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The Comedians

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3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  3,915 ratings  ·  297 reviews
Three men meet on a ship bound for Haiti, a world in the grip of the corrupt “Papa Doc” and the Tontons Macoute, his sinister secret police. Brown the hotelier, Smith the innocent American, and Jones the confidence man—these are the “comedians” of Greene’s title. Hiding behind their actors’ masks, they hesitate on the edge of life. They are men afraid of love, afraid of pa ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 1st 2005 by Penguin Classics (first published 1965)
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The End of the Affair by Graham GreeneThe Quiet American by Graham GreeneThe Power and the Glory by Graham GreeneOur Man in Havana by Graham GreeneBrighton Rock by Graham Greene
Best Graham Greene novels
7th out of 24 books — 127 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Outsiders by S.E. HintonOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken KeseyCharlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald DahlA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Best Books of the Decade: 1960's
131st out of 631 books — 818 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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William
This is without exception my favorite Graham Greene novel. Love and murder in 1960's Haiti among the evil Papa Doc Duvalier's Tonton Macute. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Evan
I've just finished this and am basking in some kind of awestruck state. The more I read of Greene, the more I'm slain. The main character, Brown, must be a sort of surrogate for the author: jaded, cynical, fatalistic; a realist who nonetheless has just enough of that kernel of optimism that allows him to hope against hope, to sometimes do the right thing even as the cowardly part of him offers token resistance.

The book takes place in Haiti in the early 1960s during the early days of the terroris
...more
Teresa
At several points during my reading of this novel -- because of its crisp, realistic dialogue; dangerous setting; and intriguing, imperfect characters -- I imagined it as a movie. I just looked it up on imdb.com and, yes, there is a 1967 movie with, ugh, Burton and Taylor, not at all whom I envisioned for the roles.

Perhaps because of its title, I thought the novel would be of a sharp, exaggerated satire, but, no, I suppose the Haiti of Duvalier was surreal enough. At first meeting the three men
...more
Sketchbook
Monstrously good -- and disturbing.

A few hundred miles off the Florida coast you'll find "an evil floating slum," says Greene, who makes us aware of the violent and corrupt republic of Haiti. Throughout the 60s it was ruled by Papa "Doc" Duvalier, a crackpot viper-tyrant (Hitler meets a runaway from any PG Wodehouse novel), who jibbered anti-Com jingles. Result: he murdered thousands of his own people while pocketing millions in US aid.

Welcome to a perfect Greeneland. (If GG were alive he'd writ
...more
AC
This was ok -- some interesting reflections on the comedians in the middle -- but frankly, imo, and given Greene's stature, it should have been better. Hence, a book that's just a notch below 4 gets rounded down to 3.

First of all, it has none of the aching beauty of the Quiet American -- perhaps because Haiti is not as romantic in my eyes as is Vietnam. Secondly, for a book that pretends to be a political thriller (of sorts), the plot is simply much, much too loose. It really feels as though he
...more
Steve
Several years back, after reading Robert Stone’s (underappreciated) Bay of Souls, I saw someone somewhere say that Stone had departed from his Conradian foundation, and had pulled a Delillo on readers. I puzzled over that, because even though Bay of Souls is a change in approach, I didn’t see any of the incomprehensible Falling Man in Stone’s hallucinogenic tropical nightmare book. With Graham Greene’s The Comedians, however, I believe I have found the source for Stone’s trippy foray. And it ma ...more
Drew
Not a terribly funny book, despite the title. Not that I expected it to be, given other stuff I've read by him. I was mostly intrigued by the fact that it takes place in Haiti during Papa Doc Duvalier's regime: a supremely messed-up time and place. And Greene does Haiti well; it seems like they were made for each other, though I've got the feeling Greene can evoke any place pretty well. This is marginally lighter fare than either The Power and the Glory or The Heart of the Matter, and considerab ...more
Daniel Villines
Our lives are spent creating our own realities by mixing facts and beliefs together. The result may be plausible but it certainly is not real. And who can blame us? This very mixture helped us to survive. Fact: the lion is stalking me. Belief: if I run to that place, I will live. And so societies are born, careers are made, and we survive all because we acted on the facts at hand in conjunction with our beliefs in an outcome.

