the American belief that Europe was corrupt and only America could guide the world forward. Fowler was British and the French colonized Vietnam, but the Brits were the largest, “most successful” colonizers the world had ever seen. Come with me little girl. I am pure of heart. Fowler’s dilemma was a serious disadvantage, given that he was already married to a devoted Catholic woman back in England who did not want to divorce him. Fowler’s poignant letters to his wife to try and change her mind were revealing about his true feelings about Phuong. The reader might wonder if losing Phuong was just an inconvenience or he really did love her. ”Perhaps you will believe when I tell you that to lose her will be, for me, the beginning of death.” Fowler’s years of marriage had left he and his wife scarred and battered. A mere prick by one to the other would now bleed as heavily as a mortal wound. Pyle was irritatingly trying to play fair in the tug of war over Phuong. Fowler had no such illusions about playing fair. He definitely subscribed to the adage, “All is fair in love and war.” This is Vietnam in the midst of a long struggle and love is always more poignant against the backdrop of war. Phuong’s more practical sister wanted her to go with Pyle because he was free to marry her. I kept thinking to myself as this love triangle unfolded that the one person whom we really didn’t know her feelings was Phuong. Fowler at several points accused Pyle of treating Phuong like a child, which was true. To Pyle, she was a mere child who must be saved from her circumstances. He was the white knight and sitting so high on his horse that one might wonder if he really wanted her or simply wanted her away from Fowler. The American Imperialist knew best. Out with the old and in with the new. How far would Fowler go to win this battle with Pyle? By the end of the book, you will see. The frustrating thing for Fowler was that he liked Pyle, and Pyle, despite his misgivings about Fowler, liked him as well. It is so much easier when our adversaries are asshats with few redeeming qualities. We can feel vindicated in our all consuming loathing of them. Under different circumstances, Fowler and Pyle might have been lifelong friends, but there were other things percolating that would keep them from being friends. What exactly was Pyle up to in Vietnam? And what did he mean about all this blathering about creating a third force? Fowler, in the course of his job, would have crippled the budding friendship by eventually revealing the truth, so alas, there really was no chance for Pyle and Fowler to walk off into the sunset together, conversing about the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Still I would want to ask Pyle, out of all the beautiful women in all of Vietnam, you had to pick mine? So you can read this book at whatever depth you chose and still find it to be one of the best books you’ve ever read. I do believe this is my third read, and I made new connections and observations that I hadn’t with the previous two reads. It is such a powerful story for such a short book, proving that epic tales don’t have to come in whale size packages. I want to thank my friend Lisa Lieberman for prompting this latest reading of The Quiet American. Her new book The Glass Forest is a tribute to Graham Greene’s novel. I have been wanting to reread The Quiet American for some time now, and her book release was the perfect excuse. Lisa is giving away a free ebook of her first book, All the Wrong Places for the month of November as a lead up to the release of The Glass Forest on December 10th. Don’t miss out! Click this link to get your free book! All the Wrong Places Free eBook You must discover for yourself why I call her the Queen of the Hollywood Noir. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    499. The Quiet American, Graham Greene (1904-1992) The Quiet American is a 1955 novel by English author Graham Greene which depicts French colonialism in Vietnam being uprooted by the Americans during the 1950s. The novel implicitly questions the foundations of growing American involvement in Vietnam in the 1950s and is unique in its exploration of the subject topic through the links among its three main characters - Fowler, Pyle and Phuong. The novel has received much attention due to its predic 499. The Quiet American, Graham Greene (1904-1992) The Quiet American is a 1955 novel by English author Graham Greene which depicts French colonialism in Vietnam being uprooted by the Americans during the 1950s. The novel implicitly questions the foundations of growing American involvement in Vietnam in the 1950s and is unique in its exploration of the subject topic through the links among its three main characters - Fowler, Pyle and Phuong. The novel has received much attention due to its prediction of the outcome of the Vietnam War and subsequent American foreign policy since the 1950s. Graham Greene portrays a U.S. official named Pyle as so blinded by American exceptionalism that he cannot see the calamities he brings upon the Vietnamese. It was adapted as two different movies, one in 1958 and another in 2002. The book uses Greene's experiences as a war correspondent for The Times and Le Figaro in French Indochina 1951–1954. He was apparently inspired to write The Quiet American during October 1951 while driving back to Saigon from Ben Tre province. He was accompanied by an American aid worker who lectured him about finding a "third force in Vietnam”. آمریکایی آرام - گراهام گرین (خوارزمی) ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: هشتم ماه دسامبر سال 1984میلادی عنوان: آمریکایی آرام؛ نویسنده: گراهام گرین؛ مترجم: عبدالله آزادیان؛ تهران، ؟، 1344؛ چاپ دیگر مشهد، بوتیمار، 1395؛ در 350ص؛ شابک 9786004043243؛ عنوان: امریکایی آرام؛ نویسنده: گراهام گرین؛ مترجم: عزت الله فولادوند؛ تهران، خوارزمی، 1367، در 259ص؛ چاپ دوم 1370؛ چاپ سوم 1389؛ نمیدانم چگونه کسی این کتاب را دوست نداشته است؛ رمانی از گراهام گرین، نویسنده انگلیسی، که نخستین بار به سال 1955میلادی انتشار یافت؛ نویسنده، در پی اقامت خود در مالزی و هند و چین، از مشاهدات خود به عنوان خبرنگار جنگی سود برده، و در قالب اثری طنزآمیز، رمان را آراسته است. وی با طنزی محترمانه و بیانی درخشان، طرز فکر امریکایی را به محاکمه ­کشیده است؛ چهره ­های داستان: یک روزنامه­ نگار انگلیسی به نام «فاولر»، که نقش بینش­گری آسان­­گیر و بی­غم را دارد؛ «فوئنگ»، معشوقه ی زیبای ویتنامی خبرنگار است؛ و «آلدن پایل»، جوان امریکایی اهل بوستون در جبهه جنگ ویتنام. او باور دارد که «آدمی هرگز برای خرابیهایی که به بار آورده چنین انگیزه ­های خوبی نداشته است»؛ پایل درصدد برمیآید فوئنگ را از چنگ فاولر به در ­آورد، و ...؛ ا. شربیانی

  7. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    The perfect novel. Ingenious in its pace and tone. The plot unravels in a peculiar, non-linear way, easily enviable by even the most capable of writers. Perhaps because it is more like a meaty novella about star-crossed lovers, hidden intentions, and the war of the classes that it makes it's powerful, jarring punch to the gut. I LoooVE this book. It's incredibly elegant, both prophetic and historic, & very very adult. The perfect novel. Ingenious in its pace and tone. The plot unravels in a peculiar, non-linear way, easily enviable by even the most capable of writers. Perhaps because it is more like a meaty novella about star-crossed lovers, hidden intentions, and the war of the classes that it makes it's powerful, jarring punch to the gut. I LoooVE this book. It's incredibly elegant, both prophetic and historic, & very very adult.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Fergus

