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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Book Review: The Quiet American (1955) by Graham Greene

They made a version of The Quiet American in 2002 with, amazingly, Brendan Fraser and Michael Caine.

Book Review:
The Quiet American (1955)
 by Graham Greene

Graham Greene Book Reviews - 1001 Books 2006 Edition
England Made Me (1935)
Brighton Rock (1938) *
The Power and the Glory (1940) *
The Heart of the Matter (1948)
The Third Man (1949)
The End of the Affair (1951) *
The Quiet American (1955) *
Honorary Counsel (1973) *
* =  core title in 1001 Books list

   Seven deep into the Graham Greene oeuvre now.  Like The Heart of the Matter (1948) takes place in the developing world, there it was English West Africa, here it is French Indo-China (present day Vietnam).  Thomas Fowler is an English journalist covering the nascent Vietnam War.  He is married, but unhappily, and is involved with a young (20 year old) native woman, Phuong.  In the film, Michael Caine plays the role of Thomas Fowler so you can instantly see how the relationship which animates the plot- the love affair between Fowler and Phuong, borders on the inappropriate. Into the picture comes Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser in the 2002 movie), an American working undercover for the CIA.  Pyle is the kind of American who has learned everything he knows from books, and he is in the area to find a "third force" between the existing colonial administration and the communists.

  He also wants to steal Phuong from Fowler. Only 200 pages in length, you can't really discuss the plot without running through the entire thing.  It's not quite a spy novel, not quite a roman a clef, and it's definitely not the tradition marriage and property set up. The Quiet American is certainly the first significant work of English language fiction to be based in Vietnam.

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