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The Quiet American

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  32,661 Ratings  ·  2,008 Reviews
The Quiet American is a terrifying portrait of innocence at large. While the French Army in Indo-China is grappling with the Vietminh, back at Saigon a young and high-minded American begins to channel Economic Aid to a 'Third Force'. The narrator, a seasoned foreign correspondent, is forced to observe: 'I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he cause ...more
Paperback, 189 pages
Published 1979 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published December 1955)
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Max No. Lansdale was first stationed in Viet Nam in 1954. The events in the book took place in 1952. When Greene first met Lansdale he had nearly…moreNo. Lansdale was first stationed in Viet Nam in 1954. The events in the book took place in 1952. When Greene first met Lansdale he had nearly completed the book. Also, Greene denied Lansdale was the basis for Alden Pyle. Pyle was based on Leo Hochstetter, public affairs director for America’s Economic Aid Mission. Greene had shared a hotel room with him and they drove back to Saigon together just as Pyle and Fowler do in the book. On the way Hochstetler told Greene of the need for a third force and mentioned General Thế as a good choice. Greene did say that Hochstetter was much savvier than Pyle.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Agnieszka
Oct 19, 2013 Agnieszka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused .

I assume that everyone for once in own life had to face such a moment that , though convinced about doing the right thing , felt nevertheless poorly and uncomfortably . How is it possible , we asked then , we acted righteously so why such bad feeling , such turbulence in our mind ? We did a good choice so why this bile that fills our mouths ? Why that need to rationalize our deed ? There was no other way , we say . But re
...more
Lizzy
'I shut my eyes and she was again the same as she used to be: she was the hiss of steam, the clink of a cup, she was a certain hour of the night, and the promise of rest.'

Sometimes a few notable books cause me to start thinking just I turn the last page. So, excuse me for beginning this review with some of my latest ruminations. When I reflect on the meaning of life, although I am not a philosopher I do that sometimes, the fact that we are here for such a short while strikes me as so dismal. I
...more
Jason
Jun 09, 2013 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 2013
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ben
"War and Love -- they have always been compared."

Like The End of the Affair, this is a Greene novel that affects you viscerally. It is a war novel, set in Vietnam. Being so, it is not cheerful or pretty: dead children lying in the street and the like. It hits on the complexities of war; the complexity of morals: how it's impossible to stay neutral forever on such matters when you’re directly involved: you have to make a decision: you must decide, or you're as good as dead.

"'You can rule me out,'
...more
Jen
Jan 25, 2010 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the usual suspects
Recommended to Jen by: um. Gary? Ben?
My time on Earth will be brief, very brief, inconsequential really to things like North America's seasonal movements, Earth's orbit, and the galaxy's star patterns. Yet I, and pretty much everyone else with as brief a life as mine, continue the search for meaning and meaningful experience (stupid humans). Are we looking for profundity in the brevity, a way to either surpass our life's span or are we simply trying to forget about its paltry duration? Birthing, dying, birthing, dying....ad infini ...more
Michael
I was pleasantly surprised how moving this story was and how strongly I warmed up to the humanity of the main character in the face of his generally detached outlook. Thomas Fowler is in a slump. As a British war correspondent working out of Saigon in French-occupied Vietnam, he gets a daily dose of duplicity and brutality in the world of ongoing guerilla conflict between the Viet Minh communist insurgents and French colonial forces. And then he comes home to play house with his Vietnamese mistr ...more
Sue
Feb 04, 2012 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sue by: Rebecca, Anne Reach
'What's the good? he'll always be innocent, you can't blame the innocent, they are always guiltless. All you can do is control them or eliminate them. Innocence is a kind of insanity.' (p155) The crux of the story the crux of the entire sad history of nations trying to remake Southeast Asia in a Western image.

As I read The Quiet American, I felt myself sliding down a slippery path to a very messy era I remember all too well. I was 12 in 1960 so I was a teen as the build up of the American turn i
...more
[P]
Sep 20, 2015 [P] rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Earlier this year I was in Prague visiting a friend of mine. My personal circumstances haven’t been the best for the last twelve months and I had slipped into a state of deep depression without realising it. The purpose of this trip was to get away from everything, to drink a lot and lose myself in that beautiful city. One afternoon my friend and I were in a bar, six drinks deep and thrillingly relaxed. That is, until a group of Americans arrived. They took the table behind us, and began to figh ...more
Edward
Nov 07, 2013 Edward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Introduction

--The Quiet American
Fabian
Aug 11, 2010 Fabian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The perfect novel!

