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The Comedians

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,915 Ratings  ·  362 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 1966)
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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 — 154 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Outsiders by S.E. HintonOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken KeseySlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutCharlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Best Books of the Decade: 1960's
152nd out of 751 books — 1,150 voters

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Community Reviews

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Feb 09, 2015 William1 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 20-ce, uk
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. The evocation of landscape and murderous heat and voodoo would alone be enough to hold our attention. But there's more than that: there's a great story of intrigue and jealousy. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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
Oct 24, 2014 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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
Jun 29, 2014 Sketchbook rated it it was amazing
Shelves: currently
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
Oct 08, 2010 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Jul 19, 2013 AC rated it liked it
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
Το Άσχημο
Κεντάει ο συγγραφέας. Δεν ξέρω αν τα κατασκοπικά – ευρείας κατανάλωσης έργα του είναι εξίσου καλά, δεν με ενδιαφέρει κιόλας, αφού δεν πρόκειται να τα διαβάσω, αλλά αν κρίνω από τους “Θεατρίνους” 'εχει εξαιρετική πένα. Πρώτα από όλα, το έργο αυτό διαθέτει εξαιρετικές δόσεις χιούμορ κι έναν απίστευτο τρόπο να αποκαλύπτει την ωμή αλήθεια, ενώ είναι συνάμα ατμοσφαιρικό και έχει ολοζώντανους, αξιαγάπητους και ενδιαφέροντες χαρακτήρες. Ισορροπεί άψογα ανάμεσα στην δράση και στον στοχασμό και κρατάει α ...more
Mar 21, 2012 Drew rated it really liked it
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
Feb 17, 2013 Daniel Villines rated it really liked it
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
Nov 19, 2012 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
"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
Jan 16, 2016 Cheryl rated it liked it
I found the plot and the characters to be less developed than in other Graham Greene novels I've read. An OK read, but not his best.
May 18, 2009 Elaine rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 01, 2015 Antonis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-possession
Είναι το πρώτο βιβλίο του Γκράχαμ Γκρην που διαβάζω, σίγουρα όχι όμως και το τελευταίο. Ξεκινά παλιομοδίτικα, αλλά σελίδα τη σελίδα με κατακτούσε όλο και πιο πολύ, με αποτέλεσμα από ένα σημείο και μετά να μην μπορώ να το αφήσω από τα χέρια μου. Αληθινοί χαρακτήρες, εξαιρετική ανάπλαση ενός τόπου και μιας εποχής που δεν πολυγνωρίζουμε (Αϊτή την εποχή της δικτατορίας του Πάπα Ντοκ), βαθιά φιλοσοφικό. Για κάποιον λόγο μου θύμισε Καζαντζάκη, τόσο το Ζορμπά όσο και τον Καπετάν-Μιχάλη.
" ‘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
Roderick Hart
Oct 18, 2008 Roderick Hart rated it it was ok
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
Mar 08, 2015 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenally good, even by Greene's standards, the Berkhamsted boy doing good with a classic tale on that saddest and most fascinating of countries, Haiti. Set at the time of Papa Doc Duvalier and his chilling secret police, the Tonton Macoute, it's a bizarre tale where the only answer to the sequence of events is black humour of a very dark kind.

The characters are well drawn and sympathetic including the fantasist Mr. Jones and the decent Mr. Smith while the narrator's lovelorn jealousy is a th
Nov 21, 2010 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, lit-fiction
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.
Judith Shadford
Nov 13, 2014 Judith Shadford rated it really liked it
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
Nov 08, 2012 Trina rated it really liked it
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
Nov 03, 2012 Justin Evans rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Feb 27, 2008 Adam rated it really liked it
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
Mar 26, 2015 Nikki rated it really liked it
Shelves: postmodernism
I'm giving four stars to The Comedians, because it is very much awesome. Open ending, but not really a happy one in my opinion, it leaves some empty feeling in the end, questioning whether anything we do is really worth in the end if we lose all friends and family. Idk, might be my current existential crisis speaking, but still.
Liked the characters, I really liked Martha, not so sure why. Loved the writing, the whole story, along with the characters.

Baron Samedi faces off stick twitching Tontons Macoute. Photo by Charles Carrié

Read by Tim Piggot Smith

Description: 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 pain, afrai
Kimmo Sinivuori
Sep 03, 2015 Kimmo Sinivuori rated it it was amazing
This is a first class adventure, a sinister political satire and a tragic love story taking place during the first years of Papa Doc Duvalier's reign of terror in Haiti. The story is narrated by a British hotelier who returns by boat to Port au Prince after a failed attempt to sell his Haitian property to buyers in New York. It is inhabited by a gallery of vivid characters that everyone who has travelled in the third world immediately recognizes. The lone British ex-major engaged in somewhat sha ...more
Andrew Schirmer
Jun 24, 2013 Andrew Schirmer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: english, haiti
Top-shelf Greene, largely free of impurities (moralizing). And the not-so-quiet Americans turn out to be okay.
Mar 23, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it
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
Feb 25, 2014 Darryl rated it it was ok
This suspenseful comedic novel begins on a cargo ship en route from Philadelphia to Port-au-Prince in the early 1960s, during the early years of the murderous reign of the Haitian dictator François "Papa Doc" Duvalier: Brown, who runs a luxury hotel for foreigners that he inherited from his mother; Smith, a minor candidate for the US Presidency in 1948 who ran on an anti-war, pro-vegetarian platform, who is accompanied by his equally naïve and bombastic wife; and Jones, another Briton, who claim ...more
Aug 17, 2011 Mac rated it liked it
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
Erik Graff
Apr 17, 2011 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Greene fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
My stepbrother, Erik Badger, went to Haiti after graduating from Shimer College at its old campus in Waukegan, Illinois. His thesis advisor, Steve Werlin, had been working there off and on for years on aid projects. Erik's job was to teach teachers to teach adults to read and write in the native creole. First, however, he had to learn the language himself and this was accomplished by depositing him in a rural village where no one spoke English. It worked.

I bought this book with Mr. Badger in min
Jason Gignac
Jun 04, 2009 Jason Gignac rated it really liked it
Shelves: fill-in-the-gaps
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
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French in The Comedians 2 23 Sep 06, 2013 02:54PM  
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  • The Rainy Season
  • The Uses of Haiti
  • The End of the Battle
  • An Accidental Man
  • Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution
  • All Souls' Rising
  • Ashenden
  • The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Folktales
  • A Hall of Mirrors
  • The World is Moving Around Me: A Memoir of the Haiti Earthquake
  • Strandloper
  • Hangover Square
  • Fire Down Below (To the Ends of the Earth, #3)
  • The Vintage Book Of War Stories
  • The Bellarosa Connection
  • Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment
  • Beyond The Black Stump
  • Haiti Noir
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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“Like some wines our love could neither mature nor travel.” 544 likes
“There is a point of no return, unremarked at the time, in most lives.” 43 likes
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