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The Quiet American by Graham Greene

The Quiet American (1955)

by Graham Greene

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,0631311,007 (3.96)429
  1. 80
    Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (browner56)
    browner56: Powerful, suspenseful fictional accounts of the intended and unintended consequences of colonial rule
  2. 10
    Doctor Fischer of Geneva, or, The bomb party by Graham Greene (John_Vaughan)
  3. 10
    The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene (Sandydog1)
    Sandydog1: Equally moving, and I think it shares top honors for Greene's best.
  4. 10
    Getting to Know the General by Graham Greene (John_Vaughan)
  5. 10
    A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene (John_Vaughan)
  6. 00
    The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (thecoroner)
  7. 00
    Zero Hour in Phnom Penh by Christopher G. Moore (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Schauplatz beider Romane ist Südostasien. Spannung. Grausamkeit der herrschenden Gewalt.
  8. 01
    Killing Fields by Christopher Hudson (John_Vaughan)

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» See also 429 mentions

English (121)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  German (2)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (130)
Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)
The Quiet American is dark, thoughtful, meticulously crafted and full of suspense.

Thomas Fowler is a British war correspondent who has been in Vietnam for two years. Not being French or Vietnamese he sees himself as disinterested and apart from the conflict. The novel begins with him waiting for Alden Pyle, an American aid worker who he arranged to meet. While waiting his former lover Phuong, now with Pyle, arrives and has been waiting for Pyle as well.

With that opening Greene reveals a love triangle and much of the novel concerns itself with how it came to be and in explaining the complicated relationship between Fowler and Pyle. This novel isn't just about the love of a woman - or is it?

Fowler is a weary man, growing older and in retreat from the world and his wife back in Britain. He represses feeling of guilt and sadness and wishes to simply go through the motions his work covering a misguided and interminable war and let Vietnam do what Vietnam will do. Pyle, on the other hand, is vigorous and idealistic. He has ideas about the war and underlying motives for being involved. Fowler and Pyle would have had little to say to one another if they both didn't happen to want the same thing - Phuong.

Phuong has little to say on her own behalf. She's content with Fowler, but leaves without regret at the urging of her family when offered greater security from Pyle. She may represent Vietnam itself, or not. Fowler debates becoming involved with the conflict as he begins to understand what Pyle's real purpose in the country. How much is his decision affected by their relationship? The book works for me without the political meaning and the critical hindsight applied to the book in light of what happened in that country in the decades following The Quiet American's publication.

I will be reading more Greene. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Decidedly sexist and racist but it's a book of its time. A plot structured with clear mastery with characters that only serve the main character and never seem to achieve life on their own. Still, the book is compelling for the moment in time which it captures. ( )
  alexezell | Nov 14, 2018 |
I primarily loved [b:The Quiet American|3698|The Quiet American|Graham Greene|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1309206487s/3698.jpg|1469913] because of Greene's masterful portrait of its narrator. At times I felt there were no words at all between me and the author but that I was directly feeling the cynical yet, ultimately, human heart of the main character. The actual plot of the novel only provided a framework into which Greene could place his characters. This was most evident to me as, towards the end of the story, the action picked up a bit and I found it distracting and not nearly as engaging as hearing the narrator's thoughts vs. his observations of what was going on around him. ( )
  dan4mayor | Jun 28, 2018 |
"I stopped our Trishaw outside the Chalet and said to Phoung, 'Go inside 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."

This is so good. A huge thanks to Bill who recommended it to me. I like Greene's writing. I have now read five by him, and I think this might be my favorite. Set in Vietnam when it was still French Indochina during the first French Indochina War - Greene was a reporter then, and he knows what we writes about. Published in 1955, it is a very prescient novel - I can see why this book was disliked in America at the time, but it rings true, and that alone is heartbreaking. Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote Crazymamie | May 9, 2018 |
It's my first Greene novel and the writing is often exquisite; his descriptions are surprising and (for a book steeped in melancholy), sometimes bitterfly funny and delightful. There's a wry and brutal undertone to this novel, which is primarily about sexual obsession and Anglo-American masculinities. One star off for the latent orientalism of the white men in Vietnam, thinking they know all about the Vietnam psyche, desiring the bodies of the Vietnamese women ("small", "hairless", etc.) but even that is complicated by the main character's astute self-awareness of his position as "old" colonialist predator. When I first started it I thought I was in for some Hemingwayesque banality, but Greene is a sensitive writer and therefore demands more of his prose, if this novel is anything to go by. ( )
1 vote subabat | Mar 19, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)
Easily, with long-practiced and even astonishing skill, speaking with the voice of a British reporter who is forced, despite himself, toward political action and commitment, Greene tells a complex but compelling story of intrigue and counter-intrigue, bombing and murder. Into it is mixed the rivalry of two white men for a Vietnamese girl. These elements are all subordinate to the political thesis which they dramatize and which is stated baldly and explicitly throughout the book.
There are many natural storytellers in English literature, but what was rare about Greene was the control he wielded over his abundant material. Certainly one can imagine nobody who could better weave the complicated threads of war-torn Indochina into a novel as linear, as thematically compact and as enjoyable as The Quiet American

» Add other authors (91 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greene, Grahamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Caddell, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
English, BillCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorra, MichaelSuggestions for Further Readingsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundblad, JaneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magnus, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scheepmaker, H.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, ZadieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Springer, KätheÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stingl, NikolausÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stone, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valja, JiøíTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This is the patent age of new inventions
For killing bodies, and for saving souls,
All propagated with the best intentions. — Byron
I do not like being moved; for the will is excited, and action
Is a most dangerous thing; I tremble for something factitious,
Some malpractice of heart and illegitimate process;
We're so prone to these things, with our terrible notions of duty. — A. H. Clough
First words
After dinner I sat and waited for Pyle in my room over the rue Catinat; he had said, ‘I’ll be with you at latest by ten,’ and when midnight struck I couldn’t stay quiet any longer and went down into the street.
innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
While the French Army in Indo-China is grappling with the Vietminh, back in Saigon a young and high-minded American named Pyle begins to channel economic aid to a "Third Force."

Caught between French colonialists and the Vietminh, Fowler, the narrator and seasoned foreign correspondent, observes: "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused." As young Pyle's policies blunder on into bloodshed, the older man finds it impossible to stand aside as an observer. But Fowler's motives for intervening are suspect, both to the police and to himself: for Pyle has robbed him of his Vietnamese mistress.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143039024, Paperback)

"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.

Originally 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:35 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

This novel is a study of New World hope and innocence set in an Old World of violence. The scene is Saigon in the violent years when the French were desperately trying to hold their footing in the Far East. The principal characters are a skeptical British journalist, his attractive Vietnamese mistress, and an eager young American sent out by Washington on a mysterious mission.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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