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Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene

Our Man in Havana (original 1958; edition 1958)

by Graham Greene

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3,647831,449 (3.86)245
Title:Our Man in Havana
Authors:Graham Greene
Info:The Viking Press (1958), Edition: Second Printing, Hardcover, 242 pages
Collections:Already Read
Tags:@2012, Borrowed from library

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 by Joseph Conrad (LamontCranston)
  6. 01
    My Life In CIA: A Chronicle of 1973 by Harry Mathews (slickdpdx)

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» See also 245 mentions

English (73)  Spanish (3)  Swedish (2)  Portuguese (1)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All (83)
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
(19) This is the second Graham Greene I have read, the first being 'The Power and the Glory,' and I remain underwhelmed. I enjoyed this at the beginning in particular. An British vacuum cleaner salesman in Havana gets recruited to be a spy during the Cold War despite the fact that he has no qualifications and is rather hapless. He has been left by his wife; he is run over by his beautiful daughter; and spends his free time in bars drinking Daiquiris with an old German physician. The plot is rather preposterous, though its quirkiness is unexpected and charming as the book begins.

There were parts that were delightful - the vacuum cleaner drawings of course. And I liked the old doctor - "Some secrets are so secret that only you know them" or something to that effect; thus begins the subterfuge. It was also tightly written - it is a rather short book at 200+ pages, but it seems a lot happens and the character development is good. But around when the secretary arrives from London, the assassination and the romance plots unfold -- it all seems ridiculous. Of course, I know it is meant to, but it seemed too much and my interest began to flag. It took me quite a while to finish the last quarter and I sometimes had to re-read passages because my mind was wandering. So in the end, I bit of a let-down.

I think empirically Graham Greene is a quality writer. . So far the books I have read of his have been wildly different and interesting - but, and its a big but - not the most engaging. There is a dryness or a distance there that makes it a bit harder to suspend disbelief and really feel the story. ( )
  jhowell | Apr 19, 2017 |
A really dull book. The basic idea of committing fraud against espionage organizations is a good one but the book is a poor read. Never finished it. ( )
  thksport | Feb 12, 2017 |
This novel, which Greene calls one of his 'entertainments', was chosen for one of my f2f book groups, and then one of us ended up in the hospital and asked me to read it to him. I think slowing down to read a book aloud is of great benefit, although I doubt my amateur attempt was as easy to understand as a professional's would have been.

Greene sets this deceptively light comedy, by turns funny and frightening, in Havana just before the last revolution. Rebels are in the hills; spies of all countries want to know everything about them, and each other. Jim Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman, is recruited in the most casual way by British Secret Service; he is bewildered by the job but enticed by the money, having a daughter with expensive tastes and great manipulative skills. Pressed to report, he decides to become creative, with increasingly woeful results. People who don't even know they are involved in Wormold's fantasy tradecraft find themselves in harm's way; the not-so-secret Cuban police are everywhere, and finally our man in Havana has to become wise in a hurry to save his own skin.

But I wouldn't call this a caper. Some of the musings are too serious for that. Underneath the 'entertainment', Greene is pondering the big questions of faith, purpose, meaning, and loyalty, sometimes thoughtfully, sometimes with a snarl. ( )
2 vote ffortsa | Dec 23, 2016 |
I'm not familiar with satire or spy novels, but I still got a lot of enjoyment out of this. ( )
  JennysBookBag.com | Sep 28, 2016 |
Nice start. Typical Greene characters: expat vacuum cleaner salesman plodding thru Cuban life, one hyperCatholic countryclubing teen daughter, and one German drinking friend. Then the caricatures start: the Brit secret agent, the head of intelligence without any, the MI6 Miss Moneypennyesque bureaucrat, and most sketchily drawn, the evil Cuban torture chief.

Now, a bit of a spoiler:

Torture for the reader begins when the new woman from the agency arrives (knows French--close enough for Intelligence work). A Brit comedy of bad manners ensues starting with the soda water episode and the torturer. We know the book will end badly at that point.

Codes get more complicated, agents die, and the atomic vacuum cleaner blasts off. Our expat is almost poisoned but, as must in a comedy, all ends well with salary, marriage, England, and finishing school for the daughter.
Probably sounds funnier than it is. BTW, best scene is MI6 reviewing the vacuum cleaner plans sent by secret diplomatic pouch early in the book.
( )
  kerns222 | Aug 24, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 73 (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 (38 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greene, Grahamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hitchens, ChristopherPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hogarth, PaulCover artistsecondary 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 4 descriptions

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