At times, however, the mixture becomes grossly imbalanced. Our beliefs
...more
BrokenTune
" ‘Any news of the Baron?’ It was the name some gave to the President as an alternative to Papa Doc – we dignified his shambling shabby figure with the title of Baron Samedi, who in the Voodoo mythology haunts the cemeteries in his top-hat and tails, smoking his big cigar. ‘They say he hasn’t been seen for three months. He doesn’t even come to a window of the palace to watch the band. He might be dead for all anyone knows. If he can die without a silver bullet."

So far, The Comedians is my favour
...more
Elaine
Graham Greene is my new favorite author. Paul Theroux dissed this book in his introduction, but it was just Paul Theroux showing that he doesn't know much. This is sort of a book about Haiti and totalitarianism and brutality and corruption and the Evil Empire (America) but it is more a book about loss, rootlessness, the emptiness of the middle of the night, fatherlessness, faith and lack thereof... Greene is deep, clean, concise. Theroux says that it seems dated 40 years on, but that's only if y ...more
Darwin8u
"We mustn't complain too much of being comedians—it's an honourable profession. If only we could be good ones the world might gain at least a sense of style. We have failed—that's all. We are bad comedians, we aren't bad men."

I started out thinking I was going to just read a 'minor' Greene, and finished the novel once again shocked by my ability to completely underestimate Greene. The Comedians is a dark tragedy set in a Haitian Hell ruled by Papa Doc and his Tonton Macoute. Into this tortured h
...more
Jamie Allen
After reading (and falling for) Greene's "Our Man in Havana" a while back, this was an odd switchback. Neighboring Caribbean country, trouble with a bad ruler, man in love with a woman - "The Comedians" shares a lot of similarities, but how stinkin' different could it be? Despite the title, Greene apparently lost his sense of humor and gained a sense of melodrama - and the worst kind of melodrama: The British Kind, with its sense of superiority and manners. I know Greene was upset about the situ ...more
Judith Shadford
I read it a long, long time ago, but since I knew nothing of Haiti or Papa Doc or the Tonton Macoutes, the story made little sense. Thought they were birds for a while.
Reread an old paperback edition, the cover noting "Coming soon" a major motion picture starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Alec Guinness and Peter Ustinov. All dead. All gone.
Not a bad context for reading Comedians, because "Brown" the protagonist, like many Greene protagonists, can't quite make out what is going on. T
...more
Bill
absolutely excellent novel about haiti under papa doc duvalier.extremely ironic title as there wasn't anything remotely funny happening in that country under his rule.and not much since then either.
Trina
This short novel is not concerned with spiritual struggle as much of Greene's work. Instead the protagonist, Brown, faces the end of his life as a perpetual expatriot whose ideals, if he indeed ever had any, have been completely shattered by the takeover of Haiti by Papa Doc and the Tonton Macoute. Always lovely writing, with memorable descriptions of Haiti's landscape and climate, some very amusing people, and arresting passages about the nature of life, such as this one voiced by the true sage ...more
Justin Evans
For Greene, this was epically long- nearly 300 pages? The heck? Unwonted length aside, though, it's standard Greene: foreign country, political machinations, darkness, weirdly sex-obsessed leading man and his illicit, tortured relationship with a married woman, naive Americans, cynical Englishmen and so forth.

It's also, sadly, slightly substandard Greene as far as structure. It's very flabby- there are, in effect, three storylines, which only interact insofar as the characters involved happen t
...more
Roderick Hart
The edition I have begins with a letter to a publisher which we would be better without. Because the story is told by one of the characters, Greene points out that Brown is not Greene. Well, I wouldn't have thought of that! Then he notes that Brown, like Greene, is a Catholic. He justifies this on statistical grounds, which is just about as stupid as you can get.

'It is often forgotten that, even in the case of a novel laid in England, the story when it contains more than ten characters would la
...more
Andrew Schirmer
Top-shelf Greene, largely free of impurities (moralizing). And the not-so-quiet Americans turn out to be okay.
Emily
Set in Port au Prince, Haiti, this novel shows the lives of foreign immigrants during the oppressive regime of Papa Doc and his Tontons Macoute secret police (translated as the Boogeyman). Using a tale of suspense and danger, Greene builds interesting portraits of his characters, each reacting to life in a terror-ruled country differently.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith are the naive Americans who see the country as something to be pitied. They are ignorant to realities of the average life in Haiti: corrupt
...more
Mac
I've had strangely mixed experiences with Graham Greene's books - I like a few of them very much, and then others outright bug me. This one, happily, I enjoyed quite a bit, though perhaps because it's so similar to the other novels of his I enjoy.

