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Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene

Our Man in Havana (original 1958; edition 1997)

by Graham Greene

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,401721,588 (3.88)229
Title:Our Man in Havana
Authors:Graham Greene
Info:Folio Society, Hardback
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:thriller, Folio Society, fiction, anglophone

Work details

Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene (1958)

  1. 31
    The Tailor of Panama by John Le Carré (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: Le Carré's 1996 novel was inspired by Greene's "Our Man in Havana".
  2. 20
    Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov (alalba)
    alalba: In both books the main character makes up stories as a way of keeping his job, in both cases, they become reality.
  3. 10
    The Siege of Krishnapur by J. G. Farrell (terrazoon)
    terrazoon: Good satires are hard to find. Although the subject matter is different, if you like one you will probably like the other.
  4. 00
    The Fat Plan by Glen Neath (sanddancer)
  5. 01
    The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale by Joseph Conrad (LamontCranston)
  6. 01
    My Life In CIA: A Chronicle of 1973 by Harry Mathews (slickdpdx)

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» See also 229 mentions

English (62)  Spanish (3)  Swedish (2)  Portuguese (1)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (72)
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
This absurdist espionage novel combines droll cynicism with sweet romanticism in a deliciously hair-raising manner. In many respects, it's an anti-spy story, more interested in the rich development of characters through dramatic irony, rather than cultivating the thrills of mystery and danger. The hero of the tale sets himself against the machinations of states and powers, while trying to defend his real loyalties, the foremost being to his teenage daughter.

Greene's book is a speedy read, partly because so much of it is dialogue. The talk is full of clever ambiguities, and I found it easy to imagine as a well-constructed play for the stage. Evidently, the 1959 film adaptation with Alec Guiness in the lead was successful. It's clearly a classic of Cold War English "intelligence" fiction, one that would pair nicely with Deighton's Ipcress File, a slightly later and much darker tale, but one of comparable length and pacing.
4 vote paradoxosalpha | Feb 8, 2016 |
This is the first Graham Greene I've ever read, and I'm sorry I waited this long. I can see how he certainly influenced Le Carre, not just in his genre, but in his straightforward, solid style. Not a lot of wasted words here, but vivid nonetheless. I almost felt as if I were watching movie while reading this, though this apparently was not one of his novels that were originally film treatments. ( )
  BooksForDinner | Jan 29, 2016 |
A wonderful spy satire by Greene. About an agent that makes up information to make it look as though he's uncovering a lot of great secrets. Castro complained that this book downplays the cruelty of the Batista regime, but Greene maintains it was a comedy and he wanted to avoid having too black a background. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
James Wormold is a vacuum cleaner salesman in 1950s Cuba. Wormold is unable to say no to his daughter, Milly, and her extravagances are driving him to bankruptcy. When an MI6 agent named Hawthorne approaches Wormold with an offer of spy work, he accepts and is given the code name 59200/5. Unfortunately, he has no useful information. Desperate for the money, he makes up intelligence based on newspaper reports, which the British fall for. Seeing an opportunity, Wormold takes names from a list of country club members and invents an imaginary network of sources, all of whom need paying.

Wormold begins to send fake reports, mainly about a weapons-system "currently being developed" by the Cubans. London is shocked and surprised. Before long, things get out of control. Covert sub-agents, both those whose names were just taken from the Country Club directory, as well as those living only in Wormold's imagination, begin to die and suffer attacks. Reinforcements come from London. Wormold is in a panic now and doesn't know what to do.

