Our Man in Havana
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Our Man in Havana

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  11,537 ratings  ·  705 reviews
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 r
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Paperback, Penguin Twentieth Century Classics, 220 pages
Published September 3rd 1991 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1958)
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The Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréThe Hunt for Red October by Tom ClancyThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
Best Spy Novels
20th out of 720 books — 1,021 voters
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick ForsythThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
Espionage
11th out of 525 books — 593 voters


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sckenda
Sep 06, 2013 sckenda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Literate and Complicated Espionage; Humorists
Recommended to sckenda by: Greene Canon
He had no accomplice, except the credulity of other men.” (166)

You should dream more. Reality in our century is not something to be faced.”(6)

"Our Man in Havana" is a comic story about a vacuum salesman who sends concocted reports back to MI-6 and forwards schematics of enemy weapons that look vaguely familiar. “Our man in Havana has been turning out some pretty disquieting stuff lately.”

James Wormold probably dreamt of a more distinguished destiny when he was younger, but he has now accepted...more
Sue
This is a fun read, the story of an accidental spy. Mr Wormold (love that name) sells vacuum cleaners in Havana, not very successfully, until one day he is recruited by a British agent to work for his country while living in that no longer romantic foreign outpost. To be a secret agent! Well--the story takes off from there with a cast of slightly crazy characters: Wormold's religiously manipulative daughter Milly, Captain Segura the head of the local police who has mastered torture, locals of va...more
Grace Tjan
spoilers!


Uncorrected Transcript of Oral Evidence

Taken before the Intelligence and Security Committee Tuesday 15 July 1958

Members present:

Mr. Paul Anderson, in the Chair
Mr. Jonathan Blakeley
Mr. Richard Cunningham QC



Witnesses: MR. JAMES WORMOLD, O.B.E., former SIS operative in Havana, Cuba, 1955-1957; and MRS. BEATRICE WORMOLD (NEE SEVERN), formerly a secretary at the SIS headquarters.

Q1 Chairman: Mr. and Mrs. Wormold, may I welcome you to this hearing, which purpose is to examine the veracity of...more
Tripp
Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana is a delightful farce that manages to be serious and laugh out loud funny at the same time. It follows the unfortunate Wormold, a British vacuum cleaner salesman in Havana whose shortage of funds finds him willing to accept an offer to join the British Intelligence Service. As a generally inept and careless person, he can do any actual spying, so he ends up sending fake reports back to London so that he can use his expense fund to pay for his daughter's many exp...more
Judy
Mar 26, 2012 Judy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Judy by: Anne
I LOVE this book! It reminds me of a Wodehouse with smarter characters, but with similar dry British humor and hilarious anecdotes.

The sauciness of teenage saint Millie, her too-old-for-a-suitor torturing policeman who knows everything that goes on in Havana (and probably Cuba), her father, Wormold, who is "our man in Havana", not to mention his secretary and agents, provided me with belly laughs, snickers and guffaws aplenty. Wormold ekes by as a vacuum cleaner dealer until approached by a Sec...more
Teresa
A well-written, perfectly plotted, political, prescient "entertainment" that, while reading, I didn't feel at all the implausibility of the recruitment by the British Secret Service of a vacuum-cleaner salesman living in Cuba or that of the courting of his Catholic teenage daughter by a Cuban policeman/enforcer. The humor in the dialogue and elsewhere is dry and funny in a-wink-and-a-nod kind of way.

I had disliked the similes in the otherwise-wonderful The Human Factor, which I'd found awkward,...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
In a lot of ways this is a brilliant book--or at least brilliantly written, but this first book I've read by Graham Greene also left me feeling it would be my last--thus the less than five star rating since I can't honestly say this hit things out of the park for me. The book was published in 1958 and is set in Cuba in the last days pre-Castro--although no one knew that when it was published. Jim Wormold, mild-mannered vacuum-cleaner salesman, is recruited into the British Secret Service to be t...more
Daniel
Given the supposed military intelligence that led to the war in Iraq, it's tempting to look to books such as "Our Man in Havana," Graham Greene's comic spy novel about the Cold War, for parallels to our current situation. (In the book, drawings of pieces of a household vacuum cleaner are passed off as schematics for sophisticated weaponry.) Rather than there being any direct correlation, however, it brings more to mind that quote sometimes attributed to Mark Twain about how history may not repea...more
Whitaker
Wormold is a vacuum cleaner salesman based in Havana. He gets approached to be a British spy. His daughter wants a horse and well, the vacuum cleaner business isn't going so well. The espionage gig pays better, so Wormold says yes. His daughter gets her horse. Hijinks ensue.