    The other day it occurred to me that this jarringly complex book was a wry attempt on Graham Greene’s part to defrock the dreaded americanos of The Power and Glory with an ironic image - the gregarious, wellmeaning, crewcut volunteers of that brave invention, the Peace Corps. Greene was always so perplexed by the bizarre and continually morphing forms of violent behaviour in the world - and stymied by the fact that so many of the cleared paths open to it are paved by bystanders’ like Pyle’s inno The other day it occurred to me that this jarringly complex book was a wry attempt on Graham Greene’s part to defrock the dreaded americanos of The Power and Glory with an ironic image - the gregarious, wellmeaning, crewcut volunteers of that brave invention, the Peace Corps. Greene was always so perplexed by the bizarre and continually morphing forms of violent behaviour in the world - and stymied by the fact that so many of the cleared paths open to it are paved by bystanders’ like Pyle’s innocent good intentions - that he became more and more obsessively predisposed to a sort of truculent silence, a retreat into his own less than virtuous anodynes. He agreed wholeheartedly, at a rather morbid distance from orthodoxy, with T.S. Eliot’s image of the beleaguered and battered Word of God at the non-retaliative heart of existence: We would see a sign! The Word within the world Unable to speak a word Swaddled in darkness. Signs are taken for wonders! Against the Word The unstilled world still whirled About the Centre of the Silent Word. The image of the crucifixion is central to the Catholic imagination, and Greene was imbued with it too. So, drugged and dropped-out in his down-for-the-count habits, like the principal character of this novel - who is a world-weary opportunist - he distances the innocence of Pyle in much the same way as John Keats stylistically distances his own too-Personal experiences through the romance of literate and storied rhyme. For Keats’ discovery of the literary device of distancing - you can see it in the mythical sense of chivalrous historicity imparted to a rather unworthily mundane act, in his St Agnes’ Eve - gave him a methodology to “glean (a collection of poetic images, jostling for their release from) his teeming brain;” AND as well to provide him with a catharsis of his own nagging sins in public ‘confession.’ So too, Greene ‘distances’ his own perverse personas in the manic phases of his bipolar disorder, AND gives voice to his personal mistrust of the US presence in Vietnam in one fell swoop: by creating the Quiet American, Pyle. My third-year uni prof said distancing came to the foreground with the lyrical images of Wordsworth, notably in his ennobling segue from the sight of a young peasant girl working in the fields into a meditative digression into a timeless and and spaceless apotheosis of her lyricism, in The Solitary Reaper. It’s a long, grim sludge for us, though, from the wheat fields of pastoral England to the napalmed black jungle of Vietnam. The Quiet American is likewise, for Greene, the distancing of his own sordid presence amid the horrific American aporia of innocent intentions gone so abominably wrong, and the making of Pyle into a universal symbol as well as a fractured piece of himself as a great writer. Mishaps dog the young Pyle in Vietnam. As they did his country after a Quiet America entered its jungles. For the young America had indeed entered Quietly into French Indochina - but would leave it injured and aged. But the damaging self-inflicted wounds of its bungled innocence would prove long lasting.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    This is an amazing story about the French colonial war in Vietnam and an incompetent CIA-wanna be agent seen through the eyes of a opium-addicted British journalist. Cynicism abounds. Great writing, gripping scenes. Excellent read. A true classic. I definitely need to read more Graham Greene. If you enjoyed this book and wish to have more background on the historical canvas on which the story was painted, I highly suggest Fredrik Logevall's Embers of War about the French Indochina War and Frances This is an amazing story about the French colonial war in Vietnam and an incompetent CIA-wanna be agent seen through the eyes of a opium-addicted British journalist. Cynicism abounds. Great writing, gripping scenes. Excellent read. A true classic. I definitely need to read more Graham Greene. If you enjoyed this book and wish to have more background on the historical canvas on which the story was painted, I highly suggest Fredrik Logevall's Embers of War about the French Indochina War and Frances Fitzgerald's masterful Fire in the Lake about the Vietnamese and the American conflict. Gripping stories.

  10. 5 out of 5

    MischaS_

    This was actually read for my university course. We were tasked to read a book (or watch a movie but...) and write a paper about how a journalist is presented in the. Unfortunately, there was a blacklist as well and all the books I had in my mind were on it. So I had to look for a new one. And I am a bit angry that I did not know this book before! Graham Greene has a unique way how to tell a story and I really liked it. “Death was far more certain than God.” The most interesting was the differenc This was actually read for my university course. We were tasked to read a book (or watch a movie but...) and write a paper about how a journalist is presented in the. Unfortunately, there was a blacklist as well and all the books I had in my mind were on it. So I had to look for a new one. And I am a bit angry that I did not know this book before! Graham Greene has a unique way how to tell a story and I really liked it. “Death was far more certain than God.” The most interesting was the difference between Fowler and Pyle. Fowler is cynical, he saw all of it, he has no illusions. Pyle is new, full of hopes, believing in pretty theories he read about. Pyle is naive to a point where he is delusional. “Sooner or later...one has to take sides. If one is to remain human.”