Our Man in Havana can be read as a both a thriller and a satirical comedy. It's a fascinating look at the human condition, as well as international intrigue and the spy world. This entertaining novel is enjoyable reading for anyone who wants to understand the fifties, the Cold War, and the Cuban Revolution. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
Greene's version of a "light comedy" features a depressed and abject man ("Wormold") who sells vacuum cleaners in Havana and comes to defraud MI6 with extensive false stories about enemy actions on the island gathered through a network of fake agents in order to buy the love of his daughter, who is so deeply wrapped in a protective cloak of Catholicism and materialism since her mother left as to be inhuman and unreachable. Wormold's reports are a little too convincing for some on the other side, and he inadvertently sparks a kind of alternative or cod–Cuban Missile Crisis, leading him to directly or indirectly cause the deaths of the traumatized and emotionally damaged man they send to assassinate him, his world-weary and surely marked-for-annihilation-from-the-beginning German friend and counsellor Hasselbacher, an innocent dude named Raúl, and an innocent dog named Max, and leading Wormold himself to flee the country and turn up back in London in the first flushes of love with his young and resourceful secretary, in a prestigious desk job and on the list for an OBE. His daughter does not marry the Batista chief of police with the wallet made of human skin, but both of them are represented as perhaps "no better than they should be." It's not funny! And when it tries to be it's sort of haw-haw farce stuff or heavy-handed gallows drollery, and it blows. But it's still a really enjoyable book, as Wormold stumbles from mishap to self-induced mishap and yet we stay in his corner, because he seems just "principled and cynical" (maybe the most affecting part of the book, weirdly, was where he remembers being bullied at school and never quite being able to catch up, never being swift enough to bully back and earn his place among the braying boys, and standing there like a post instead and that setting the course for his whole life) and used to loving people who don't particuarly love him back, and willing to defraud the spymasters pursuant to that decency and love. It's a somewhat Bartlebyesque story of the decency that eschews, that refuses to do evil things to its fellow man--and when Wormold is finally spurred into action it is for reasons that reflect how quixotic and flimsy that decency can be too. ( )
7 vote MeditationesMartini | Nov 9, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
10 of the Greatest Cold War Spy Novels
“Possibly the greatest writer of prose to devote so much of his time to the theme of espionage, Greene was himself briefly an intelligence agent. His WW 2 experiences in London, dealing with a disinformation-dealing agent in Portugal, provided the impetus for this satirical and prescient look at the spy game. Wormhold, a British vacuum salesman in Havana during the Batista regime, becomes a spy for the MI6 to better provide for his daughter (he’s a single parent). The reports Wormhold concocts involve imaginary agents, whose salaries he collects. But his lively reports begin to greatly interest London, who send in reinforcements, initiating a deadly black comedy of errors, making the hapless agent a Soviet target. In an instance of perfect casting, Alec Guinness portrayed Wormhold in the 1959 film version.”
Toward the end, as we go into a business luncheon at which Wormold is due to die, things begin to warm, and it seems we will get what we came for. But when, for a climax, a dog wanders into the dining room, laps the whisky Wormold spilled, dies, and thus gives warning of poison, things simply fall apart. I never saw a dog drink hard liquor, and don't believe this one did. However, I do believe he could read, and had had a look at the script, to know what he should do. All in all, little as a Greene fan likes to say it, this book misses, and in a thoroughly heartbreaking way, for it misses needlessly where it might have rung the bell.
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, James M. Cain (Jul 12, 2011)
For once, Greene's Roman Catholic hang-ups, which make novels such as The End of the Affair so desolate, are kept in check - even joked about. "Hail Mary, quite contrary", prays convent-educated Milly, aged four. Nine years later she sets fire to a small American boy called Thomas Earl Parkman Junior because he's a Protestant - "and if there was going to be a persecution, Catholics could always beat Protestants at that game."

» Add other authors (39 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greene, Grahamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hitchens, ChristopherPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundblad, JaneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oddera, BrunoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schaap, H.W.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turtiainen, ArvoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vallverdú, JosepTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winiewicz, LidaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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And the sad man is cock of all his jests
First words
'That nigger going down the street,' said Dr Hasselbacher standing in the Wonder Bar, 'he reminds me of you, Mr Wormold.'
The separating years approached them both, like a station down the line, all gain for her and all loss for him.
You should dream more, Mr. Wormold. Reality in our century is not something to be faced.
He was aware whenever he entered the shop of a vacuum that had nothing to do with his cleaners.
In a mad world it always seemed simpler to obey.
As long as nothing happens, anything is possible, you agree? It is a pity that a lottery is ever drawn. I lose a hundred and forty thousand dollars a week, and I am a poor man.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142438006, Paperback)

Graham Greene?s classic Cuban spy story, now with a new package and a new introduction

First published in 1959, Our Man in Havana is an espionage thriller, a penetrating character study, and a political satire that still resonates today. Conceived as one of Graham Greene?s ?entertainments,? it tells of MI6?s man in Havana, Wormold, a former vacuum-cleaner salesman turned reluctant secret agent out of economic necessity. To keep his job, he files bogus reports based on Lamb?s Tales from Shakespeare and dreams up military installations from vacuum-cleaner designs. Then his stories start coming disturbingly true.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:23 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Follows the plight of Wormold, a former vacuum cleaner salesman, who becomes a slave to the expensive whims of his thirteen-year-old daughter, Milly, and takes on a job for MI6 as Secret Agent 5920015 to pay for them.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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