Grace Tjan's Reviews > The Quiet American

The Quiet American by Graham Greene
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Jun 26, 10

bookshelves: 2010, british-literature, ebook, greeneland
Read from June 19 to 21, 2010

"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 native elements (with a little American help) is Vietnam’s best bet, and Pyle is willing to do anything to help it come into power.

Thomas Fowler, a middle-aged British war journo who’s too jaded to take any side in the conflict, views Pyle’s activist idealism with bemused contempt. Separated from his wife, whom he left in England, he takes a young Vietnamese lover, Phuong. Fowler tells himself that he is under no illusion whatsoever in his relationship with her; she is there to provide for his comforts (“… she was the hiss of steam, the clink of a cup, she was a certain hour of the night, and the promise of rest."), and in return he provides her with the comforts of a Western standard lifestyle. It’s an arrangement, all too common in distant Third World postings, and strictly temporary. He has no plans to ask his wife for a divorce; what would Phuong do in rainy, grey London anyway? However, Phuong has other aspirations. She dreams of a life in the West --- and if her aging lover won’t take her to England, then she’ll go to America instead. Fowler’s contempt for Pyle’s naiveté, both political and romantic, intensifies when Phuong left him for the American. It is so obvious that he is practically considered a main suspect by the Surete when Pyle is found dead not long after.

Despite its espionage trappings, The Quiet American is a morality play, in which all the costs and benefits of a moral decision are so precisely laid up that it’s almost mathematical. Yet, unlike in The Heart of the Matter, another morality play of an almost biblical intensity, the characters are allowed certain shades of ambiguity; they make a deal with the devil and then get on with their compromised lives. The wages of sin now is not necessarily death --- sometimes we weak humans are allowed a little leeway, a little compromise that maybe, somehow, is justifiable in the greater scheme of things.

But Greene’s book is not just a morality tale. It is also a vividly rendered, unsentimental evocation of Vietnam in the 1950’s. Not just the part that was at war against the French (although there is plenty about it too), but also the country that hosts the Cao Dai church, a French planter with an extensive Victorian erotica collection and a Chinese-Vietnamese junk dealer who is also a secret Vietminh agent. These journalistic vignettes constitutes half the pleasure of reading this book for me, the other half constitutes of reading about moral dilemmas that are summed up in angsty, exquisitely phrased aphorisms that perhaps contains more than a kernel of truth ("The hurt is in the act of possession: we are too small in mind and body to possess another person without pride or to be possessed without humiliation."). Plenty to ruminate about long after the book is closed.
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Quotes Grace Liked

Graham Greene
“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. ”
Graham Greene, The Quiet American

Graham Greene
“God save us always,' I said 'from the innocent and the good.”
Graham Greene, The Quiet American


Reading Progress

06/19/2010 page 75
36.0%
06/20/2010 page 150
72.0% ""God save us always...from the innocent and the good.""

Comments (showing 1-50 of 50) (50 new)

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Rauf I gots a feeling youse gonna love this book....


Grace Tjan Moral dilemmas in exotic places, great writing --- what's not to love about it? I'm giving it a solid 4 star. Next: Travels with My Aunt.


message 3: by Hayes (new)

Hayes Morning! (6:00 AM for me... what time is it there?)

I haven't read Quiet American, but it's going on TBR. And Travels is one of my favorites! Great fil-um with the splendid Maggie Smith, which I haven't seen yet.


Grace Tjan Hayes wrote: "Morning! (6:00 AM for me... what time is it there?)

I haven't read Quiet American, but it's going on TBR. And Travels is one of my favorites! Great fil-um with the splendid Maggie Smith, which I h..."


I've seen the Hollywood version of The Quiet American --- the book is so much better! Looking forward to Travels with my Aunt.


Rauf Read The End of The Affair first. Thass me favorite along with Quiet.

The End of the Affair (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) by Graham Greene


Grace Tjan Rauf wrote: "Read The End of The Affair first. Thass me favorite along with Quiet.

The End of the Affair (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) by Graham Greene"


I saw the movie on HBO (the one with Ralph Fiennes) a few weeks ago. I'll read it eventually, but right now I'm going with Travels first. It seems fun and I need that after the seriousness of The Heart of the Matter and The Quiet American.