One could make an argument, probably, that this book should really be called "The Quiet Americans Go to Haiti," since quite a lot of the earlier book - naive American meddling, worn-down and cynical British men, a tropical and exotic location with a do
...more
Jason Gignac
I fully expected to think well of this book - I did, though not at all for the reasons I expected. I thought this book would appeal to my long interest in Haiti - it is a novel, after all, about a group of foreigners in Duvalierist Port-au-Prince. The novel did a fine job of telling how horrible Haiti under Duvalier was - and it certainly was.

However, the novel is great beyond that - after all, one could learn plenty of gruesome facts about Haiti from... well... almost any book that has to do wi
...more
Anna
Graham Greene's 1965 Haiti-under-Papa-Doc novel, The Comedians, is the story of three unremarkably-named men who meet on a boat to Port-au-Prince: Smith, an American presidential candidate, who ran against Truman on a vegetarian platform, and proudly polled 10,000 votes; the clearly pseudonymed Jones, a trickster of mysterious origins (a trope no one does better than Greene); and Brown, our narrator, another Greene archetype, this one the rootless, jaded, aging British expatriate who becomes cau ...more
Adam
I’ve always wanted to read Greene because of my love for the film The Third Man, and I’m not sure why I choose this one to start, but it was an excellent choice. A cynical hotelier, a confidence man, and an idealist couple travel to an island ruled by a mad doctor, their respective names are Browne, Jones, and Smith. What type of story is this? Well this book discusses whether we are in tragedy, a comedy, an adventure story, or a romance and can never quite decide, in which lies the truth. Set i ...more
Bonnie
Sep 22, 2010 Bonnie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of Graham Greene; ex-pats living in foreign countries; Haitians
Recommended to Bonnie by: little ol' me
I picked up this little book at a used bookstore for pennies because it was written by an author I love. I say that, not having actually read all that many books by Graham Greene (3 including this one)

It was really quite remarkable to read a book that took place during Papa Doc Duvalier's Haiti (had 60,000 people killed, mostly political prisoners during his 1957-1971 regime) then, and to know first-hand (somewhat, that is) the Haiti of today. Greene was a bit of a prophet I'd say. With all the
...more
Lois
"Papa Doc is a bulwark against Communism."

Graham Greene had an amazing ability to be prescient, as you can see in both this book and The Quiet American. This fictional book, which uses Haiti's real-life government, circa early 1960s, as the basis of the plot, unfortunately presages the disastrous governments that Haiti endured then and since.

Graham Greene, in his Foreword, specifically denies that the narrator here is himself. Perhaps, but how is it that the same world-weary, disaffected man of
...more
K. Velk
I have been thinking of Graham Greene again lately, though I haven't read his books since the advent of Goodreads. I went through them all, I think, back in my early 20s (I'm closing on 50 a little too fast now). I'm thinking that I need to re-read _The Power and the Glory_ ...

The Comedians didn't grab me and hold me the way some of his other books did, but I still found much to admire. The high point for me was the observation by one of his characters (I think I heard Greene speaking right to m
...more
Matt
A book in the vein of The Quiet American, this is the kind of Graham Greene writing that I love: political intrigue, corruption, betrayal, and dysfunction. The only strike against it is that, at times, Greene seems to be channeling Hemingway-who did it first and did it better. A great book nonetheless, ending on the kind of profound human and political insight that Greene brings to his best books.
Valentina
Nothing like reading about Haiti during the regime of Francois, "Papa Doc", Duvalier while in Port-au-Prince covering the surprise return of Jean-Claude, "Baby Doc", Duvalier after 25 years in exile. Greene sets the perfect atmosphere, terror and despair and more terror, which permeated this Caribbean nation during the reigns of both Duvaliers.
Nikolay Nikiforov
Еще одна книга с типическим грэмгриновским сюжетом, составленным из: маленькой и большой неправды, предательства, обманутого мужа, ревности, патетических разговоров о том, как жить в наш ужасный век, в коммунистическую ли вступать партию, или в католическую веру обращаться. В данном случае, по-моему, результат негармоничен, слишком плохо риторическое, не чуждое чисто кинематографических привычек, развитие сюжета сходится со сценами вполне реального исторического ужаса Гаити при старшем Дювалье. ...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
More about Graham Greene...
The Quiet American The End of the Affair The Power and the Glory The Heart of the Matter Our Man in Havana

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