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De stille Amerikaan by Graham Greene
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De stille Amerikaan (original 1955; edition 1978)

by Graham Greene

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,95596925 (3.94)298
Member:Philippe_Nollet
Title:De stille Amerikaan
Authors:Graham Greene
Info:Amsterdam Bakker 1978
Collections:Literatuur, Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:1001 boeken, 20e eeuw, Azië, Brits, Britse literatuur, Klassieker, Koude Oorlog, Kolonialisme, spionage, Fictie, Graham Greene, Historische fictie, Indochina, Literatuur, Roman, Politiek, Vietnam, Vietnamoorlog, Oorlog

Work details

The Quiet American by Graham Greene (1955)

  1. 70
    Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (browner56)
    browner56: Powerful, suspenseful fictional accounts of the intended and unintended consequences of colonial rule
  2. 10
    Getting to Know the General by Graham Greene (John_Vaughan)
  3. 10
    A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene (John_Vaughan)
  4. 00
    The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene (Sandydog1)
    Sandydog1: Equally moving, and I think it shares top honors for Greene's best.
  5. 00
    Doctor Fischer of Geneva, or The Bomb Party by Graham Greene (John_Vaughan)
  6. 00
    The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (thecoroner)
  7. 01
    Killing Fields by Christopher Hudson (John_Vaughan)
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Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
I know this book is liked by many around here, but I just didn't enjoy it. It is a look at Vietnam in the 1950s, with different factions competing for political power and plenty of foreign journalists around to muddy the waters. The book is told from Fowler's point of view, a British journalist. While exploring the war and politics, there is also a central story of Fowler and Pyle's (an youthful, naive American) competition for a young Vietnamese girl, Phuong. We find out at the beginning that Pyle has been murdered and Fowler's memories gradually uncover his story.

While I appreciated how politics and anti-war philosophy were woven together with a personal story, I just really didn't like the characters and hated the whole love triangle aspect. I found Pyle unbelievable and one-dimensional and Phuong, as well, had no personality and seemed like a stereotype.

To be fair, this was the first audiobook I've listened to where I really hated the reader, Joseph Porter, and that definitely colored my view of the book. I will definitely not listen to another audiobook read by him - he had a horrible natural speaking voice and then he tried to do American accents and French accents and it was just terrible.

There are many readers around here who I respect who have a great liking for this novel, so don't let my experience put you off, but I really can't say I enjoyed this book. I am still willing to try other Graham Greene novels at some point, though. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Nov 13, 2014 |
As the French occupation of Vietnam was waning in the early 1950s, the Americans started moving in; under the guise of "economic adviser" and other titles, most were really CIA agents or military men. One of these was the quiet American of the title, Alden Pyle -- young, earnest, eager to bring "democracy" to the world (a "third way," neither colonial nor communist), oblivious to the world he has entered and the impact of his actions, and oh so naive. The novel begins when he fails to arrive at a dinner date with an older, more cynical, British journalist, Fowler, the narrator of the tale, and later is discovered dead, floating in the water near a bridge. The novel then proceeds largely in flashback, as the reader discovers the relationship between the two men and what led to this event.

This novel can be read on many levels. On the one hand, it is a thriller as the reader discovers why Pyle wound up murdered, but it is also a novel of romantic and other betrayals, a novel that creates an amazingly vivid portrait of a particular time and place, a war novel, a novel that explores what it means to take a side, and a novel that was prescient about the US role in Vietnam (and other places around the world, for that matter).

Pyle meets Fowler soon after he arrives in Vietnam, seems to like him ("may I call you Tom?"), and definitely is attracted to Fowler's mistress, Phuong, and wants to take her away from Fowler, marry her, and bring her back to the US. Fowler isn't in love with Phuong, but relies on her for companionship, sex, and preparing his nightly opium pipes (he appears to be still partly in love with his abandoned wife, back in England, who won't give him a divorce; at least they still have the ability to hurt each other), and he resists Pyle's efforts to entice Phuong away, sometimes by devious means. Phuong's sister, who is a more interesting character than Phuong, who never really comes to life, is determined to marry Phuong off with Pyle because he is a better catch.

In the course of the novel, Fowler travels around Vietnam, memorably going up in a bomber with a French captain, and even more memorably going on a road trip, unexpectedly finding Pyle at his destination, and undergoing a harrowing, life-threatening experience when they run out of gas (it has been siphoned off) and they have to spend the night in an observation tower with two teenage Vietnamese guards; when the tower is attacked, Pyle ends up saving Fowler's life, which complicates things a lot. The descriptions of the countryside and the impact of war on the people are some of the highlights of this novel.