  11. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    “I can’t say what made me fall in love with Vietnam - that a woman’s voice can drug you; that everything is so intense. The colors, the taste, even the rain. Nothing like the filthy rain in London. The smell: that’s the first thing that hits you, promising everything in exchange for your soul. You could be forgiven for thinking there was no war; that the gunshots were fireworks; that only pleasure matters. A pipe of opium, or the touch of a girl who might tell you she loves you. And then, someth “I can’t say what made me fall in love with Vietnam - that a woman’s voice can drug you; that everything is so intense. The colors, the taste, even the rain. Nothing like the filthy rain in London. The smell: that’s the first thing that hits you, promising everything in exchange for your soul. You could be forgiven for thinking there was no war; that the gunshots were fireworks; that only pleasure matters. A pipe of opium, or the touch of a girl who might tell you she loves you. And then, something happens, as you knew it would. And nothing can ever be the same again.” Oh, I loved rereading this book, which I originally read so long ago I had largely forgotten it. It’s a story narrated by English journalist Thomas Fowler about the end of French colonialism in Vietnam and the beginning of American involvement there leading to the Vietnam War. Against the political background of a country used as a punching bag by France, Japan, then France again, then the US, is a love triangle between the older Fowler, a young Texas CIA agent named Alden Pyle, and Phuong, a young Vietnamese woman. “I shut my eyes and she was again the same as she used to be: she was the hiss of steam, the clink of a cup, she was a certain hour of the night and the promise of rest.” The novel, written in 1952-55 and based on Greene’s own work as a war correspondent in Indochina from 1951-54, harshly critiques the American involvement in Vietnam in the fifties and uses the three main characters to in part make this critique. Pyle, the “quiet American,” can’t properly see the implications of what they are doing in that country, prefiguring the terrible, ignorant things that would happen there in the decades to come. The “domino theory” that was the foundation of the US policy (that if Vietnam is lost to communism then all the others in the area would then fall) is seen in this dialogue between Fowler and Kyle: "They don't want communism." [Kyle, the American] "They want enough rice," I [Fowler] said. "They don't want to be shot at. They want one day to be much the same as another. They don't want our white skins around telling them what they want." "If Indochina goes--" "I know that record. Siam goes. Malaya goes. Indonesia goes. What does 'go' mean? If I believed in your God and another life, I'd bet my future harp against your golden crown that in five hundred years there may be no New York or London, but they'll be growing paddy in these fields, they'll be carrying their produce to market on long poles, wearing their pointed hats. The small boys will still be sitting on their buffaloes.” Fowler is a cynic; “I was a correspondent: I thought in headlines;” he’s an atheist, he hates politics, and hates nation states that arrogantly pursue colonialist takeovers, so in response he pretends to not care: “’I'm not involved, not involved,’ I repeated. It has been an article of my creed. The human condition being what it was, let them fight, let them love, let them murder, I would not be involved. My fellow journalists called themselves correspondents; I preferred the title of reporter. I wrote what I saw. I took no action – even an opinion is a kind of action.” “’Ah,” he [a Vietnamese friend] said, “But you will be involved. You will all be involved some day.” And so we were involved! And still are, in a sense, in making decisions about who on the planet gets protected and fed and who do not. In the end Fowler does take a stand, raging to Pyle about a needless and horrific bombing incident “orchestrated” by the Americans that causes many civilian casualties. But it’s a novel, not a political tract. It’s an often powerfully written book that helps see colonialism in a personal context. Fowler wants Phuong, Pyle wants her, too; but what does she really want? It kind of reminded me in that respect of another great post-colonialist book by J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians, that sees colonialism and sexism as two aspects of the same condition.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    I don't know how to review this book. I cannot fairly review it as my own notion of the book is so altered by my own experiences, that I'm not sure anyone reading it would see what I see. Hell, to a certain extent, I know they can't... not quite the same at least. Instead I will try to express how this book made me feel. This book took me way too long to read. Not because it was bad, life just kept getting in my way even when I would much rather have been reading, that said, I was happy to take I don't know how to review this book. I cannot fairly review it as my own notion of the book is so altered by my own experiences, that I'm not sure anyone reading it would see what I see. Hell, to a certain extent, I know they can't... not quite the same at least. Instead I will try to express how this book made me feel. This book took me way too long to read. Not because it was bad, life just kept getting in my way even when I would much rather have been reading, that said, I was happy to take my time. This book transported me back to a different place. I've been to Vietnam multiple times, it's where my wife is from and it's one of the most beautiful countries I've ever seen. I don't like traveling much personally, and the flight there is long (over 24 hours counting layovers), but I always find it worth it when we go back. This book took me back there at a much cheaper price. Vietnam has changed a lot in the 65 years since Greene wrote this book... but in so many way it is still the same. Reading it, I was reminded of hot nights in Saigon (where the temperature was almost always 90+ degrees and the occasional bursts of rain were always a relief despite how heavy the downpours got). I was reminded of the architecture, the clothing, the traffic and smells. The plot is interesting, and one might be surprised to know it was written before America really got into the Vietnam war (Greene's insight into how America operated is sadly only too true), and the book comes off melancholic for multiple reasons which Greene did not necessarily intend at the time. This is one of those books that was no doubt very good when published, but honestly time has made better. It becomes both a good story and a sad warning about mistakes that were made, and how one should avoid them. The prose is beautiful and much of the dialogue quite amusing. We have a delightfully sarcastic narrator, and many of the people he meets takes a similar cynical tone. My favorite bit of dialogue is when someone questions a reporter about a news briefing in Hanoi: "There's a rumor that the Vietminh have broken into Phat Diem, burned the Cathedral, chased out the Bishop." "They wouldn't tell us about that in Hanoi. That's not a victory." Do I suggest the book? Absolutely. Even without the personal experiences, this is an extremely good book. For me though... it's going on my favorites shelf. 5/5 stars.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I don’t know. I guess this is what you would get if you crossed Ernest Hemingway with John le Carré? Maybe. The Quiet American is the story of a British journalist covering the war in 1950s French Indochina and the annoying American who disrupts his complacent lifestyle. Sure, he’s in a war zone, but he has never had it better. He has a beautiful girl by his side and he finds it possible to remain relatively safe, both physically and emotionally—physically in that most of his reporting duties occ I don’t know. I guess this is what you would get if you crossed Ernest Hemingway with John le Carré? Maybe. The Quiet American is the story of a British journalist covering the war in 1950s French Indochina and the annoying American who disrupts his complacent lifestyle. Sure, he’s in a war zone, but he has never had it better. He has a beautiful girl by his side and he finds it possible to remain relatively safe, both physically and emotionally—physically in that most of his reporting duties occur behind the front lines; and emotionally in that he is able to convince himself of Britain’s (and by extension his) lack of involvement with the war itself. It is their problem. The annoying American changes all that, and it seems to me the American—Pyle, by name—is presented by Greene as an extension of America itself: innocent in its idealistic principles, yet dangerous in its perceived lack of guilt for the harm its idealism causes. Without getting into specifics, there is more to Pyle than meets the eye, and even though I did not love this story as much as I had hoped to, it did pull together for me in the end. The protagonist learns that at some point, it becomes necessary to make a choice and become involved no matter how adamantly you believe in your own neutrality. Greene does write with a remarkable degree of restraint—in my opinion, his writing could even be said to be too restrained—which is how he packs a story with such complexity into a reasonable number of pages. The problem I had with it lay mostly in the fact that I did not experience much of a connection with any of the characters’ relationships. Though Pyle and Fowler essentially fight over a girl, it is a girl whom neither of them seems to really love, and the two men themselves don’t actually develop any quantifiable bond of friendship that would have otherwise made the story more affecting. Anyway, I am not done with Graham Greene yet. Some guy on Goodreads named Ben told me to read The End of the Affair, so I suppose that is what I’ll go ahead and do next.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Well I pretty much hated the worldly weary opium smoking politically neutral smug bastard of a first person our-man-in-Vietnam reporter narrator who dolefully wraps his middle aged melancholia around himself and sprinkles mournful aphorisms into the languid air like ditsy bumblebees dressed up as badass hornets : You cannot love without intuition (Yes you can) Even an opinion is a kind of action (well, not really) To be in love is to see yourself as someone else sees you (ridiculous) When you escap Well I pretty much hated the worldly weary opium smoking politically neutral smug bastard of a first person our-man-in-Vietnam reporter narrator who dolefully wraps his middle aged melancholia around himself and sprinkles mournful aphorisms into the languid air like ditsy bumblebees dressed up as badass hornets : You cannot love without intuition (Yes you can) Even an opinion is a kind of action (well, not really) To be in love is to see yourself as someone else sees you (ridiculous) When you escape to a desert the silence shouts in your ear (he must have found that in a Vietnamese fortune cookie) Innocence is a kind of insanity (no it’s not) and shacks up with a local woman named Phuong who is also pursued by a young go-getting CIA operative named Pyle so we have a triangle in which each character represents a country which you may think is rather crude – Fowler : ironic, cool, affectedly neutral but with a disguised moral compass deep within…. He represents Britain so he gets to dispense wisdom Pyle : thinking he’s got the Answer to the messy communist insurrection, he’s making deals with a local warlord in the naïve belief that he can create a Third Force (independent nationalism) … in so doing he of course spreads death and destruction, he’s like a kid in a toyshop where the toys all explode and take your hands off, he has to be stopped. So Pyle gets to represent America. Phuong : a terrible sexist cipher, the graceful silent male fantasy sex machine, she lays out Fowler’s opium pipes each night before laying out her own young tender flesh if he can be bothered after his drug of choice. After Pyle decides he’s in love with Phuong, she gets passed back and forth like a parcel. She doesn’t say much. Apparently she does not have a brain that works : She’ll suffer from childbirth and hunger and cold and rheumatism but she’ll never suffer like we do from thoughts, obsessions – she won’t scratch, she’ll only decay. says Fowler the wise Englishman – I’m not sure how much we are supposed to nod along with this guff or to think Fowler is a creature of his time or what but anyway, So Phuong represents Vietnam being fought over by various Outside Powers and having little or no say in its own destiny. When you’re about to consign this saggy not much of a plot novel to the 2 star bin then it moves up a gear and you get to the strongly anti-colonialist part, and this does go a long way towards justifying the love this novel gets. But I didn’t enjoy my time in this guy’s rancid mind, I didn’t like his elliptical conversations with philosophical cops, his pearls of wisdom got old, and by the time we find out (no surprise) that his heart is in the right place it’s pretty much too late to care. 2.5 stars

