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The Quiet American

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  29,873 Ratings  ·  1,842 Reviews
The Quiet American is a terrifying portrait of innocence at large. While the French Army in Indo-China is grappling with the Vietminh, back at Saigon a young and high-minded American begins to channel economic aid to a 'Third Force'.

Fowler, a seasoned foreign correspondent, observes: 'I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.' As young Pyle'

Paperback, 192 pages
Published November 5th 1991 by Penguin Classics (first published December 1955)
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Max No. Lansdale was first stationed in Viet Nam in 1954. The events in the book took place in 1952. When Greene first met Lansdale he had nearly…moreNo. Lansdale was first stationed in Viet Nam in 1954. The events in the book took place in 1952. When Greene first met Lansdale he had nearly completed the book. Also, Greene denied Lansdale was the basis for Alden Pyle. Pyle was based on Leo Hochstetter, public affairs director for America’s Economic Aid Mission. Greene had shared a hotel room with him and they drove back to Saigon together just as Pyle and Fowler do in the book. On the way Hochstetler told Greene of the need for a third force and mentioned General Thế as a good choice. Greene did say that Hochstetter was much savvier than Pyle.(less)

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Apr 14, 2016 Agnieszka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, gg, ebook, 2016

I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused .

I assume that everyone for once in own life had to face such a moment that , though convinced about doing the right thing , felt nevertheless poorly and uncomfortably . How is it possible , we asked then , we acted righteously so why such bad feeling , such turbulence in our mind ? We did a good choice so why this bile that fills our mouths ? Why that need to rationalize our deed ? There was no other way , we say . But re
Jun 26, 2013 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 2013
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
"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,'
Feb 03, 2010 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, infini ...more
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
Dec 05, 2014 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sue by: Rebecca, Anne Reach
'What's the good? he'll always be innocent, you can't blame the innocent, they are always guiltless. All you can do is control them or eliminate them. Innocence is a kind of insanity.' (p155) The crux of the story the crux of the entire sad history of nations trying to remake Southeast Asia in a Western image.

As I read The Quiet American, I felt myself sliding down a slippery path to a very messy era I remember all too well. I was 12 in 1960 so I was a teen as the build up of the American turn i
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
Sep 21, 2015 [P] rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Earlier this year I was in Prague visiting a friend of mine. My personal circumstances haven’t been the best for the last twelve months and I had slipped into a state of deep depression without realising it. The purpose of this trip was to get away from everything, to drink a lot and lose myself in that beautiful city. One afternoon my friend and I were in a bar, six drinks deep and thrillingly relaxed. That is, until a group of Americans arrived. They took the table behind us, and began to figh ...more
Mar 06, 2016 Edward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

--The Quiet American
Mar 10, 2014 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, favorites
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
Dec 11, 2007 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 18, 2015 BrokenTune rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.

The Quiet American is Greene's exploration of relationships and politics against the backdrop of the conflict in Vietnam in the early 1950s.

Thinking about it, this is really an amazing book and shows Greene's ability to observe current affairs - and look behind smokescreens. The "amazing" aspect of t
Esteban del Mal
Apr 03, 2010 Esteban del Mal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel, fiction, war
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 07, 2015 Elena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 08, 2007 Alger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 06, 2009 Adam rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
Mar 07, 2012 Sean rated it really liked it
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
Jan 01, 2013 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-collection
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
Feb 09, 2014 Cphe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 23, 2009 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 21, 2009 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 08, 2011 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Nancy Oakes
Apr 11, 2010 Nancy Oakes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite, spy-fiction
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
Oct 23, 2007 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 08, 2016 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
after listening to the audiobook March 5-7, 2016
After rereading this for the first time in over 30 years, I was struck by how much of the book is about love. When I read this back in my college days, I focused on the political and social commentary about colonialism and war; ever since, that is how I have thought of this book. But although the political struggle of the Vietminh against the French & Pyle's political ideals play an important part in the book, they are really just the backgroun
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
Ben Loory
Oct 19, 2012 Ben Loory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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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“Innocence is a kind of insanity” 251 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. ” 102 likes
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