Within Saigon, there is much plotting and counterplotting going on, and it develops that Pyle is not all he says he is (or is actually much more), because he has smuggled plastic explosives into the country. Various other interesting characters appear, as the novel builds to its not entirely unexpected conclusion (not saying more to avoid spoilers).

For me, this novel was most interesting as an exploration of betrayal and what it means to choose a side; I felt the Americans, and most especially Pyle, were caricatured, but possibly deservedly so. Although brief, this novel is complex both in its plotting and in the way it constantly challenges the reader to reexamine what is happening.
3 vote rebeccanyc | Nov 2, 2014 |
I should have read "The Quiet American" decades ago, in part because I lived through the anti-Vietnam War protests at Berkeley. And even more so, because I worked in Stanford's Hoover Archives with the Lansdale papers. Mostly I regret reading books I "should" read. While I'm ambivalent about Graham Greene himself, his troubling book should have been more attentively studied when it came out in 1955, a clear warning. Greene's narrator Thomas Fowler is treacherously loutish, misogynistic, anti-American, and worst of all unappetizing. Yet: This book was chillingly prescient back then in 1955, clearly so now that the story has played itself out. The craftsmanship of the plot and the seemingly plain language make the truth compelling and interesting to read. I've tried to read lots of true stories, just couldn't bear the banality, but Graham Greene knows how to weave a tale. Stories sometimes entertain and sometimes also contain truth. Some writers have a periscope and can see what's really going on above the waves, and in this book Greene's periscope is functioning perfectly. The causes of the American tragedy in Vietnam are plainly revealed, even before it all happened. Like Tolstoy's "War and Peace," this book is equally about the tragedy of war and the mystery of marriage. Sounds weird but he makes it work. There is a Madama Butterfly thing going on. Not my favorite part of the book.

Back to Lansdale. Greene was adamant: Alden Pyle is not based on Lansdale. The manuscript was almost completed by 1952 before Lansdale was officially stationed in Vietnam. Yes, but it came out in 1955 when he was officially there. Lansdale saw himself in Pyle. Lansdale was adamant: Pyle had a pet dog, Lansdale was the only GI with a pet dog. Pyle was close to General The. Only Lansdale was close to General The. Pyle advocated a "third way." Lansdale was the major proponent of a "third way." Lansdale was famous in intelligence circles (where Greene was a privileged guest) before 1955 for putting down a communist (Huk) rebellion in the Philippines. And the Americans wanted to have Lansdale repeat his success in the next hotspot, Vietnam. Greene knew it wouldn't work in Vietnam the way it did in the Philippines. But he denied Lansdale's role in his novel. The fictional rivalry between Fowler and Pyle was continued in real life in the conflict of egos between Greene and Lansdale. Greene may have lied about the sources of his characters, but his fiction was true. ( )
1 vote ElenaDanielson | Sep 30, 2014 |
Restores faith in the value of reading the modern classics. Great story, enigmatic characters, - even the blank screen Vietnamese mistress is appropriately so; she's a servant to his needs not a companion. The book is very much about ex-pats: hey don't really enter or even contact the local culture. The Asian atmosphere is as authentic as I am able to judge. The front-line fear and the horror of street terrorism is very up-to the minute. The insight into US foreign policy is extraordinary given that the book was written before full US engagement in Vietnam: the mix of naive do-goodery with cynical violence and ignorance of local affairs anticipates Iraq Afghanistan and the latest headlines. The Roman Catholic aspect is kept quietly off-stage (the wife back in Blighty) which is how I prefer it. And the prose is clean and trenchant without affectation. Greene used to seem rather middle brow middle of the road compared to the bold modernists, but i now find him a clear contender for best British novelist of the 20th century.
Audio book finely read by Simon Cadell, an ancient cassette set I found when clearing my cupboards ( )
1 vote vguy | Sep 24, 2014 |
This book is a fairly short read, but I have found myself nonetheless a real big fan of the book. The antagonist, Pyle, is presented in a way that is entirely new to me. Pyle managed to be one of the more despicable characters I've read about, but at the same time was also oddly likable. The way that Pyle's naivety is presented manages to be both astonishing and aggravating, simultaneously.

Overall, I was very pleased with this read and can see myself digging into quite a few more of Greene's work. I feel I should write a lot more about this book, but I think sleep is going to win this fight; another time.

Quotes I liked from this book:
- “I wish sometimes you had a few bad motives, you might understand a little more about human beings.”
- “Thought's a luxury. Do you think the peasant sits and thinks of God and Democracy when he gets inside his mud hut at night?”
- “He was impregnably armored by his good intentions and his ignorance.” ( )
  michplunkett | Jul 14, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 88 (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 (43 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
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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
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.
Quotations
innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:40 -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 6 descriptions

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