Ingenious in its pace and tone. The plot unravels in a peculiar, non-linear way, easily enviable by even the most capable of writers. Perhaps because it is more like a meaty novella about star-crossed lovers, hidden intentions, and the war of the classes that it makes it's powerful, jarring punch to the gut.

I LOVE this book. It's incredibly elegant, both prophetic and historic, and very very adult.
Whitaker
I’ve only read three Graham Greene’s so far, but he definitely seems like a writer whose works I should look into more. Prior to this, I’d read Our Man in Havana and The Power and the Glory. This is a little like a mash up of both. There’s the inept skulduggery of the first, and the searing bleakness and cynicism of the second.

Greene is my kind of guy: He’s got a jaundiced view of people and the world. This novel thrums with moral ambiguity. And reading this now in 2012, some 60 years after it
...more
Alex
Mar 07, 2014 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, favorites
On the weekend, I came across a box of books belonging to my late brother. It's well over three years since his passing and I thought I had "unpacked" his belongings that still hold hostage to my garage. This box contained many gems, on the top was sitting The Quiet American. As one does, I started reading the first paragraph. By the next day I had finished it, astonished that I had not gotten to reading the work of my brother's favourite author.

In death, my brother has moved into a sort of hero
...more
Karen
Dec 11, 2007 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a critique of American intervention in foreign affairs, the story was excellent. The "quiet" American (he never shuts up) steps into a world he knows nothing about and creates havoc.

My problem with the book was a problem common to many similar authors (DeLillo, I'm looking at you): it was very male-centric and I got annoyed. Phuong, the love/lust/possession interest in the book, was never given a character, described as innocent, childish, a sexual object, and a caretaker in turn. I realize
...more
Mike
Very little is written about The First Indochina War, the post-WWII (1946-1954) conflict involving French and French allied forces against native communist insurgencies. It is often overshadowed by the American Vietnam War, the Korean War, and contemporaneous events in Europe. But make no mistake, it was a long, savage, and destructive conflict that foreshadowed much of the American Vietnam experience.

The Quiet American takes place during this often overlooked conflict and is told from the pers
...more
Adam
Dec 28, 2007 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t know why Greene divides his books into “entertainments” and “novels”, when the novels are so entertaining. But I guess some are more light weight and only meant to entertain, while this book is packed with ideas. Mixing an absurd spy farce, a cynical “love” story, and prophecy of U.S. involvement in Vietnam which was set and written ten years before the hoi polloi of America could probably find Vietnam on a map. Filled with demented nuggets of Greene thought such as “Innocence is a kind ...more
Esteban del Mal
Mar 24, 2010 Esteban del Mal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel, fiction, war
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
BrokenTune
Aug 02, 2015 BrokenTune rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.

The Quiet American is Greene's exploration of relationships and politics against the backdrop of the conflict in Vietnam in the early 1950s.

Thinking about it, this is really an amazing book and shows Greene's ability to observe current affairs - and look behind smokescreens. The "amazing" aspect of t
...more
Elena
Sep 10, 2014 Elena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 widely read, and attentively studied, when it came out in 1955, a clear warning. Greene's narrator Thomas Fowler is treacherously loutish, miso ...more
Alger
Aug 12, 2007 Alger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The intelligent and the aware
Graham Greene is an artist of sarcasm and loathful protagonists. 'The Quiet American' follows in that tradition, but delves into what that means and turns the whole thing on its head. The main character, Fowler, is as foul as his name implies; swearing, drinking, smoking opium, and cheating on his wife with a nubile young Vietnamese girl. Conversely , we are shown the eponymous 'Quiet American', Pyle, who is quiet in that he is sweet, naive, doesn't drink, doesn't do drugs, doesn't fornicate, i ...more
orsodimondo
Jan 29, 2017 orsodimondo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inglese, vietnam
IN GUERRA L’ARMA PIÙ EFFICACE È LA SEDUZIONE
Fu scritto a guerra d’Indocina in corso (e anche a guerra di Corea in atto): quando fu pubblicato, invece, erano entrambe concluse, e i francesi si erano ritirati dal Vietnam dopo la nota battaglia di Dien Bien Phu.
L’innocenza professata dagli americani nel romanzo, sia quelli tranquilli che quelli rumorosi, suona stonata, e Greene ne è totalmente consapevole.

description

Storia di un triangolo che forse definire d’amore è fuorviante in quanto nessuno dei tre vert
...more
Olivia "Don't Blame Me I Voted for Hillary"
It was pretty good. I especially liked the surprise ending.
Book Concierge
Book on CD read by Joseph Porter