"An Entertainment" describes the novel very well. It had me laughing out loud with glee. A rollicking well-paced satire on espionage and patriotism with a surprisingly sobering and heartfelt ending.
Leslie
Aug 11, 2013 Leslie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leslie by: Guardian list
Such a great spoof of the spy thrillers of the Cold War era! And Greene should know how to do it, having written some of the best of these :)

However, this is one of the rare cases where the book and the movie version are equally wonderful. If you haven't already, watch this film - one of Alec Guinness's best in my opinion! So it is no criticism of Jeremy Northam's narration when I say that even listening to the audiobook, I heard Alec Guinness in my head for Wormold.
Jamie
This would have earned higher marks from me— four, even five stars— if Greene had liked his story half as much as I did. It’s all there— fake spies, that line between fiction and reality, absurdity and inane bureaucracy and humanity— but he doesn’t write like there’s much joy in it for him. I could be wrong. It’s just the feeling I got from it, after all, anyway. The thought that, had he attacked this with relish instead of obligation, man, what a story.
Lisa Lieberman
I fear I'm beginning to sound tiresome, raving about one Graham Greene novel after another. This one is truly remarkable, though.

Wormold is one of Greene's more hapless heroes, a reluctant player in the Cold War spy game who begins manufacturing agents he's supposed to be running, dreaming them up the way a novelist dreams up characters. One of them is Teresa, whom he imagines as a nude dancer, the mistress simultaneously of the Minister of Defense and the Director of Posts and Telegraphs.

Somet
...more
Adam
Acquired this for free at some time or another. Picked it up after judging it by its cover. Very hip 1960 edition with goofy illustration and shady looking spy-type on the cover. I was expecting a great read, and that's what I got! The binding was about to fall apart, but it held up for a 3 day binge read in which I couldn't put it down. It doesn't read so much like a novel as it does a play. Lots of quick, smart dialogue and a fast-paced plot. Feels considerably different than the short stories...more
Julie
This farce holds the same canny and clever delight as the Pink Panther, Dr. Strangelove and The Comedy of Errors, with dialogue and pacing to which David Mamet is clearly indebted. I could almost see the smoke from Graham Greene's typewriter keys swirling in the air as he tore through sheets of erasable bond, churning out this crazy, wonderful and utterly a propos satire of spies.

It's the mid 1950's when we meet our man, Jim Wormold, a milquetoast British expatriate who moved to Havana prior to...more
Erez Davidi
Wormold is a British national living in Havana who tries to make a living by selling vacuum cleaners. However, sales are not going so well and part of the blame can be attributed to the new model “Atomic Pile Suction Cleaner,” which aroused negative connotations at the height of the Cold War. At that exact point of despair, Wormold is being recruited by a British secret agent in order to establish a network of agents, and hence have a firmer “intelligence” grip in the Caribbean. Wormold sees thi...more
Stefanie Price
This book was selected as a book group read, which is probably the only circumstances I'd ever have read a Graham Greene book by choice. My preconception was that he was a sombre, serious writer of espionage and wartime novels - in short, 'boy books'.

Happy to be proven wrong, I romped through this 'entertainment' (Greene's own term for his lighthearted stories), in a matter of days, and really enjoyed the wry wit and characterizations throughout the text. Set in Cuba, just at the end of the Bat...more
Robert
Greene described this book as an "entertainment." In the early comedic parts I thought that Greene, at least in this instance, had indeed produced a lightweight entertaining novel and was not the heavyweight literature writer I had been lead to believe he was. I was thinking that I would not greatly inclined to read anything else by a writer many feel was robbed of the Nobel Prize.

When the book suddenly and dramatically veers towards the Tragic at about the half-way point my feelings also began...more
Rebecca Huston
A very entertaining novel about Cuba just before Castro's revolution. Wormold, a nobody expatriate, finds himself neck deep in spies and trouble when approached by the British government. A short novel, with plenty of sarcasm and satire, and worth it. A film adaptation was made as well. There's also another novel very close to this titled The Tailor of Panama which makes me a bit suspect. In any case, this one is worth reading. Five stars and recommended.

For the longer review, please go here:
htt...more
Andrew
Our Man in Havana is not the Graham Greene I'm used to-- there's less weighty moral ambiguity, more bitter satire-- and I tend to think that I like the other Graham Greene significantly more. But still, it was quite a fun novel, and there's a dinner party scene that so perfectly captures awkward dinner party conversation, albeit with the additional threat of being poisoned. Probably my least favorite Greene I've read thusfar, but very serviceable as Greene intended it, as an "entertainment."
Nicola
Maybe I should institute a new rule not to read books that feature casual use of the N-word on the first page? :/

I’m honestly a bit mystified as to why this is considered a classic. A satirical spy novel about a vacuum cleaner salesman recruited by MI-6, I honestly didn’t find Our Man In Havana funny enough to be a comic novel or thrilling enough to be a thriller.

