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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
6,1091351,011 (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
    The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene (Sandydog1)
    Sandydog1: Equally moving, and I think it shares top honors for Greene's best.
  3. 10
    Getting to Know the General by Graham Greene (John_Vaughan)
  4. 10
    Doctor Fischer of Geneva, or, The bomb party by Graham Greene (John_Vaughan)
  5. 10
    A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene (John_Vaughan)
  6. 00
    Burmese Days by George Orwell (karatelpek)
  7. 00
    Zero Hour in Phnom Penh by Christopher G. Moore (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Schauplatz beider Romane ist Südostasien. Spannung. Grausamkeit der herrschenden Gewalt.
  8. 00
    The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (thecoroner)
  9. 01
    The Killing Fields by Christopher Hudson (John_Vaughan)

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» See also 429 mentions

English (126)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  German (2)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (135)
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
It’s better than a movie. I suppose that’s what doesn’t sit with him about America: it’s Movieland. And guns, too. “Outside it’s America.” One shouldn’t try to deny it.
  smallself | Apr 19, 2019 |
If I had to choose a word to describe my experience of reading Graham Greene, it would be “refreshing.” As I consider that, it strikes me how oddly such a word sits as a description of a writer whose stories orbit around moral and religious collapse and are filled with characters who can best be called “weary of life.” All of Greene’s characters, it seems, struggle…with faith (or acting on their faith)…with love (or with being genuine in that love)…with compassion (or with trying not to pass off self-interest as compassionate). What makes Greene’s characters so gripping is that these struggles are never peripheral but always essential to their identity. They are souls on the edge of conversion, toeing the line of transformation without stepping all the way over. I suspect, in many ways, Greene’s characters are elaborated self-reflections.
There are probably any number of simplistic and unhelpful ways to describe The Quiet American…a “love triangle”…a “story about the Vietnam War”…an “exposé of American interventionism”…but none of these get at what I think is the story’s core. At root, it is a treatise on Doubt and Faith. Aging British reporter Thomas Fowler stands in for Doubt, while young American attaché Alden Pyle stands in for Faith. That Pyle insists on referring to Fowler by his given Christian name, “Thomas” it seems cannot be read in any other way than as an echo of the famed biblical figure of “Doubting Thomas.”
Fowler doubts that resolution to the conflict is even possible, doubts that his life will ever be what he wishes it could be, doubts Pyle’s understanding of the world’s working as untested idealism, doubts Phuong’s ability to fully and truly love. This is the doubt produced by a slow wearing-down of a once vibrant faith. Without saying as much, the story reveals that Pyle is as Fowler once was.
What’s amazing is finesse of Greene’s expression of these complicated emotions. In such a story, it would be easy for the emotions to become caricatures of true feeling, but Greene doesn’t let that happen. (If he had, it would have ruined the story.) Fowler true cares for Pyle and for Phuong but is also jealous and petty and vengeful and selfish. In other words, human.
But—and here I think is the real genius—so is Pyle. Sure, he’s idealistic and introverted and wonder-struck and, well, “quiet” but he is no simple foil for the main anti-hero. He represents an entirely alternative way of viewing and living life that Fowler could access…if only he wasn’t Fowler.
I only know Graham Greene’s story in bits and snatches but from the little I’ve caught, Greene is much nearer Fowler than Pyle, a real-life “doubting Thomas.” The disdain that Fowler expresses in the book for Pyle’s point of view is a touch too personal to be merely literary. Faith and idealism and hope for Fowler/Greene have become the one thing he desperately desires and ultimately cannot have.
So, how is this story of jealous lovers, conspiracy, assassination, and a failed war we’d rather all forget “refreshing”? Because it’s an honest story, one of those fictions that is the more true because it’s “just a story” rather than “what really happened.” Because it brings us to the precipice of Doubt and Faith but refrains from the feather’s touch that would tip us one way or the other. In theological terms, we would say it brings us to the point of “conversion”—that moment where we have to decide to believe or not.
If you’re looking for a story that’s more than a story (while still being a finely-written story), then you will not be disappointed. It is gripping because it speaks openly and forthrightly about the most basic human needs and desires. While being honest about who we really are, there is also a call for us to become better than we are…to move past Fowler’s doubt into Pyle’s faith. And that is a “refreshing” call indeed. ( )
  Jared_Runck | Apr 12, 2019 |
A story of war, love, betrayal, the meeting of East and West, getting old, and the havoc idealism can wreck on the lives of innocent bystanders. For me the best part is the writing - the ache Greene brings to his characters, the guilt, the sharp insight with which he discovers the pain that underlies the bravado and cynisism. There is also a political undercurrent - can you really stay neutral in a conflict? And who are Westerners, foisting their ideals onto ancient cultures, treating the victims of war as collateral damage in search of foreign ideals? This is a book that is easy to read but makes you ponder for a long time. ( )
  Gezemice | Mar 8, 2019 |
Few authors have such a ruthless, careful way with language that one can read the entire book and never trip over a single word. Every sentence, every syllable is chosen and placed perfectly, packed with power, necessary or it wouldn't be there on the page. This is how I feel when I read Greene. I wonder how many revisions he needed to achieve this sharp and glittering art. Part of me knows the number must be in the dozens; part of me believes he penned it from his soul exactly like this. ( )
  AmandaGStevens | Mar 2, 2019 |
I found this book enjoyable and frustrating at the same time. ( )
  DCavin | Feb 28, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 126 (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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