Feb 21, 12
Read in October, 2011
I’m not sure how Graham Greene does it, but he manages to produce a spoof of a spy thriller that is serious while it is comic. From this novel set in Cuba just before Castro gained power, we encounter the dynamic city of Havana, full of intrigue and occasionally foreboding. But it is also a place where the parties go on and the diplomatic life flourishes. It is especially impressive that Greene wrote this novel in real time – in 1959 Castro is still in the mountains, Batista is in power, and Greene senses that it is all about to change.
But before it changes, we have this funny and sad story. An inept spy in Cuba needs something to report. After all, he must earn the retainer that is supporting his beloved and expensive daughter. So he makes things up, and thus proceeds our novel.
The message? Intelligence reports are suspect. Foreign policy is often a matter of covering one’s butt. Sometimes people get killed, and always, always, life is absurd.