Adapted from the book jacket: Green’s experiences as a journalist covering the French war in Indochina provided the material for the story of Fowler, a world-weary British journalist, and Pyle, an idealistic and naïve “quiet American” who blindly applies his academic theories to a political situation he doesn’t quite grasp. The relentless struggle of the Vietminh guerrillas for independence and the futility of the French gestures of resistance become inseparably m
...more
Brenda
Thomas Fowler was a British war correspondent working in Saigon; his Vietnamese mistress Phuong would be waiting when he returned home from his daily mix of horrors and brutality with the opium pipe which gave him mental release. Alden Pyle, the “quiet American” was sent from Washington on a mission of secrecy – but when things went desperately wrong, Fowler found himself protective of Pyle. But what would happen when Pyle decided to take Phuong for himself?

The Quiet American by Graham Greene ro
...more
Grace Tjan
"God save us always...from the innocent and the good."


Alden Pyle, a young American newly arrived in war-torn Vietnam, is a force for good. He’s all for preserving freedom and liberty for the suffering masses of Asia, after all --- so goes the then popular domino theory --- if Vietnam goes red, so will Siam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia. He’s also no fan of the Red’s enemy, the French, who are fighting a losing battle for their Indochinese colony. A ‘Third Force’ that is composed of na
...more
Sean
Jan 06, 2012 Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short anti-war novel, The Quiet American, is one of Graham Greene’s “entertainment” novels as apposed to his more “literary” efforts. This is actually the first of Graham’s novels that I have actually read. It is set in Indo-China in the mid-1950s in the early days of the country’s conflict between the French and Communist Vietcong. At the center of the story is a love triangle between an experienced British reporter, a younger American activist, and a young Vietnamese stripper. Surrounding ...more
Andrea
Dec 28, 2012 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-collection
I read this for the second time in Saigon, where we stayed in the Rue Catinet (now Dong Khoi), near the Continental Hotel. Now understanding the history of Vietnam so much better than when I first read it, I can now see what a masterpiece it is, and how sad it is.

Greene was a master of his craft, his characterisations are superb. Some of the scenes (my favourite is his visit to Cholon) are so vividly portrayed that one can feel, hear and smell them.
The narrative is perfectly paced, and Greene u
...more
umberto
Oct 20, 2016 umberto rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
3.5 stars

This is one of Graham Greene’s ubiquitous novels I sometime browsed a few pages and left it at that in a number of English bookshops in the 1970’s in Bangkok. I’ve since kept waiting for some four decades, the time is finally ripe for my motive and decision to read it as my sixth Greene novel. Basically, the story describes the relationships of Thomas Fowler, a middle-aged British reporter, Alden Pyle, a young American CIA agent and Phuong, a Vietnamese mistress of Fowler’s amid the Fre
...more
Szplug
Nov 18, 2009 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first thing that strikes you when reading The Quiet American is how prescient Greene was about the naïve idealism and dangerously skewed perspective of the Americans when they began to stake their claims in Indochina; how the table was being set for a terrible and protracted conflict long before the first American combat soldiers hit the ground, by the belief that, through Vietnam, Southeast Asia could be made pregnant with Western values - even if some Vietnamese had to die during inseminat ...more
Cphe
Feb 08, 2014 Cphe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Very interesting characters. Thomas Fowler the older, married, jaded War Correspondent the opposite of the idealistic, naive, bumbling young Alden Pyle. The common denominator between them is the almost "silent" young woman Phuong. Fowler and Pyle's rivalry is played out against the conflict in Vietnam in the 1950's.

It's a grim and seedy story, part mystery, with a wonderful sense of time and place. Both Fowler and Pyle were well presented and even though Phoung has
...more
Daniel
Oct 19, 2009 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I always have an easier time prattling on and on about books I dislike, or at least have problems with, than those I find flawless or close to it. "The Quiet American" is such a well-written, brilliantly constructed novel -- and one that feels as relevant today as when it was first published more than fifty years ago, and will remain relevant as long as the practice of imperialism exists, which will be forever, I suppose -- that I don't have anything more to say about it. I'd easily recommend th ...more
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Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenplay writer, travel writer and critic whose works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene combined serious literary acclaim with wide popularity.

Although Greene objected strongly to being described as a “Catholic novelist” rather than as a “novelist who happened to be Ca
...more
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“Innocence is a kind of insanity” 266 likes
“Time has its revenges, but revenge seems so often sour. Wouldn’t we all do better not trying to understand, accepting the fact that no human being will ever understand another, not a wife with a husband, nor a parent a child? Perhaps that’s why men have invented God – a being capable of understanding. ” 110 likes
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