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The Quiet American

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3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  23,146 ratings  ·  1,454 reviews
Graham Greene's classic exploration of love, innocence, and morality in Vietnam

"I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused," Graham Greene's narrator Fowler remarks of Alden Pyle, the eponymous "Quiet American" of what is perhaps the most controversial novel of his career. Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious
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Paperback, 180 pages
Published August 31st 2004 by Penguin Classics (first published 1955)
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Popular Answered Questions

Megan Yes, the particular character is.
However, what the two-dimensional protagonist also symbolises, is the Americans in the Vietnam War.
Just as the USA…more
Yes, the particular character is.
However, what the two-dimensional protagonist also symbolises, is the Americans in the Vietnam War.
Just as the USA was, Pyle is blinded by his 'good intentions and his ignorance', alike 'a dump leper who had lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm'; Pyle and the American soldiers were not properly equipped to fight in Guerrilla Warfare, and so the good intentioned, yet ignorant Americans caused the deaths of many innocent civilians. George W Bush calls this 'Collateral damage', however, if you search images of My Lai (a village that was pillaged by war-mad American soldiers), it's evident that the authorities such as Pyle and the real life Lieutenant Calley should never had the power they possessed.
I hope this helps, and you enjoyed the book as much as myself!(less)
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Community Reviews

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sckenda
Why does one want to tease the innocent?

Set in Vietnam during the 1950's, The Quiet American explores the unheroic world of post-colonial compromise through the relationship between Fowler, a British correspondent, and Pyle, the quiet American of the title. Graham Greene mixes a murder mystery with a cautionary tale of involvement in Vietnam and peppers it with precise and discrete character observations.

This short novel is rich in new experience for me. I travel Saigon’s sun-splintered stree
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Jason
I don’t know. I guess this is what you would get if you crossed Ernest Hemingway with John le Carré? Maybe.

The Quiet American is the story of a British journalist covering the war in 1950s French Indochina and the annoying American who disrupts his complacent lifestyle. Sure, he’s in a war zone, but he has never had it better. He has a beautiful girl by his side and he finds it possible to remain relatively safe, both physically and emotionally—physically in that most of his reporting duties occ
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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,'
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Jen
Feb 03, 2010 Jen rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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Alex
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
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Esteban del Mal
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alger
Sep 08, 2007 Alger rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Martine
The Quiet American is a short novel (180 pages), but it packs a punch, both emotionally and politically. A masterful study of male rivalry and political engagement set in 1950s Vietnam, it pits against each other two very different men: Thomas Fowler, a jaded, world-weary, ageing British war correspondent, and Alden Pyle, an earnest and idealistic American who has just arrived in Vietnam to work at the Economic Aid Mission and hardly knows anything about the country except what he's read in a bo ...more
Adam
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
Karen
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
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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
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Sean
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
Elena
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
Andrea
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
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Cphe
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
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Szplug
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
Cindy

Normally I get really, really pissed off when previous "patrons" (a.k.a. selfish scumbags) have marked up my library books. Disrespect to the book, disrespect to the future readers. It sucks. In this case, the marks ended up being quite interesting. Someone went through and circled every instance of "innocent" and variations thereof. Which is sort of the whole point of the story.

Set in the middle of the First Indochina War, also known as the Franco-Vietnamese War, a dispassionate British journal
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Daniel
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
Aylin
This is the first Graham Green I have read and won't be the last. The reader is thrust into the struggle of the French Indochina War (which as its aftermath divided the region into an unstable North and South Vietnam and eventually led to the Vietnam War.) In the Quiet American, a doggedly naïve, innocent and well intentioned American is out of his depth and understanding trying to manipulate a situation he is not equipped to grasp. Greene’s writing is spare and unsentimental.

I would recommend
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Nancy Oakes
The Quiet American is a somewhat metaphorical novel which should be read in the context of the political scene in Vietnam before 1954. At the time in which this novel is set, the Vietnamese are still under French colonial rule. The nationalists (the Communist Vietminh), have been fighting to take back the country for some time under the leadership of a returned Ho Chi Minh, and the French are losing their bid to keep control.