It's so easy to read everything now that I've got an e reader! : D


message 7: by Hayes (new)

Hayes You did it, then! Yay!!

Which one didja get?


Grace Tjan Hayes wrote: "You did it, then! Yay!!

Which one didja get?"


Yeah, finally convinced myself that I had to have it. lol

I got this one: http://www.engadget.com/2010/01/08/ir.... They offer a warranty, unlike the Sony e reader. That's the main reason why I picked it.

So far so good, though it seems that it has some problems with pdf files.


message 9: by Ayu (new)

Ayu Palar e-reader? aww, I envy much! Did you order it online?


Grace Tjan No, I bought it from a store in Mangga Dua Mall. They can deliver (COD) to any address in Jakarta, though. There are also other stores that sell e readers in Ratu Plaza and Mal Ambassador.

I'm loving the easy access to online books and its portability. I'm gonna read up a storm! : )


message 11: by Rauf (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rauf Congrats on the new iriver, Banksy.
If youse gonna read more and more, well I hope that thing is durable. Good thing youse got a warranty!

I don't know. The movie didn't make no sense to me. After I read the novel then I got it. It was a pretty faithful adaptation if ya asked me.


Grace Tjan Rauf wrote: "Congrats on the new iriver, Banksy.
If youse gonna read more and more, well I hope that thing is durable. Good thing youse got a warranty!

I don't know. The movie didn't make no sense to me. After..."


Now that I have an e reader, you gotta cough up some of those 300 ebook stash of yours. I wanna a look at your piratical lair/treasure trove. Then you gotta email me some. ;P


astried I see you couldn't wait after all, congratulations! I hope you will enjoy it.


Grace Tjan astried wrote: "I see you couldn't wait after all, congratulations! I hope you will enjoy it."

Thanks, astried. I've been wanting an e reader for sometime now, so I figured out that I should just get it this time. I'll learn everything about it later (with a little help from my goodreads buddies). : )

I was leaning towards the Sony, but eventually I got the iRiver, because of the warranty. But you're right about it having a problem with zooming on pdf files. Is it possible to convert pdf files to epub or txt using calibre? How?


astried Go here: http://calibre-ebook.com/download and install it first. Afterwards you just drag n drop file to its window and give tags, correct author name, change format, etc. It's really easy. Give me a shout if you have a problem and I'll send you some screenshots to help.


message 16: by Rauf (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rauf How am I going to show my e-library? You just have to take my words fer it. This folder here is where I keep my Douglas Adams...There are only 2 books from him that I haven't read. This folder right here is where I keep my Chabon..Y'know, I'm thinking to reread Kavalier & Clay. Also The Yiddish Policeman Union, I suddenly want to read it no matter how effink weird. This folder here is where I keep Bradbury and Chandler...Been wanting to read Something Wicked This Way Comes. But never finds the right moment. Oh, my Marquez. Cholera here, Solitude there, and the Melancholy Whores smack dab in the middle. Oh..how can I forget my Palahniuk? I have all the books except Tell-All... And The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman! Finally I found the one with the McKean illustrations.


message 17: by Rauf (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rauf And over there is where I keep all my Christopher Moores. I've only read two so far...The Travis McGees folder is next to Lew Archer's. China Mievilles next to my Elmore Leonards next to my Stephen Kings. I got two or three Lehanes. The Given Day, man, been wanting to read that.


message 18: by Dini (new)

Dini Oh my. E-reader. Harganya rata2 berapaan, Sandy?


Grace Tjan @ayu: iriver is about 2.8 to 3.2 mil depending on the version and accessories. Sony e reader is about 4.2 mil. But only iriver offers any warranty. So far I have downloaded 20 bks which if I buy them in hard copy would have cost more than the amount I spent on the e reader. So I think the e reader is really worth it. :)


Grace Tjan Rauf wrote: "And over there is where I keep all my Christopher Moores. I've only read two so far...The Travis McGees folder is next to Lew Archer's. China Mievilles next to my Elmore Leonards next to my Stephen..."

I gotta check out your books then. You tag them as ebooks, right? I got Yiddish Policemen in hardcover (got it cheap from periplus sale). It's been gathering dust in my bookcase since I can't seem to ever get into it. It's yours if you want it.

I want all the Greenelands that you have. I have already run out of my quota at the palace.