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    "War and Love -- they have always been compared." Like The End of the Affair, this is a Greene novel that affects you viscerally. It is a war novel, set in Vietnam. Being so, it is not cheerful or pretty: dead children lying in the street and the like. It hits on the complexities of war; the complexity of morals: how it's impossible to stay neutral forever on such matters when you’re directly involved: you have to make a decision: you must decide, or you're as good as dead. "'You can rule me out, "War and Love -- they have always been compared." Like The End of the Affair, this is a Greene novel that affects you viscerally. It is a war novel, set in Vietnam. Being so, it is not cheerful or pretty: dead children lying in the street and the like. It hits on the complexities of war; the complexity of morals: how it's impossible to stay neutral forever on such matters when you’re directly involved: you have to make a decision: you must decide, or you're as good as dead. "'You can rule me out,' I said. 'I'm not involved. Not involved,' I repeated. It had been an article of my creed. The human condition being what it was, let them fight, let them love, let them murder, I would not be involved. My fellow journalists called themselves correspondents; I preferred the title of reporter. I wrote what I saw. I took no action -- even an opinion is a kind of action." It's something our protagonist fights, and it’s a recurring theme: "Wouldn't we all do better not trying to understand, accepting the fact that no human being will ever understand another, not a wife a husband, a lover a mistress, nor a parent a child? Perhaps that's why men have invented God -- a being capable of understanding. Perhaps if I wanted to be understood or to understand I would bam-boozle myself into belief, but I am a reporter; God exists only for leader-writers." Greene has proven to me that he articulates internal struggles exceptionally well: the ruminating but judgmental mind, the bustling churnings of the inside. And I’m not sure anybody articulates the dark side of love better than he does. Our protagonist here has a quick mind; cold but keen, with an accurate view of the world, and a hardened heart. "To be in love is to see yourself as someone else sees you, it is to be in love with the falsified and exalted image of yourself. In love we are incapable of honour -- the courageous act is no more than playing a part to an audience of two. Perhaps I was no longer in love but I remembered." But you see, love even makes the toughest of us feel pain. "Her pain struck at my pain: we were back at the old routine of hurting each other. If only it were possible to love without injury -- fidelity isn't enough: I had been faithful to Anne and yet I had injured her. The hurt is in the act of possession: we are too small in mind and body to possess another person without pride or to be possessed without humiliation." These quotes bite because they're so true. They are painful and real. "I wish I could have those nights back. I'm still in love, Pyle, and I'm a wasting asset. Oh, and there was pride, of course. It takes a long time before we cease to feel proud of being wanted. Though God knows why we should feel it, when we look around and see who is wanted too." But the beauty of it; it's still there; it doesn't fully go away; and these flashes of beauty live in the memory forever: "I shut my eyes and she was again the same as she used to be: she was the hiss of steam, the clink of a cup, she was a certain hour of the night, and the promise of rest." Oh yeah, and there's plenty of intellectual heft to this, too: the story of the quiet American is a discerning model -- a microcosm if you will -- of the United State's idealism with respect to Vietnam. Greene pulls this off in a clever fashion: Pyle’s good intentions are endearing, even admirable at times -- but they are also ignorant, and therefore dangerous. This novel will grab hold of you; and by the end -- as with most good pieces of literature -- you'll be a little more worldly and wiser because of it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I was pleasantly surprised how moving this story was and how strongly I warmed up to the humanity of the main character in the face of his generally detached outlook. Thomas Fowler is in a slump. As a British war correspondent working out of Saigon in French-occupied Vietnam, he gets a daily dose of duplicity and brutality in the world of ongoing guerilla conflict between the Viet Minh communist insurgents and French colonial forces. And then he comes home to play house with his Vietnamese mistr I was pleasantly surprised how moving this story was and how strongly I warmed up to the humanity of the main character in the face of his generally detached outlook. Thomas Fowler is in a slump. As a British war correspondent working out of Saigon in French-occupied Vietnam, he gets a daily dose of duplicity and brutality in the world of ongoing guerilla conflict between the Viet Minh communist insurgents and French colonial forces. And then he comes home to play house with his Vietnamese mistress, Phuong, who is sweet and kindly prepares his opium for a nightly mental escape. Soon we come to believe that his love for Phuong is more than just selfish need. Both he and her mother would like there to be a marriage, but his estranged, Catholic wife back in London has refused to grant him a divorce. He dreads the inevitable day when he will be recalled to London for a higher position as a news editor. Into this scenario comes a young American, Alden Pyle, who ostensibly works for the economic development division of the U.S. legation, but in reality is a CIA spook. He is genuinely friendly to Fowler, showing a homespun Yankee hospitality in is character. From social interactions, he has become attracted to Phuong. His morality of fairness and honesty leads him to confide his interest in wooing her. He is so naïve, the reader can only assume he is a virgin. Fowler can’t help liking him. He is torn between the threat of losing her and the reluctant recognition that Phuong would probably be better off with Pyle. The narrative starts with this unstable situation and then alternates between Fowler reflecting back in time along various threads leading to the present and his perspective on events unfolding in the current time. As we would expect, the CIA is meddling. An academic political analyst has written a book with an idea that guides Pyle, namely that a solution for American interests requires nurturing and arming a third force among the Vietnamese as an alternative to the communists and pro-colonial sectors. This turns out to be a bumbling and dangerous strategy. The sense of decadent cynicism I saw in Fowler at the beginning is slowly replaced with great admiration for his human compassion. His actions in meeting his challenges shows a quiet bravery and a form of wisdom I think most can admire. As Zadie Smith points out in her preface to the book edition I accessed after doing the audiobook version, the relationship between the three characters makes for a rich personal tale of conflicts in love and loyalty while at the same time playing out the relationship between the three countries in symbolic form. Both planes hold some element of doom arising from all the complication brought on by the divergent goals of their nations and cultural differences in personal vision and morality. We know that soon the Battle of Dien Bien Phu will lead to victory by the Viet Minh and shortly thereafter withdrawal by the French. And then a few more years later, manipulations by the CIA to develop a non-communist puppet regime will lead to a much bigger war. In the precarious phase of this tale, I agree on the brilliance Zadie Smith credits Greene with in painting such a moving story in simple grays, “the honest venality of Phuong, the disengagement of Fowler, the innocence of Pyle.” Ultimately, what pleased me most was the book’s somehat paradoxical messages that seem prescient and modern for something written in 1955, obviously informed by Greene’s own experience as a correspondent there. Again Smith nails it that on the one hand, the blind idealism such as that which drove Pyle can lead to the evil of lives lost among the innocent, while on the other hand the fundamentally cynical view such as Fowler’s belief that ideas are not worth killing for can lead a person like him to intervene with committed actions.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    The Vietnam War is an era that is all too real for me. If you lived through it, you will probably agree that, as a people, we never understood what we were doing, why we were there, or who we were “saving”. The French had already tried to remake Vietnam into a Western style democracy, and had failed entirely. This book takes place just at the passing of the baton--France has not quite given up, and America is beginning to think they have the solution. That is the scene, but this book, as with all The Vietnam War is an era that is all too real for me. If you lived through it, you will probably agree that, as a people, we never understood what we were doing, why we were there, or who we were “saving”. The French had already tried to remake Vietnam into a Western style democracy, and had failed entirely. This book takes place just at the passing of the baton--France has not quite given up, and America is beginning to think they have the solution. That is the scene, but this book, as with all of Greene’s writings, is about more than its setting, it is about people. Fowler, Pyles and Phuong are representations of the three elements that are trying to mix in Vietnam, and they are as unable to do it as individuals as they were as nations. Neither of these men understands Phuong. I was struck that she was not a real or whole person to either of them and their “love” for her was as selfish as love could ever be. She, on the other hand, appears to accept them as they are, without trying overly much to understand them. I think she would tell you that they are too foreign to understand--and there is the rub, they are the foreigners, she is at home. During one of their discussions, Fowler tells Pyle of the Vietnamese citizens: "They want enough rice,' I said, 'They don't want to be shot at. They want one day to be much the same as another. They don't want our white skins around telling them what they want." Fowler has been at this game long enough to understand that what the outsiders want for Vietnam is not necessarily a reflection of what the Vietnamese themselves wish for. But, while he waivers in his view from moment to moment, even he seems to see the Vietnamese as too simple and childlike to make their own choices. Pyle is never bothered with this struggle to see them as anything other than children, however. As the romantic imperialist, he is the guy who has all the solutions if these misguided people would just step out of his way and leave him in charge. Of course, he is deluded. "I was to see many times that look of pain and disappointment touch his eyes and mouth when reality didn't match the romantic ideas he cherished, or when someone he loved or admired dropped below the impossible standard he had set." The essential question raised by Greene might be how much do we count? As individuals? Do some count more than others? Should one decide the fate of many? Can you witness destruction and not become involved? Near the end of the book, Fowler asks, "How many dead colonels justify a child’s or a trishaw driver’s death when you are building a national democratic front?" Sadly, I don’t think we have answered that question yet.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    My time on Earth will be brief, very brief, inconsequential really to things like North America's seasonal movements, Earth's orbit, and the galaxy's star patterns. Yet I, and pretty much everyone else with as brief a life as mine, continue the search for meaning and meaningful experience (stupid humans). Are we looking for profundity in the brevity, a way to either surpass our life's span or are we simply trying to forget about its paltry duration? Birthing, dying, birthing, dying....ad infini My time on Earth will be brief, very brief, inconsequential really to things like North America's seasonal movements, Earth's orbit, and the galaxy's star patterns. Yet I, and pretty much everyone else with as brief a life as mine, continue the search for meaning and meaningful experience (stupid humans). Are we looking for profundity in the brevity, a way to either surpass our life's span or are we simply trying to forget about its paltry duration? Birthing, dying, birthing, dying....ad infinitum ad nauseam. But there it is. And perhaps, more than anything else, this is true: there is an end and a beginning. A beginning and an end. To everything. Change wins. It's not always the best feeling, or a pithy sentiment one should use while patting the back of the bereaved at a funeral. Graham Greene wrote, "From childhood I had never believed in permanence, and yet I had longed for it. Always I was afraid of losing happiness. This month, next year...If not next year, in three years. Death was the only absolute value in my world. Lose life and one would lose nothing again for ever. I envied those who could believe in a God and I distrusted them. I felt they were keeping their courage up with a fable of the changeless and the permanent. Death was far more certain than God, and with death there would be no longer the daily possibility of love dying." And although not everyone can believe in God, we can all agree that the guy that wrote that so eloquently is dead. Change wins again. Despite being the kind of person who simply cannot divorce myself from the concept of God, I understand the previous paragraph. I can see how this changeless and permanent idea is an aberration, but its calmative powers are not that insignificant. The idea that there is something greater than life and death, past all effort of comprehension. To think that sense just might be made of brutality and senseless war and that if a mind was large enough, distanced enough, unclouded by stupidity or bravery, fear or pride...that maybe it can be just enough to convince some to risk doing the right thing for some of the right reasons. Was this what Greene was getting at in TQA? I may never know. But these are the things through his writing that are getting to me.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    'What's the good? he'll always be innocent, you can't blame the innocent, they are always guiltless. All you can do is control them or eliminate them. Innocence is a kind of insanity.' (p155) The crux of the story the crux of the entire sad history of nations trying to remake Southeast Asia in a Western image. As I read The Quiet American, I felt myself sliding down a slippery path to a very messy era I remember all too well. I was 12 in 1960 so I was a teen as the build up of the American turn i 'What's the good? he'll always be innocent, you can't blame the innocent, they are always guiltless. All you can do is control them or eliminate them. Innocence is a kind of insanity.' (p155) The crux of the story the crux of the entire sad history of nations trying to remake Southeast Asia in a Western image. As I read The Quiet American, I felt myself sliding down a slippery path to a very messy era I remember all too well. I was 12 in 1960 so I was a teen as the build up of the American turn in Viet Nam occurred. Reading the comments of the French pilot, Captain Trouin, Fowler's thoughts on Pyle's "naive" but oh so intentional involvement, the story of General Thé. All these brought back memories of the nightly news, Walter Cronkite, Huntley & Brinkley. Of course we, the public, didn't know everything back then. It was long before the 24/7 news cycle. But the news and, particularly the photography, brought the attention of Americans to the war in a way the government would have preferred to prevent. Earlier in the novel, Fowler the older reporter says of Pyle: That was my first instinct---to protect him. It never occurred to me that there was greater need to protect myself. Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm. (p 29) But there are other innocents involved too. As he thinks about his bid to get a divorce from his wife, who is back in England, Fowler reflects: I had forgotten her pain for too long, and this was the only kind of recompense I could give her. Unfortunately the innocent are always involved in any conflict. (p 110) Are these two innocents to be equated? Does Greene intend that? I can't do that though the English language provides the same word for these two people in very different situations. This was my first reading of The Quiet American and I found myself reliving some of those days around the TV in the mid 60s as we watched the news reports coming in from Viet Nam. Greene certainly did know that world and all the players. And he wrote this before major American involvement. It felt like I was hearing some of the same 1960s arguments on the page, indeed some of the same ones used today for exporting "democracy" around the world, whether they want it or not for, after all, "we" know what is best. Greene was a prescient writer who was able to see the future in the present and the past. By the last page, I felt I was in an ethical morass. There were/are no winners here.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ian "Marvin" Graye