Wikipedia tells me that Greene originally set the novel in Estonia, which explains a lot – Havana as a setting is so lightly sketched...more
globulon
The tone felt strangely light as I just read Naipaul's "In a Free State", but I liked "Our Man..." a lot. It reminded me of "Crying of Lot 49" in some ways (though it's been like 15 years since I read that). The tone is comic-absurd-mysterious in a similar way. A quick fun read.
K.A. Laity
Graham Greene seems to stay in the mind of a good number of people, but he seems to have fallen off the popular radar for sure. I am somewhat abashed to admit that it was only recently that I finally picked up Our Man in Havana on a whim at the library (my usual brainstorming activity). I haven’t even seen the Carol Reed film with its stellar cast apart from a few clips here and there.

Hmmm, looks like there’s a Tuesday's Overlooked A/V I’ll need to do as well.

Greene books I tend to either dive i...more
D
Mar 08, 2014 D rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of spy novels looking for a fun lampoon
Shelves: thriller, humor
oscar wilde tweaks john le carre's nose and almost gets away with it.

no heroes, lots of character flaws and risibility (mostly in the good way). the star spy is spineless and dithering -- a fun way to turn the genre on its head.

because the characters are so selfish, timid, and short-sighted, living in their psyches for so long got quite tiring. though the narration held plenty to amuse and the plot was admirably and tightly woven, this is not a universe i'd care to revisit.

i listened to jeremy n...more
Yngvild
It is fascinating how many people can write reviews of the same book and apparently have read an entirely different text. Graham Greene’s novels are especially prone to this phenomenon, particularly the ones with a political theme such as Our Man in Havana and The Quiet American.

It is surely the sign of a good story that we each read in it what we need through the filter of our experience. This generation can compare Wormald’s vacuum cleaner diagrams with the recently bombed powder milk factory...more
Mark Easton
Like many part-time nihilists, I am occasionally prone to catch myself in the act of despising a thing or person of beauty for no other reason other than that the accursed artefact is beautiful. While it could be argued it is in many cases quite reasonable to disdain something because of the company of adjectives it keeps, I find on those occasions of malevolence, I usually wonder how odd it is that beauty is one of these mots dangereux.

There are noticeably two side effects of my irrational hat...more
J
There are a great number of authors who I can take or leave and there are a few that I can reread and reread and reread and there are a select few that I save up their novels for when I feel I need a certain something, a certain lift. Generally these authors are on the optimistic side of things or at least the wryly upbeat and generous of spirit. Think Vonnegut and Tom Robbins. An author in my same category who is less optimistic but still fills me with a warmly satisfying feeling is Graham Gree...more
Franc
Aside from my continually enjoyable romp through Graham Greene's "entertainments" (how did I miss out on Greene for so many years?) I decided to read Alan Furst's Top 5 Spy Books of All Time. OMIH comes in at #1. Here's what Furst has to say about it:

Graham Greene’s work must be included in any survey of top-rank spy novels, and “Our Man in Havana” may be his best. The problem here is Hollywood: Just as you can’t read Greene’s “The Third Man” without thinking of Orson Welles, “Our Man in Havana”...more
☯Emily
I have read only one other Graham Greene novel which covered a serious topic seriously. So I was surprised to find this book to be a comedic look at spying and spy organizations. However, after reading it, I'm curious to know if these types of shenanigans actually occur. Mr. Wormold, a seller of vacuum cleaners in Havana, Cuba in the 1950's, is recruited to be a spy for the British government. He has no training and has to learn what is expected by the London officials by trial or error or perha...more
Joe
Sep 29, 2009 Joe rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
So alarmingly funny. Why do we enjoy the rise, fall and redemption of the piddling spirit of Mr. Wormold? Because it's precisely that sort of sloshing simpleness we want to be the most indomitable of all types of man, because those persons are vulnerable to only one sort of greatness: love.

'You should dream more, Mr. Wormold. Reality in our century is not something to be faced.' [10:]

'You can't love and be as confident as he was. If you love you are afraid of losing it, aren't you?' [99:]

Page 1...more
MacK
By now, I should have learned to behave like a “serious adult”. I should check the cryptic acronyms and arrows of the stock market; I should concentrate my senses and intellect on analyses of our complicated modern world; I should approach daily life with a stoic manner of a network newsman or Roman senator.

And yet I’m drawn to books like Our Man in Havana. Books that seem to titter in a Puckish tone: “lord what fools these mortals be!” Books that create a cast of tightly-wound characters appro...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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“I don't care a damn about men who are loyal to the people who pay them, to organizations...I don't think even my country means all that much. There are many countries in our blood, aren't there, but only one person. Would the world be in the mess it is if we were loyal to love and not to countries?” 241 likes
“They haven't left us much to believe in, have they?--even disbelief. I can't believe in anything bigger than a home or vaguer than a human being.” 13 likes
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