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The Quiet American (Penguin Classics Deluxe…

The Quiet American (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (original 1955; edition 2004)

by Graham Greene (Author), Robert Stone (Introduction)

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5,683123751 (3.96)392
Title:The Quiet American (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
Authors:Graham Greene (Author)
Other authors:Robert Stone (Introduction)
Info:Penguin Classics (2004), Edition: Reprint, 180 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Quiet American by Graham Greene (1955)

  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 392 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
In this accomplished literary thriller, Graham Greene pairs the personal and the political more efficiently than any other book I have yet read. Set in French Indochina during the 1950s, we follow the love triangle between Phuong, the innocent young Vietnamese girl and her two admirers, Fowler, the cynical ageing colonial Englishman and Pyle, the 'quiet' young idealistic American of the title. Without meaning to oversimplify what is a cultured book, each of these three characters represents their respective countries and mindsets.

The unintended threat posed by idealism and innocence form Greene's central theme, and his analysis of the United States' well-meaning but naïve intervention in Vietnam is extraordinarily prescient (the book was written nearly ten years before the Gulf of Tonkin incident). Not only in the geopolitical aspects of it but in the nature of the ground war ("A war of jungle and mountain and marsh, paddy fields where you wade shoulder-high and the enemy simply disappear, bury their arms, put on peasant dress." (pg. 16)) and in the simultaneous media campaign that would have to be fought ("… have to fight Left-Wing deputies in Paris as well as the troops of Ho Chi Minh" (pg. 56)), Greene's book was a Cassandra-like warning to American policymakers.

But this prescience does not come, of course, from prophecy or divine revelation, but from a hard-nosed assessment of the geopolitical situation in the country from one who had been there and experienced it first-hand. I feel hugely privileged to read a book by someone who had such a tight grip both on the subject matter he dealt with and on the writing talent he deployed. For aside from its timeless geopolitical relativism, the book is also a fine thriller. The plot retains some of its mystery and suspense – which is remarkable considering that the book's non-chronological order means we know some of what happens quite early on – and the book skips along well despite its detail. It is elegant and accomplished but with a sideline of cynicism and dark wit, like inviting a raconteur mandarin to a dinner at a fine restaurant. ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | May 7, 2017 |
Book on CD read by Joseph Porter

Adapted from the book jacket: Green’s experiences as a journalist covering the French war in Indochina provided the material for the story of Fowler, a world-weary British journalist, and Pyle, an idealistic and naïve “quiet American” who blindly applies his academic theories to a political situation he doesn’t quite grasp. The relentless struggle of the Vietminh guerrillas for independence and the futility of the French gestures of resistance become inseparably meshed with the personal and moral dilemmas of these two men and the Vietnamese woman they both love.

My reactions
This has been cited as the quintessential book about Vietnam, especially the conflict begun with the French war. I don’t know if I would agree, but it’s definitely a good book about what was happening in the country during the mid-1950s. The reader gets some inkling of the politics of the era, but is more consumed by the personal drama of these two men and the Vietnamese woman they both say they love.

I found it very atmospheric. I’ve been to Vietnam, and recognized several of the landmarks mentioned – I even stayed at the Majestic hotel – so that really brought the novel to life for me. That being said, I really wish that Greene had given me more of the politics and important issues of the era rather than focus so much on the love triangle. I disliked both Fowler and Pyle; and I didn’t perceive Pyle as naïve or idealistic, but as duplicitous and cunning. Their fighting over Phuong seemed like the stuff of junior high.

None of this was helped by Joseph Porter’s performance on the audio. If I could rate him separately he’d get a zero. His voice is nasal and irritating. His “American” accent is appallingly bad (he makes Bostonian Pyle sound like a Texan). And his pace is slow. I read sections because listening was just driving me crazy. If there are other audio versions with different narrators, try one of those. Stay away from Porter. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 23, 2017 |
This was a book we read at school and which I considered at the time to be pretty boring. On reflection, there is little in it for a 15 year old me to identify with or relate to. Further, not much actually physically happens. Thirty years later I get a lot more from it.

Set in Vietnam during the 1950s Indo-China wars, Fowler is an English newspaper correspondent or as he likes to say "reporter". He simply reports the facts and does not take sides or become involved in the war. He is not engagé. He is ageing, cynical and a tad weary of it all. He represents old school European colonialism. Pyle is in effect a secret agent. He is young, naive and by extension dangerous. He represents America. Their conflict is played out on two fronts. At a personal level over Fowler's young Vietnamese lover Phoung, with Pyle earnestly trying to do the right thing by telling Fowler's of his interest in her. At one point he even gets Fowler to translate his intentions directly to Phoung. More tragically, towards the end of the book, Fowler has to become engagé to stop Pyle coldly putting into effect his straight from a book 'third force' ideology.

Considering when it was written, the book is keenly prescient of American involvement in Vietnam, I believe Greene lived there for a number of years. The only other Greene novel I have read so far is Brighton Rock, which is a much earlier novel. That book was good, but this to me is more mature exploration of the human psyche. No doubt I would have preferred Brighton Rock thirty years ago. ( )
  Lord_Boris | Feb 21, 2017 |
Fun to re-read after many years, and before the memory of the Michael Caine movie slowly slips totally away.
Greene had the knack of being in the right place to write books that quickly became topical (Vietnam, Cuba) and in this case, the content still resonates.

Read Jan 2017 ( )
  mbmackay | Feb 11, 2017 |
This is a wonderful little novel. Set Saigon in the early 1950s when Vietnam was called French Indochina. On one level, this is love triangle told by one of the three. Thomas Fowler is an over-the-hill English newspaper reporter reporting on the guerrilla war the French are fighting against the Vietnamese communists. Fowler has a wife in England, but they have been separated for years, and he has now built a comfortable life for himself in Saigon. Comfortable because he has a young Vietnamese mistress, Phuong, who seems to live only for him.

Things change when a handsome young American, Alden Pyle, arrives in Saigon working for some aid mission through the US embassy. Pyle has been educated at the best Boston universities, and is full of energy and ideas on how Vietnam can be saved from the communists. Fowler and Pyle meet and develop a friendship where they discuss their conflicting ideas over the future of Vietnam. But when Pyle meets Phuong, he is stunned at her beauty and disturbed that this young girl has to demean herself by living with the aged Fowler.

Believing that he has fallen in love with Phuong, he tells Fowler that he intends to offer himself to Phuong as her husband, and take her to the United States. Pyle does convince Phuong to leave Fowler and take up with him. But then strange political incidents begin to occur, and it appears that the quiet Pyle has something to do with these changes, and Fowler begins to suspect that there is more to Pyle than he has revealed.

The book ends with an ethical challenge to Fowler: Pyle's life is endanger, and Fowler is in a position to save him, but if he does, he will lose Phuong.

I found the book especially interesting if you view the three characters as representing their countries. Fowler represents the old colonial powers: knowledgeable but tired and a bit corrupt. Pyle represents the Americans: young, bright, energetic and believing Americans have all the answers. And finally, Phuong represents the Vietnamese people: beautiful, exotic and unable to control her own destiny. I highly recommend this book. ( )
1 vote ramon4 | Nov 21, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 114 (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 (93 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greene, Grahamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Caddell, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorra, MichaelSuggestions for Further Readingsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundblad, JaneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magnus, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scheepmaker, H.J.Translatorsecondary 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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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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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