    On Recognising the Pattern of the Mosaic My recollection of first reading “The Quiet American” at school 44 years ago is that it was a work of consummate realism with a moral dimension that revolves around war and what we would now call (state-sponsored) terrorism (it was published in 1955). What I hadn’t recalled was how Graham Greene so skillfully structured his narrative. The chronology is fragmented, starting more or less at the end, with the assassination of the quiet American, Alden Pyle, a On Recognising the Pattern of the Mosaic My recollection of first reading “The Quiet American” at school 44 years ago is that it was a work of consummate realism with a moral dimension that revolves around war and what we would now call (state-sponsored) terrorism (it was published in 1955). What I hadn’t recalled was how Graham Greene so skillfully structured his narrative. The chronology is fragmented, starting more or less at the end, with the assassination of the quiet American, Alden Pyle, a dispenser of foreign aid at the U.S. Legation in Saigon in the last days of French colonial rule (1954). By the time the plot returns full circle (or cycle, given the prominence of bicycles) to this event at the end of the novel, we have learned more about how it occurred and who was responsible, at least morally. Graham Greene re-assembled the fragments into a mosaic-like structure. There’s a sense of recognition as the shape of the mosaic becomes apparent. Although Greene wouldn’t have appreciated the analogy (there was no love lost between the two men), the novel reminded me of Lawrence Durrell’s “Alexandria Quartet” (the first volume of which was published two years after this novel). Do Thi Hai Yen (as Phuong in the 2002 film) On Running Down the American The narrator, English reporter and libertine, Thomas Fowler, paints a picture of his rivalry with Pyle as one of his own age and Pyle’s youth, his own experience and Pyle’s innocence, his own wisdom and Pyle’s naivete, and his own cynicism and Pyle’s bright-eyed idealism. They happen to be rivals for the affection of a young Vietnamese woman, Phuong (with whom Fowler is living when the two men meet). Pyle wins, at least initially. It’s not clear to what extent sexual rivalry and jealousy motivate any of Fowler’s subsequent actions (Inevitably, Phuong returns to Fowler after Pyle's death). After all, Fowler acknowledges that: “I began - almost unconsciously - to run down everything that was American...You know, it's lucky I'm not engagé, there are things I might be tempted to do - because here in the East, well, I don't like Ike.” On Getting Involved Fowler maintains a stance of objectivity, detachment and non-involvement in local politics as a condition of his journalistic ethics. He strives to be dégagé rather than engagé. Yet, he is warned “about all of us getting involved sooner or later in a moment of emotion...Sooner or later one has to take sides. If one is to remain human." Fowler eventually crosses the line when he learns that Pyle’s worldly innocence has lured him into a dangerous level of engagement and interference in local politics. Despite the innocuous work he seems to be doing (distributing sewing machines to the Vietnamese), it turns out that Pyle works for O.S.S. (the precursor to the C.I.A.). He has read and become enthused by the political philosophy of a fictitious American journalist/writer, York Harding (Fowler says “He's a superior sort of journalist - they call them diplomatic correspondents. He gets hold of an idea and then alters every situation to fit the idea...”), who highlights the role of grand abstractions like God and Democracy in global politics. They are the satin gloves that disguise the iron fist of American aggression, even before the commencement of the Vietnamese War. U.S. Embassy in Saigon (as at 1955) On Arming the Shoddy Little Bandit Pyle ends up supplying pipe and bicycle bombs to General Thé, the leader of a small rebel group which he thinks will become a Third Way or Third Force in Vietnamese politics that opposes both French colonialism and Chinese-inspired communism. In contrast, Fowler describes Thé as “a shoddy little bandit with two thousand men and a couple of tame tigers.” This type of organisation couldn’t survive without external financial support and weapon supplies, which O.S.S. is happy to provide from its secret budget. Pyle isn’t the worst of the Americans. That honour belongs to Bill Granger, a loud-mouthed journalist, and to Joe, the Economic Attache. The Ugly American was somebody different, a term popularised by the 1958 novel of the same name. Certainly, Fowler retrospectively comes to regret his treatment of Pyle, even if there is nobody to whom he can say he is sorry. Not being a Catholic, he can’t even go to confession. In the end, Fowler must live with his guilt...and with Phuong. Even this happy ending comes at a cost. William Tanner Vollmann in Saigon (as Foretold by Graham Greene)(A Post-Modern Appropriation) "‘You underrate yourself, Bill,’ the Economic Attache said. ‘Why, that account of Road 66 - what did you call it? Highway to Hell - that was worthy of a Pulitzer. You know the story I mean - the man with his head blown off kneeling in the ditch, and that other you saw walking in a dream…’ "‘Do you think I’d really go near their stinking highway? Stephen Crane could describe a war without seeing one. Why shouldn’t I? It’s only a damned colonial war anyway. Get me another drink. And then let’s go and find a girl. You’ve got a piece of tail. I want a piece of tail too.’" (35) March 29, 2017

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cathrine ☯️

    4.5 ⚖️ ⚖️ ⚖️ ⚖️ ⚖️ For certain when you turn the pages of a Graham Greene novel it’s like peeling an onion and once cut into, stimulation of your reader ducts is triggered. This is a murder mystery with heavy substance as Greens’s themes and motifs of innocence, detachment, morality, and religion play out through the pages which keep you pondering long after finishing. Protagonist Fowler thinks he has no bias, believes he has taken no side in the issues confronting him as a reporter in early 1950s 4.5 ⚖️ ⚖️ ⚖️ ⚖️ ⚖️ For certain when you turn the pages of a Graham Greene novel it’s like peeling an onion and once cut into, stimulation of your reader ducts is triggered. This is a murder mystery with heavy substance as Greens’s themes and motifs of innocence, detachment, morality, and religion play out through the pages which keep you pondering long after finishing. Protagonist Fowler thinks he has no bias, believes he has taken no side in the issues confronting him as a reporter in early 1950s Vietnam. He’s about to learn the hardest way what Eldridge Cleaver proclaimed: "There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem.” His quiet American friend Pyle believes he is on the side with the solution and which we know, many more Americans will come to embrace with loud and disastrous consequences. Fowler is no doubt modeled after Greene himself and his experiences as a war correspondent in French Indochina from 1951–1954. He was Orwellian in his foreshadowing of how future policies and events would play out. I thought I had read this previously but must be mistaken. Though I did read a couple of his books in my 20s, the story and events depicted here would have made a memorable impact I’m sure. Rounded up out of respect for a truly gifted writer.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Loretta

    While I did enjoyed the book, I was expecting more.