Grace Tjan astried wrote: "Go here: http://calibre-ebook.com/download and install it first. Afterwards you just drag n drop file to its window and give tags, correct author name, change format, etc. It's really easy. Give me..."

Thanks for the tip,astried. I'll try it.


message 22: by Rauf (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rauf Check your inbox
:)


Grace Tjan Rauf wrote: "Check your inbox
:)"


Check you inbox back.


message 24: by Rauf (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rauf More ebooks are coming yer way and there's nothing you can do about it
;D


message 25: by Grace (last edited Jun 22, 2010 12:13AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Grace Tjan Rauf wrote: "More ebooks are coming yer way and there's nothing you can do about it
;D"


*bows to Thor and his mighty Mjolnir*

(No, I don't read Marvel, but I read a book about Norse myths ages ago)


message 26: by Rauf (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rauf I'm gonna send you so much books you're gonna start writing a monthly list :D


message 27: by Rauf (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rauf Btw, where's the review of this book?


Grace Tjan Rauf wrote: "I'm gonna send you so much books you're gonna start writing a monthly list :D"

Hell, yeah! Prioritize the ones that are in txt or epub formats first, because I'm still learning to convert between the formats. It seems that iRiver is sort of allergic to pdf and doc formats.

The orphaned book will be on your way soon (gotta take care of my flu-ish son first).


Grace Tjan Rauf wrote: "Btw, where's the review of this book?"

I'm tempted to just compile a quotation list instead of a proper review. Maybe later.


Grace Tjan Like these:

"I shut my eyes and she was again the same as she used to be: she was the hiss of steam, the clink of a cup, she was a certain hour of the night, and the promise of rest."

"Wouldn't we all do better not trying to understand, accepting the fact that no human being will ever understand another, not a wife a husband, a lover a mistress, nor a parent a child? Perhaps that's why men have invented God -- a being capable of understanding."

"The hurt is in the act of possession: we are too small in mind and body to possess another person without pride or to be possessed without humiliation."

"To be in love is to see yourself as someone else sees you, it is to be in love with the falsified and exalted image of yourself. In love we are incapable of honour -- the courageous act is no more than playing a part to an audience of two."

So angsty, but beautifully phrased and contain more than a kernel of truth.


message 31: by Rauf (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rauf Vintage Greene, pure poetry.
Uh-oh.
Does it read RTF easily?
I don't have anything in .epub because I don't have a program that can read it.

You should do something about the PDF. I like PDF format best. Not so hard on the eyes, you can auto-scroll it, etc.






Btw, I just noticed you have an ebook folder now
:D


message 32: by Grace (last edited Jun 22, 2010 01:22AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Grace Tjan Rauf wrote: "Vintage Greene, pure poetry.
Uh-oh.
Does it read RTF easily?
I don't have anything in .epub because I don't have a program that can read it.

You should do something about the PDF. I like PDF for..."


What's RTF?

These are the formats that iRiver supports:

"...the Story able to read the ePub format (as used by big retailers like Foyles and Waterstones), PDF, plain text files and Microsoft DOC, PPT and XLS formats.

Support for the Microsoft formats was found to be a bit iffy though, with the zoom control failing to work on Excel or PowerPoint files."

They're right about it being iffy on the Doc. I can't open the Graham Crackers on it, though it works perfectly on my Mac. I suppose that I'll have to convert it into txt or epub first.

Feel free to request anything in my ebook folder.


astried I think I have to start reading Greene...

RTF is Rich Text Format that you can open on Microsoft word.

You know, since I'm gonna start building my Graham Greene collection anyway, you can send me all your raw and I'll send you back as epub complete with a nice cover. Things are going so slow in the office I could sleep...


astried Or give me your most wanted list and I'll see if it's already in my calibre library


message 35: by Rauf (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rauf If you saved files written in Wordpad program (for Windows), that's an .rtf program; short for Rich Text Format. Pages (Mac) can open rtf files.

Whoops, my bad. The Palace gave me the books in plain text, but I did convert it to Word. I thought it would be easier to open and read.


So...Iriver read PDFs fine?
Can you read html, btw?


Grace Tjan astried wrote: "I think I have to start reading Greene...

RTF is Rich Text Format that you can open on Microsoft word.

