Jonathon Dabell's Reviews > The Comedians

The Comedians by Graham Greene
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's review
Nov 04, 2010

really liked it
Read in October, 2011

The Comedians is generally regarded as disappointing by Greene's standards, but I feel this is a harsh assessment of a book which contains so much humour, excitement, perception and horror. Greene offended Papa Doc Duvalier with his razor-sharp depiction of Haiti, but his book is much more than a criticism of a regime.
Hotelier Brown, American ex-presidential candidate Smith, and British con man Jones arrive in Haiti aboard a ship. Brown is desperate to somehow make ends meet in his hotel the Traianon, despite Haiti becoming a police state rather than a tourist hot-spot. He also has unfinished business with a mistress named Martha, wife of a South American ambassador. Smith is on a mission to introduce vegetarianism to the people of Haiti and cannot comprehend the horrors that he seems before his eyes. And Jones seems to be on some sort of mission to aid the Haitian freedom fighters in their fight against the system, but whether or not he truly has any expertise to offer is questionable in the extreme.
Greene's narrator, the character of Brown, is a classic torn soul. Throughout the book he wrestles with his conscience, his place in the world, and his faith. His struggle forms the very backbone of the story. However, it is the remarkable Jones who steals this story - his conniving teller of tall tales is, for me, one of Greene's great creations. It is true that Greene has written better books, but to dismiss this as a low ebb in his career is a big mistake!

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