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Our Man in Havana

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  13,506 ratings  ·  825 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
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
18th out of 748 books — 1,223 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
11th out of 612 books — 744 voters

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Steve Sckenda
Dec 13, 2014 Steve Sckenda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Literate and Complicated Espionage; Humorists
Recommended to Steve 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
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

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
Graham Greene is one of the most highly regarded British authors of the 20th century. The American novelist John Irving has paid tribute to him, calling him,

"the most accomplished living novelist in the English language."

Very popular as a thriller-writer, writing "entertainments", as he called them, Graham Greene also wrote deeply serious Catholic novels, which received much literary acclaim, although he never actually won the Nobel prize for Literature. In these he examined contemporary moral a
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
Even though this is one of Graham Greene's "entertainments", it is his own real employment with MI6 during WW2 that adds layers to this otherwise light hearted satire on the British Secret Service.

Here Greene has written a story of a British citizen (Wormold) living in Havana in the early 1950s during the Batista regime. He is a dour middle aged vacuum cleaner salesman with a bombshell 16 year old daughter, Milly, whose burgeoning sexuality is at odds with her Catholic morality: something she h
Not a bad book by any means, but the 150-page set-up seemed to be really excessive when compared to the 50-page climax. Overall, it was a clever, humorous take on the ultra-serious world of international espionage. I don't say this very often (ever?), but I think this book would have worked better as a short story.
When I was a youngster I read alot of Graham Greene. This one feels to me to be less typical, Catholicism isn't such a feature and guilt isn't quite such an overwhelming presence as in some of his other novels. By contrast this is fairly light.

It's an enjoyable read and there's a value that still seems fairly relevent in it's message of being mindful of the potential sources of intelligence information.
Ο Γκράχαμ Γκριν, λέει, κατηγοριοποιούσε τις ιστορίες του σε καθαρά λογοτεχνιάζουσες και σε ψυχαγωγικές.

Δεν ξέρω για αυτόν τον διαχωρισμό, ξέρω όμως το εξής: βρίθει λογοτεχνικότητας, καυστικότητας, απολαυστικών διαλόγων. Έχει χιούμορ ίσως παραπάνω από άλλες του ιστορίες, μα αυτό αποτελεί ένα κοινό γνώρισμά της γραφής του. Ίσως έχει και παραπάνω δράση, αν και δεν είναι πτυχή άγνωστη στα βιβλία του - απεναντίας. Ίσως το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο κάποιος να το χαρακτήριζε φάρσα. Πάντως είναι ένα εξαιρετι
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
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
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,
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.

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
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.
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.
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
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
Nov 12, 2014 Gill rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: aab
I thought this was excellent until the final chapter and epilogue. I felt that Greene wasn't sure about how to finish off the story.
Patrick McCoy
I decided to re-read Graham Greene's classic spy novel, Our Man In Havana, after having seen the film version starring Alec Guiness and after having visited Cuba itself. I was struck by how enjoyable it was, and the film was fairly true to the novel. I had read Christopher Htichens' introduction in his book of essays, Arguably, previously and it gets to the heart of Greene's world and artistry. The cold war setting in Havana, Cuba at the time before Fidel Castro's revolution is eerily prescient ...more
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
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
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:
"Drawing a cheque is not nearly so simple an operation in an American bank as in an English one. American bankers believe in the personal touch; the teller conveys a sense that he happens to be there accidentally and he is overjoyed at the lucky chance of the encounter. 'Well,' he seems to express in the sunny warmth of his smile, 'who would have believed that I'd meet you here, you of all people, in a bank of all places?'"

"Sometimes I fear going home to Boots and Woolworths"

"The Germans formed
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."
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
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
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
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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 about Graham Greene...
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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?” 252 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.” 14 likes
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