Arti's Reviews > The Quiet American

The Quiet American by Graham Greene
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Jan 17, 2012

really liked it
Read from January 17 to 22, 2012

I watched the film The Quiet American some years back, without having read the book. And my memory is vague. Only remember Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser, the setting in Vietnam, in the early 50's, a complex fusion of political thriller, murder mystery, and a love triangle.

But now that I've read the book I'm thoroughly intrigued, thanks to this Penguin Classics Graham Greene Centennial Edition (1904 - 2004), with the intro written by American novelist Robert Stone. Stone's novel Dog Soldiers about the Vietnam war and its effects won the 1975 National Book Award. From his introduction, I've come to appreciate how intricate and multi-layered the conflicts are, and, how political the novel stands.

Interesting to learn from Stone about the joke embedded in the title: the only quiet American is a dead American. In the midst of a colonial war between the French and the communists in 1950's Saigon, American Alden Pyle's subversive brand of democracy satisfied none other than his own idealism. A Harvard grad, armed with naiveté and book knowledge, a CIA under the guise of the American Economic Attaché, Pyle's involvement might well represent American meddling in other country's affairs in the name of spreading democracy.

We see all these through the eyes of the narrator, the British reporter Thomas Fowler. Much older, more experienced, and having been posted in Vietnam for some years, Fowler has grown to love the humanity therein, but is plagued by bitter cynicism. He doesn't take sides, he just writes his story as an observer, smokes his opium pipe prepared by his young mistress Phuong, and lies in bed with her. But Fowler's noncommittal stance comes to a breaking point at the end:

"... one has to take sides. If one is to remain human."

To read my full review, CLICK HERE
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