Reporting the conflicts in Vietnam for the British press is Thomas Fowl
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Sarah
Easily one of my all-time favorite books, but it's hard to explain why. A naive American CIA operative, fresh from Yale, arrives in Vietnam and promptly steals the narrator's Vietnamese lover/prostitute, then gets himself and several Vietnamese killed. The narrator is a cynical British war correspondent who is a) addicted to opium, b) desperately in love with the Vietnamese prositute as only a drug-addicted war correspondent can be, c) wise enough to see the Yalie's folly and d) a surprisingly s ...more
Ben Loory
well it's not the subtlest book in the world, and doesn't have quite the mythic power of The Heart of the Matter or The Power and the Glory or even The End of the Affair, but green is such a wonderful writer, he always has that "waiting to exhale" effect on me, as embarrassing as that sounds. i always get just a few sentences in and then just relax and love every minute of it.

i think if the book has a weakness (which i think it does, given the general lack of impact at the end), it's that the am
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Fiona
This is my second Greene book and so far, my favourite. Greene is an awesome author - he has the balance of an interesting story and an elegant style of writing that is neither simple or complicated.

The Quiet American is set Vietnam during the war. The main protagonist and narrator is the aging Thomas Fowler, an English journalist who has lived in Vietnam and has a lover, Phuong. Enter Alden Pyle, an idealist young American with big ideas and good intentions who also falls for Phuong.

The book i
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Clif
Hermits are rare. For most of us, relationships to others go far to determine the quality of life. A sweet spot is desirable. One doesn't want to be desperately dependent on another, while using others for one's own ends is just as unsatisfactory.

The Quiet American is an examination of relationship and commitment. Fowler, the protagonist, the only fully developed character, is an aging, cynical, weary male war correspondent working out of Saigon in the early 1950's. He's involved, though that is
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Duane
This is not my favorite Graham Greene novel. I have read five and The Quiet American ranks fifth. They are all very good, very well written, and I've given them all four stars, including this one. But there were some things I didn't like about it. First off, this is not a war novel; political yes, war no. It has elements of romance, mystery, intrigue, and it has a group of characters that it is hard to feel much sympathy for.

Thomas Fowler is a British correspondent stationed in Saigon Vietnam co
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blake
Contradicting its title, this novel is at once surprising and disquieting. Despite its understated language and supremely "British" tone, it's quite a searing indictment of war in general, the Vietnam conflict in specific, and, even more specifically, of the U.S. role in the affair. Greene is amazingly prescient with this latter idea, forecasting not only the idealistic motives for U.S. involvement in Vietnam but also the disastrous results in store. He accurately predicts it almost a decade bef ...more
James Murphy
The Quiet American is a famous and iconic novel. Famous for what it stands for in the political history of Southeast Asia and also personally famous because it seems I'd always known of it but had never read it.

I'm surprised at the towering cynicism. Part of the novel's legend lies in Greene's having supposedly foretold America's shipwreck on the rocks of the North Vietnamese unflinching willingness to pay any price to rid Indochina of western hegemony. But of course he coldn't see that. Publis
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Michelle
Jan 07, 2008 Michelle rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Everyone I've talked to about Greene seems to like his work, and I was not disappointed. This was just a thoughtful novel, written in a plain, forthright style. The story was good - a little mystery - and I like how Greene alternated between starting at the beginning and working forward and starting at the end and working backward. That sounds confusing, but it wasn't. Greene's reflections on war - who is the enemy, who is good, who is innocent, occupation, the effects of the intervention of for ...more
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2533
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
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More about Graham Greene...
The End of the Affair The Power and the Glory The Heart of the Matter Our Man in Havana Brighton Rock

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“Innocence is a kind of insanity” 200 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. ” 82 likes
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