  23. 5 out of 5

    [P]

    Earlier this year I was in Prague visiting a friend of mine. My personal circumstances haven’t been the best for the last twelve months and I had slipped into a state of deep depression without realising it. The purpose of this trip was to get away from everything, to drink a lot and lose myself in that beautiful city. One afternoon my friend and I were in a bar, six drinks deep and thrillingly relaxed. That is, until a group of Americans arrived. They took the table behind us, and began to figh Earlier this year I was in Prague visiting a friend of mine. My personal circumstances haven’t been the best for the last twelve months and I had slipped into a state of deep depression without realising it. The purpose of this trip was to get away from everything, to drink a lot and lose myself in that beautiful city. One afternoon my friend and I were in a bar, six drinks deep and thrillingly relaxed. That is, until a group of Americans arrived. They took the table behind us, and began to fight for each other’s attention like a bunch of rambunctious puppies. ‘I hate them,’ my friend said quietly, and at first I thought he meant only this particular group, until he followed up with ‘fucking Americans, I can’t stand them.’ It wasn’t the first time I had heard someone dismiss an entire nation, but I was still surprised by this passionate outburst. Of course, I was aware of the stereotype of the brash and grossly impolite and uncultured American, but I had never really given it much thought, and, with ‘yanks’ being in short supply in Sheffield, I certainly hadn’t before heard such vitriol directed at them. ‘They’ve probably come over here to start a war,’ my friend seethed. Since returning from Prague, and now particularly sensitive to it, I have come to realise that this negative stereotype is fairly common amongst the English, and this was at least partly the reason why I have been so interested in reading Graham Greene’s 1955 novel, The Quiet American. It is worth noting in this regard that the title itself could be interpreted as a sly form of mockery, in that it speaks with an element of surprise, as though a quiet American is a rare thing. The American in question is Alden Pyle, a young man with an ‘unused face’, who arrives in war-stricken Vietnam, seemingly as some kind of charity or aid worker, and quickly befriends an Englishman, Thomas Fowler, and his native girlfriend, Phuong. This triangle comes to dominate the novel, and has both political and personal repercussions. The Quiet American is narrated by Fowler, and he describes Pyle numerous times as naïve and innocent. Moreover, the young man himself admits that he lacks experience, especially with women. In his early interactions with Phuong he is excessively polite. He pulls out her chair for her in a bar and, as they sit around a table, he objects to what he considers to be indiscreet conversation, the kind not suitable for a woman’s ears. It is clear that for Pyle women, or Vietnamese women at least, ought to be protected, that he sees them as delicate creatures or even almost as children. Indeed, he is disproportionately affected when one of his fellow countrymen visits a brothel. This man, Granger, is the archetypal loud American, a straight-talking, bullish and arrogant Philadelphian, with whom Fowler occasionally locks horns. While it seems as though Pyle is a sweet, harmless, candid, heart-on-the-sleeve kind of guy, with his whole life ahead of him, Fowler is an ageing journalist with a developing paunch and a wife back in England. In contrast to his starry-eyed young friend, Fowler’s predominant attitude is a kind of disgruntled, world-weariness. Indeed, he claims to only want 18 year old Phuong in order to fight off the loneliness of old-age. To this end, the arrival of Pyle is the worst thing that could have happened to him, because his new friend falls in love with her and becomes intent on marrying her. Predictably, Pyle’s love for Phuong is idealistic, as is his approach to his rival. He claims that he wants to do the right and honourable thing, for example, he undergoes extreme danger in order to go to Fowler and reveal to him his feelings for the man’s girlfriend. Significantly, both in terms of understanding Pyle and the novel as a whole, Fowler asks him why he doesn’t just leave without telling Phuong about his love, why he doesn’t want to avoid causing trouble, and Pyle responds by saying that this wouldn’t be fair. “I wish sometimes you had a few bad motives, you might understand a little more about human beings.” For Alden Pyle the consequences of his actions are less important than his intention. His intention is to do the right thing, and so if people get hurt that is simply an unfortunate, regrettable, but unavoidable form of collateral damage. What is paramount is that he acted in accordance with his principles. Fowler, on the other hand, understands that things are never that clear cut, that a good man trying to do good can, as a result, do bad things, can cause harm, which in this instance would be to hurt Fowler and possibly Phuong also. I found all this fascinating. One never doubts that Pyle is in earnest, that he is on the level, that he is a nice guy, he is simply “impregnably armored by his good intentions and his ignorance.” His character flaw is refusing to accept, or to see, the world as it is. I wrote earlier about personal and political repercussions, and it is interesting, and satisfying, how Greene uses this love triangle to mirror the political situation in the country. Both Pyle and Fowler are outsiders, or invaders if you like, fighting over a Vietnamese, and while the American may be frequently described as innocent, the only real innocent in the situation is Phuong, who comes to represent the ordinary civilian during the war. Moreover, it is not surprising that Pyle brings the same attitude towards his job, which, we come to realise, is not as an aid worker, but a kind of terrorist working for the American government. Again, Pyle’s dangerous idealism, his naivety, means that he harms while trying to do good or he justifies harm in the name of what is good. The line between terrorist and liberator is, for him, not a thin one, it is clear and pronounced. Greene’s point appears to be that this is the American mind-set, that America wades into conflicts with the best intentions in the world, without comprehending the extent of the damage they are causing or likely to cause. “Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.” However, while I can see why he thought this, and I agree to an extent, I, ironically, think he was being too naive himself [unless of course I have misunderstood him]. In terms of individual soldiers, then, yes, I’ve met quite a few and they have all been absolutely convinced that what they are doing – in Iraq, Afghanistan etc – is entirely positive, that they are helping these poor downtrodden countries, that they are bringing democracy to them, and that this is a wonderful thing, even if they have to kill thousands of innocent people in order to do it. What I don’t accept is that the real people in power in America, the people who sanction these conflicts, who send these individuals into these countries, are like Pyle, I don’t buy that they are the Goofy, ‘aw shucks’ variety. I believe that the people who sanction war know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. Power, greed, money, these are the things that drive foreign policy. Oh sure, we’ll get told that, for example, communism is a threat to world security, but the real threat it poses is to certain people’s bank balances; likewise, human rights violations are never the reason we engage. The American [and British] government don’t give a single, shiny fuck about human rights violations. One further potential flaw with The Quiet American is that the friendship between the two men comes across as forced, certainly on Pyle’s side. He speaks about Fowler being his best friend, even though they have known each other for only a very short time. He compliments the man frequently and claims to understand him, to such an extent that it just does not ring true. However, this isn’t necessarily a failure of Greene’s, it could be justified in line with the book’s themes. Isn’t Pyle’s insistence that Fowler is a good man, that the men have bonded and are great friends, a sign of his immaturity? One could even argue that it is the arrogance of the American, one that believes that he can make friends so easily and can understand other people better than they understand themselves. In terms of Fowler, his affection makes sense. He appreciates Pyle’s wide-eyed approach to life, which is so different from his own; but he never considers them to be bosom buddies like Pyle does. I’ve written a lot about Pyle in this review, and I do think that he is a wonderful creation, but, for me, it is through Fowler that Greene raises the most engaging and important question. As previously noted, he is in Vietnam to report on the war between the French and the Viet Mihn communist-nationalist revolutionaries. Fowler, according to himself, steadfastly refuses to take sides, going so far as to say that he has no opinions on what is happening in the country. As The Quiet American pushes on towards its moving conclusion, Greene asks ‘is it possible to not become involved? Can you watch people being killed and not have an opinion?’ This is something that I ask of people all the time, most recently with the refugee crisis. Can you remain neutral in the face of overwhelming suffering? I know I can’t. And neither, ultimately, can Fowler, who is forced to throw off his moral cowardice and act. I won’t reveal what he does, or the consequences of what he does, but it is worth noting that the decision to act is justified in almost exactly the same way that Pyle justifies his own actions, in that it involves the sacrifice of life for, the argument states, the greater good. Perhaps then the only thing one can say with any certainty where war is concerned is that there are no absolutes, no easy answers, it is, and will remain, a messy, horrible, horrifying state of affairs. Much like love, I guess.