You know, since I'm gonna start building my Graham Greene collection anyway, you can send me..."


astried wrote: "I think I have to start reading Greene...

RTF is Rich Text Format that you can open on Microsoft word.

You know, since I'm gonna start building my Graham Greene collection anyway, you can send me..."


Yes. Read Greene. : )

My Greenes are in different formats, some are txt, the ones from Rauf are doc. and one is in djvu. I'll send them all to you anyway. It would be lovely if they can all be converted into epub.


message 37: by Rauf (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rauf @astried
Ah now there's a nice suggestion, filled to the brim with Goodreaders spirit.

:)


Grace Tjan Rauf wrote: "If you saved files written in Wordpad program (for Windows), that's an .rtf program; short for Rich Text Format. Pages (Mac) can open rtf files.

Whoops, my bad. The Palace gave me the books in pla..."


iRiver can open pdf fine, but it can't zoom. The text are smaller than an ant's egg. Don't think that it reads html. --- haven't tried it.


astried Rauf wrote: "@astried
Ah now there's a nice suggestion, filled to the brim with Goodreaders spirit.

:)"


Yes, part of it is me being selfish, I'm too lazy to download from the net. Anyway, although I'm not a tidy person in real life, I LOVE adding bookcover & such. My Sony's bookshelves is the tidiest part of my life.


astried Sandybanks wrote: "My Greenes are in different formats, some are txt, the ones from Rauf are doc. and one is in djvu."

I can't do anything with the djvu.. It would take too much time to OCR and proof-read,etc. I also have some interesting books in this format that I have to read on laptop screen. I did read somewhere that iRiver can read it directly. Maybe you could try?


Grace Tjan astried wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: "My Greenes are in different formats, some are txt, the ones from Rauf are doc. and one is in djvu."

I can't do anything with the djvu.. It would take too much time to OCR and pr..."


Sorry, perhaps I should clarify. I don't need the txt and djvu files to be converted to epub, since they work perfectly on the iRiver. The ones that I'm having problem with are the doc. ones. It would be great if they can be converted into txt or epub (if that's not too much trouble for you). Would you like me to email you my Greene collection (7 books in all, some in txt and some in doc?).


astried Yes of course. I'll send you my e-mail through pm. I wish my sony could read djvu..


message 43: by Rauf (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rauf So I should just be sending you plain text files, eh?
Alrighty then.


--turns on his laptop and opens his EBOOK folder--
We have works to do.


Grace Tjan Rauf wrote: "So I should just be sending you plain text files, eh?
Alrighty then.


--turns on his laptop and opens his EBOOK folder--
We have works to do."


Yes. Plain vanilla only for me, please. : )


Grace Tjan astried wrote: "Yes of course. I'll send you my e-mail through pm. I wish my sony could read djvu.."

Done.


astried Sandybanks wrote: "Done."

Greene went home as epub


message 47: by Rauf (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rauf They make a deal with the devil and they get on with it.

My favorite part of the review.


Grace Tjan Rauf wrote: "They make a deal with the devil and they get on with it.

My favorite part of the review."


Thanks. That's what Fowler did, right? In The Heart of the Matter, one of the main character did a bad thing and had to die for it, but Fowler just got on with his life. Maybe Greene, no longer a devout Catholic, now sees more grey areas in the moral universe?


message 49: by Rauf (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rauf I don't know for sure...

But as I wrote on my review, there was a line in the book--you have to take sides if you want to remain human. And after Fowler knew what Pyle did, he had to take sides. Vietnam had already numbed him somewhat...So he did what he did. If he didn't, I reckoned the despair he felt would be more intense than the one he felt in the end (not to mention that the book would stink :D )...Also I thought what Fowler did to Pyle was ironic--that seemed like a Pyle thing, ain't it?

Was it the right thing to do? Well we could spend aeons debating that. But wouldn't you rather read The End of The Affair instead?


Grace Tjan Rauf wrote: "I don't know for sure...

But as I wrote on my review, there was a line in the book--you have to take sides if you want to remain human. And after Fowler knew what Pyle did, he had to take sides...."


He did what he had to do and then go on with his life. An earlier Greene hero might have killed himself for doing something like that. That's what I mean by him seeing more grey.

The End of the Affair definitely will be my next Greene. But maybe I'll read a Conrad first.


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