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    4 and a half stars, rounded up. This is a novel about the good intentions that pave the road to Hell… Greene’s prose is truly beautiful, simple yet elegant, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how eerie it was that he penned this novel in 1955, making it more than a bit prophetic: it could be looked at either as a strange love triangle, or as a metaphor for the way naïve, well-meaning Americans clumsily try to help out people they perceive as less privileged or sophisticated than them – and wreck 4 and a half stars, rounded up. This is a novel about the good intentions that pave the road to Hell… Greene’s prose is truly beautiful, simple yet elegant, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how eerie it was that he penned this novel in 1955, making it more than a bit prophetic: it could be looked at either as a strange love triangle, or as a metaphor for the way naïve, well-meaning Americans clumsily try to help out people they perceive as less privileged or sophisticated than them – and wreck everything in the process. Post-WWII Britain was on the decline: exhausted, struggling (and failing) to keep its various colonies in check, not sure how to really find its place in the 20th century; as where post-WWII ‘Murica was triumphantly buoyed by its newly acquired image as liberators of the oppressed. They had just saved the day in Europe, right? They could go around and do that everywhere now! Woohoo! Alden Pyle is an enthusiastic, ambitious but misguided young CIA operative, who’s learned everything he knows about Viet-Nam and what’s going on there in books. Thomas Fowler is a cynical, world-weary, opium-smoking British journalist who has worked as a war correspondent based in Viet-Nam for years. He befriends the eager and idealistic Pyle – an odd friendship if there ever was one, as they both view the country they find themselves in very differently. This is illustrated by the way they see and treat Phuong, Fowler’s much younger Vietnamese mistress. Phuong is in many ways like a pet to Fowler: he is very fond of her, wants to take care of her and protect her, but he mostly keeps her around because he’s lonely and probably fears dying alone. To Pyle, she’s an exotic beauty in need of rescue, and in his mind, nothing could make her happier than becoming the wife of an American and relocating to the Land of the Free. I found myself wondering: who the Hell is this woman, anyway? Cuz neither one of these guys see her for what she really is. And since this story is told from Fowler’s point of view, we never get to know either! Is she really being used by Fowler, or does she know exactly what she’s doing? Does she really prefer Pyle to him, or is she just doing what’s in her best self-interest? Is she playing those two men, who both objectify and underestimate her in different ways, against each other? Her lack of development was the only thing that irked me with this book: aside from that, it's a nearly perfect novel, beautifully constructed and cleverly paced. I read “The End of the Affair” years ago, and to be honest, I forgot almost everything about it besides the broad strokes of the story and a distinct feeling that while I had enjoyed the prose, the story irritated me insufferably (and yet I gave it 4 stars? I’ll have to revisit it and clear this up…). Probably because of the Catholic thing making everyone miserable. Or because I am so over the theme of obsessive love/lust. I was very relieved to find “The Quiet American” a much richer and more sophisticated story, and while the characters can be pathetic at times, they are not as infuriating as Bendrix and Sarah were. A quick but wonderful read. Highly recommended!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Relationships are complicated by human failings. It's one of British author Graham Greene's themes, and it's fair enough and true. And in Green's world a happy ending is, at best, an ambivalent one. This would explain why I have such a hard time enjoying his books. He was a great writer. His stories often get to the heart of the matter, eventually. The problem is, he wrote so accurately about human behavior as to make his novels quite trying to one's patience. If you're looking for flawed charact Relationships are complicated by human failings. It's one of British author Graham Greene's themes, and it's fair enough and true. And in Green's world a happy ending is, at best, an ambivalent one. This would explain why I have such a hard time enjoying his books. He was a great writer. His stories often get to the heart of the matter, eventually. The problem is, he wrote so accurately about human behavior as to make his novels quite trying to one's patience. If you're looking for flawed characters making bad choices for psychologically sound reasons, at least in their own minds, well then you've come to the right shop. The Quiet American is set during France's "Vietnam War", the one before America's. I believe it was called the First Indochina War, and it stretched from the mid '40s to the mid '50s. This book reads like a news article forecasting a coming war, for it focuses on an American militant outlier's involvement in a conflict well before the U.S. government would eventually get involved. The story follows a British journalist covering the war, who meets a seemingly naive and mysterious American with idealized notions of what's best of the native population, and who swoops in and steals the Brit's bit of foreign good-time fluff. The American's off-the-cuff charm, the Brit's loveless love, and the aloofness of Vietnamese love interest that finishes of the love triangle, all three of these principle participants are mostly in it for themselves, for their own motives, but they are neither good nor bad people. They are just people. The military conflict mirrors the human relationship, and the same questions can be asked of both situations: "What are you doing here?" and "Why are you interfering?" I keep trying to enjoy Greene's books, but it just ain't happening. I mean, yeah I gave this 4 stars (it would be a 3.5 if I could use halves) because it is good writing. However, it's just never thoroughly enjoyable. There's always a certain "gloom" about his work. It's often slow, too, though it never grinds to a complete halt. However, I will continue reading Greene, because it deserves to be read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    [4+] The Quiet American could be called "The Ignorant American" or "The Arrogant American" but the wry title sets the tone of the novel. Written in 1955, the novel is a searing look at the beginning of U.S. involvement in Vietnam through the eyes of a war-weary English journalist. If only we had heeded Greene's cautionary message! I'm glad my book club is going to discuss this novel because there is so much going on under the surface to talk about.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    On the weekend, I came across a box of books belonging to my late brother. It's well over three years since his passing and I thought I had "unpacked" his belongings that still hold hostage to my garage. This box contained many gems, on the top was sitting The Quiet American. As one does, I started reading the first paragraph. By the next day I had finished it, astonished that I had not gotten to reading the work of my brother's favourite author. In death, my brother has moved into a sort of hero On the weekend, I came across a box of books belonging to my late brother. It's well over three years since his passing and I thought I had "unpacked" his belongings that still hold hostage to my garage. This box contained many gems, on the top was sitting The Quiet American. As one does, I started reading the first paragraph. By the next day I had finished it, astonished that I had not gotten to reading the work of my brother's favourite author. In death, my brother has moved into a sort of heroic realm for me: he lived and worked as an academic in South East Asia, from a base in Kuala Lumpur. He forged a great and interesting life, not afraid to take risks in search of finding his place. We had had many literary discussions over the year, a shared love of John Steinbeck and Peter Carey always at the fore. This is such a brilliant tale of love, jealousy, politics, war and innocence that it is hard to think such weighty themes can be given such scrutiny within a tiny 180 pages. Greene published this book set in Vietnam during the build up to what became the Vietnam war in 1955 which in itself is eery in that the ideas expressed about America's role in South East Asia was proven to be true as the 60s and 70s came. Thomas Fowler is a cynical, world weary British journalist stationed in Vietnam, reporting the basics of what was occurring based on the "favourable" press conferences held by the French Imperialist forces. In the sweat and grime of Saigon, he has escaped a loveless marriage in the UK and fallen in love (if he is capable of such an emotion) with a 20 year old Vietnamese dancer, Phuong. Into his life comes the seemingly benignly idealistic "Quiet American", Alden Pyle. Much younger than Fowler, both his youthful self confidence and his slavish adherence to a new US socio-political policy involving the eradication of Communism threatens the life Fowler has made for himself. Something has to give. Greene expertly crafts his story by alternating chapters: one being the present and future, the next the present looking into the past. The story moves along at a cracking pace, with opportunities for the characters to interact in such a way that macro political ideas are expressed in a personal way. This is particularly shown in the conversations between Fowler and the French policeman, Fowler and the French pilot as well as between Fowler and Pyle. Brilliant and moving, I can see why my brother was a devotee of Greene's. PS. Under his copy of this book are copies of Brighton Rock, The End of the Affair, The Power and the Glory and Our Man in Havana. These now demand to be read - I'm getting to know my brother again :)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    As a critique of American intervention in foreign affairs, the story was excellent. The "quiet" American (he never shuts up) steps into a world he knows nothing about and creates havoc. My problem with the book was a problem common to many similar authors (DeLillo, I'm looking at you): it was very male-centric and I got annoyed. Phuong, the love/lust/possession interest in the book, was never given a character, described as innocent, childish, a sexual object, and a caretaker in turn. I realize As a critique of American intervention in foreign affairs, the story was excellent. The "quiet" American (he never shuts up) steps into a world he knows nothing about and creates havoc. My problem with the book was a problem common to many similar authors (DeLillo, I'm looking at you): it was very male-centric and I got annoyed. Phuong, the love/lust/possession interest in the book, was never given a character, described as innocent, childish, a sexual object, and a caretaker in turn. I realize the character was supposed to be symbolic of the country--both men, American and British, wanted to possess her, without understanding her. But it's hard to read a book where women aren't allowed to be women--full fleshed, intelligent and capable of self determination. Here, I was doing acrobatics to make the story palatable. It reminded me of reading Lolita. During both books, it was an interesting character study of the people watching the women, if you considered it from the woman's perspective. I still felt slimy reading it. I get that the sliminess is the point, but ew. It makes me grateful for books like "Regeneration" which make important points, but with all the characters fully drawn. (It's my new favorite book this year.) In any case, I'm glad I read it. The writing is beautiful and it tells an important story.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Whitaker

    I’ve only read three Graham Greene’s so far, but he definitely seems like a writer whose works I should look into more. Prior to this, I’d read Our Man in Havana and The Power and the Glory. This is a little like a mash up of both. There’s the inept skulduggery of the first, and the searing bleakness and cynicism of the second. Greene is my kind of guy: He’s got a jaundiced view of people and the world. This novel thrums with moral ambiguity. And reading this now in 2012, some 60 years after it I’ve only read three Graham Greene’s so far, but he definitely seems like a writer whose works I should look into more. Prior to this, I’d read Our Man in Havana and The Power and the Glory. This is a little like a mash up of both. There’s the inept skulduggery of the first, and the searing bleakness and cynicism of the second. Greene is my kind of guy: He’s got a jaundiced view of people and the world. This novel thrums with moral ambiguity. And reading this now in 2012, some 60 years after it was written, the ambiguity is even more trenchant. We know now that the US went on to fight a war in Vietnam, a war that it would lose rather painfully. We know also that Vietnam fell to the communists. The fragments of peace in this novel look all the more illusory and endangered from this end of time. Poor Alden. That poor child never stood a chance, although it was frightening to see how quickly his innocence turned into meaningless platitudes. Towards the end, he says, “Well, it’s sad these women and children died, but they died for democracy.” Well, the thought that they did not choose this path or elected to have Alden put them on it never crosses his mind. The moral ambiguity is far more than poor deluded Alden Pyle’s naive belief in bringing democracy to the natives though. And it relates to far more than just the international political imperatives at play. It goes from the global macro level to the personal micro one too. Our man Fowler looks like a hero no? Albeit a slightly soiled one. But what are we to make of him and his relationship with Phoang? There is a chilling section in the novel when Fowler’s wife writes back to him, replying to his letter asking for a divorce because he cannot live without Phoang. She points out that he had said exactly the same thing about her too. And about the woman he first left her for. When, she asks, will his promise of forever to Phoang turn to ashes like it did for the other women? What, she asks, will it leave Phoang with, abandoned in cold gloomy England far from home? And we might ask, does he even care that, much older than Phoang, he will inevitably leave her alone and, by then, no longer so pretty as to attract another protector? And Phoang? She’s a cipher. Greene never lets us into her head. Thankfully, I actually think. The musings of an Occidental male on the thoughts of an Oriental female would only have been a grotesque form of colonialist sexist drag. Nevertheless, we see enough to make us question what love or emotions she has invested in this relationship. As Fowler himself points out, she is looking more for security than she is for romantic love. Just who provides it matters substantially less. So, knowing what we know now, how do we weigh up the moral choices made by the characters here? Would it have been better if Alden Pyle had not died? And what of Fowler and Phoang? To stay on in Vietnam to see it fall and be killed by the communists? To leave to England where they will both, it is strongly suggested, be completely miserable? Greene asks where our moral choices leave us, and it seems his answer is that whatever path we take, they all lead to damnation. Aw, man, Graham, you're my kind of guy.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Very little is written about The First Indochina War, the post-WWII (1946-1954) conflict involving French and French allied forces against native communist insurgencies. It is often overshadowed by the American Vietnam War, the Korean War, and contemporaneous events in Europe. But make no mistake, it was a long, savage, and destructive conflict that foreshadowed much of the American Vietnam experience. The Quiet American takes place during this often overlooked conflict and is told from the pers Very little is written about The First Indochina War, the post-WWII (1946-1954) conflict involving French and French allied forces against native communist insurgencies. It is often overshadowed by the American Vietnam War, the Korean War, and contemporaneous events in Europe. But make no mistake, it was a long, savage, and destructive conflict that foreshadowed much of the American Vietnam experience. The Quiet American takes place during this often overlooked conflict and is told from the perspective of Thomas Fowler, a middle age English correspondent who has been in Vietnam for several years when the events of the book take place. It tells the story of his experience with a naive and eager American, Alden Pyle (the eponymous Quiet American). The two could not me more dissimilar. Where Fowler is old and world weary Pyle is young and ambitious; where Fowler is jaded by what he has seen, Pyle is full of optimistic energy by what he has read in books; where Fowler sees how things are, Pyle sees how things could be; where Fowler is disillusioned with religion and -isms Pyle is pious and a True Believer in Democracy and Freedom. They see the same world but perceive it in radically different ways. In some circumstances this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Heck, the TV show The Odd Couple was premised on this sort of mismatch. But this isn't 1970's New York, it is early 1950's Vietnam, and there's a worldwide crusade against communism to be fought. On top of that Pyle falls for Fowler's (much, much younger) Vietnamese girlfriend (his ever suffering wife lives in England) and vows, in an absurdly civil manner, to win her and take her for his wife. Oh, and Pyle is totally an American intelligent Agent dispatched to persecute said anti-Communist crusade. So while on the surface this is a story of two men and a woman in a nation at war, it serves as a much larger observation about the state of world affairs. Post-WWII was a time of change. Europe was on the decline, having exhausted itself with war and attempting to maintain crumbling colonial empires. America was on the rise, bolstered by an absurd optimism that their way was THE way forward for human progress and freedom. Fowler and Pyle represent these two powers. Fowler, like Europe, has been in country much longer than Pyle. He understands how Vietnamese culture works, what drives them, and what they are struggling with. But he lacks the energy or motivation to really get involved in the conflict. He has a fondness for the people of Vietnam, but knows that their priorities and motivations are unique to themselves and not universalized. He has few future prospects and merely strives for comfort through his aging years. Pyle, on the other hand, is young, full of energy and direction. However he is woefully misinformed about the country. What knowledge he does have comes from an academic writing about the country after spending a very short time there. His mind is full of high ideas of what the Vietnamese people need and how to achieve it. He doesn't bother to actually ask the people what they want, merely assuming it is the same thing that Americans want (freedom and liberty). Heck, he doesn't even speak the language of the people he is trying to save (and if that is emblematic of an intervening American, I don't know what is). Between them is Phuong, Fowler's girlfriend. He is by no means in love with her (he even doubts if he can love again), but is both fond of her and fears growing old alone. He provides material comfort for her and she provides companionship for him. It may not be a storybook relationship, but it seems to work for them, for the time being. Pyle, on the other hand, is instantly smitten with her and vows marry her (lack of a common language aside). He puts her on a pedestal and ignores her qualities that would detract form this ideal version of her he has (like that she once worked in a "Dancing Hall'). He expects her to emigrate to America with him, join the local women's clubs, and generally behave like an American wife. Fowler warns him that Phoung does not conceptualize marriage and love the same way he does, that she wants support and comfort and that Pyle is projecting his own American ideals onto her. It is pretty messy all around and neither man seems to treat Phuong as the person she is. In fact, given the limited viewpoint of this story (Fowler's) we don't even get to see Phoung as a total person. We know she has a life away from both men, but Fowler seems only interested in how she can make him feel better and Pyle sees only an idealized Phoung that doesn't exist. Once again we can see parallels between European and American views of third world countries during this time period. What is interesting, however, is that for all the potential conflict between Pyle and Fowler, they actually remain on good (or at least amicable) terms with each other. Pyle is too courteous to truly get angry at Fowler and Fowler is somehow enchanted by Pyle's extreme innocence and Fowler tries to protect it to the degree he can. That was my first instinct - to protect him. It never occurred to me that there was greater need to protect myself. Innocence always calls mutely for protection, when we would be much wiser to guard ourselves against it; innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm. Of course naiveté is no excuse for the Pyle's plans for Vietnam are ("I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.") and Fowler is finally forced from his aloofness to make a choice about what Pyle is doing. It is by no means an easy decision and the entire books sets up a very fascinating moral dilemma for Fowler. I greatly enjoyed this read. It had challenging characters, prescient themes (this was published in 1955), and a very accessible writing style. It got a little slow in the middle but is a great, if quick, read about an often overlooked time and place. Even someone with no knowledge of Vietnam or international politics can still appreciate this story for its very human element. (On a side note: This book was made into a movie twice. The first remake later in the 1950's completely altered the story, making Pyle out to be an innocent American caught in Fowler's evil machinations because he romanced Phoung (played by an Italian actress, because Hollywood). Sufficed to say, Greene was very unhappy with how his anti-war story was completely bastardized and turned into a "propaganda film for America")

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