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The Quiet American

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  57,581 ratings  ·  3,825 reviews
Graham Greene's classic exploration of love, innocence, and morality in Vietnam

"I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused," Graham Greene's narrator Fowler remarks of Alden Pyle, the eponymous "Quiet American" of what is perhaps the most controversial novel of his career. Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious
Paperback, 180 pages
Published August 31st 2004 by Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions (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 complete…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)
Michael Looft I saw the movie when it came out in 2002 and loved it. I read the book for the first time this past summer and watched the movie again. I agree with o…moreI saw the movie when it came out in 2002 and loved it. I read the book for the first time this past summer and watched the movie again. I agree with others that the movie is really great. Though, the Pyle character is actually more believable in the movie than in the book. In the book, he seems a bit too naive and childlike to the point where it stretched my belief on how much power a boy like that would have in a real life situation. The scene in the movie where the square is bombed and Fowler's recollection of Pyle speaking fluent Vietnamese, wiping the blood off his shoe, and directing the camera crew to take pictures of the dead and wounded was so powerful that I wished this were in the book as it really put Pyle's dark side on display. Nevertheless, both the book and the movie stand on their own as amazing and worth every minute.(less)

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December 2020: After some thought I decided to upgrade my rating to 5*. I've been praising this novel for some time and I do not understand why I only gave it 4stars.

This is a cautionary tale about the involvement of America and Britain in the French War in Vietnam. Reading this book was a great way to learn more about the First Indochina War.

The two main characters are symbols of the American and British participation in Vietnam. The British does not want to get involved in the war, and he is
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
John Keats

The other day it occurred to me that this jarringly complex book was a wry attempt on Graham Greene’s part to defrock the dreaded americanos of The Power and Glory with an ironic image - the gregarious, wellmeaning, crewcut volunteers of that brave invention, the Peace Corps.

Greene was always so perplexed by the bizarre and continually morphing forms of violent behaviour in the world - and stymied by the fact that so many of the cleared paths open to it are paved by by
Jan 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
“I stopped our trishaw outside the Chalet and said to Phuong, ‘Go in and find a table. I had better look after Pyle.’ That was my first instinct – to protect him. It never occurred to me that there was a greater need to protect myself. Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we should 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…”
- Graham Greene, The Quiet American

Even if it had no lasting l
Ahmad Sharabiani
(Book 499 from 1001 books) - The Quiet American, Graham Greene (1904-1992)

The Quiet American is a 1955 novel by English author Graham Greene which depicts French colonialism in Vietnam being uprooted by the Americans during the 1950's.

The novel implicitly questions the foundations of growing American involvement in Vietnam in the 1950's and is unique in its exploration of the subject topic through the links among its three main characters - Fowler, Pyle and Phuong.

The novel has received much a
'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.'

Sometimes a few notable books cause me to start thinking just I turn the last page. So, excuse me for beginning this review with some of my latest ruminations. When I reflect on the meaning of life, although I am not a philosopher I do that sometimes, the fact that we are here for such a short while strikes me as so dismal.
Jim Fonseca
You always get a good story from Graham Greene along with discussion of moral issues and this book has it all.

The setting is Vietnam in the early 1950s when the French are still fighting to hold on to their colony with American financial assistance and surreptitious military support. The author visited there in 1951. The French pulled out in 1954 and the Americans started coming in.


We have two men who go by their last names: a crusty, hard-drinking, opium-smoking, cynical British journalist -
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 1001-read
An absolutely brilliant book. I think it is a genuine masterpiece to be enjoyed on numerous different levels. It goes straight to my favorites ever list! Graham Greene employs the right tone for this book, cynical yet compassionate. Correspondent Fowler's non-commitment is the best attitude for the place and time of his assignment in Vietnam, but whether it is psychologically healthy cannot be said with certainty. Written in 1955, it is shocking to see how very relevant the book still is today, ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
“That was my first instinct -- to protect him. It never occurred to me that there was a greater need to protect myself. 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.”

As if this book were not brilliant enough for its multi-layered plot and meaningful, carefully written prose, it was also a harbinger of the disaster awaiting the United State's inv
Aug 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The perfect novel.

Ingenious in its pace & tone, the plot unravels in a peculiar, non-linear way, easily enviable by even the most capable of MAJOR writers. Perhaps because it is more like a meaty novella about star-crossed lovers, hidden intentions, and the war of "the classes" that it makes it's powerful, jarring punch to the gut.

I LooooVE this book. It's elegant, both prophetic and historic, & very very adult.
Michael Finocchiaro
This is an amazing story about the French colonial war in Vietnam and an incompetent CIA-wanna be agent seen through the eyes of a opium-addicted British journalist. Cynicism abounds. Great writing, gripping scenes. Excellent read. A true classic. I definitely need to read more Graham Greene.

If you enjoyed this book and wish to have more background on the historical canvas on which the story was painted, I highly suggest Fredrik Logevall's Embers of War about the French Indochina War and Frances
Paul Bryant
Jun 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
Well I pretty much hated the worldly weary opium smoking politically neutral smug bastard of a first person our-man-in-Vietnam reporter narrator who dolefully wraps his middle aged melancholia around himself and sprinkles mournful aphorisms into the languid air like ditsy bumblebees dressed up as badass hornets :

You cannot love without intuition (Yes you can)

Even an opinion is a kind of action (well, not really)

To be in love is to see yourself as someone else sees you (ridiculous)

When you escap
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I don't know how to review this book. I cannot fairly review it as my own notion of the book is so altered by my own experiences, that I'm not sure anyone reading it would see what I see. Hell, to a certain extent, I know they can't... not quite the same at least.

Instead I will try to express how this book made me feel.

This book took me way too long to read. Not because it was bad, life just kept getting in my way even when I would much rather have been reading, that said, I was happy to take
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"She was the hiss of steam, the clink of a cup, she was a certain hour of the night and the promise of rest."

Graham Greene`s The Quiet American is a wonderful piece of literature. It's partly love story, partly war and courage story, partly suffering and sad story, partly a story of repent and partly a story filled with selfishness.

Do read the below lines to get a feel of what this book is about, and then read this book.

"Death was the only absolute value in my world. Lose life and one would los
Dave Schaafsma
“I can’t say what made me fall in love with Vietnam - that a woman’s voice can drug you; that everything is so intense. The colors, the taste, even the rain. Nothing like the filthy rain in London. The smell: that’s the first thing that hits you, promising everything in exchange for your soul. You could be forgiven for thinking there was no war; that the gunshots were fireworks; that only pleasure matters. A pipe of opium, or the touch of a girl who might tell you she loves you. And then, someth ...more
This was actually read for my university course. We were tasked to read a book (or watch a movie but...) and write a paper about how a journalist is presented in the.

Unfortunately, there was a blacklist as well and all the books I had in my mind were on it. So I had to look for a new one. And I am a bit angry that I did not know this book before! Graham Greene has a unique way how to tell a story and I really liked it.

“Death was far more certain than God.”

The most interesting was the differenc
Paul Weiss
A slow moving but compelling romantic tragedy

THE QUIET AMERICAN is the tragically banal yet moving story of two white men living in Vietnam during the colonial war in French Indochina. Thomas Fowler, a British journalist covering the war, is world-weary and jaded, street smart, politically savvy and intelligently low key in the sense that he has learned to keep his head down to avoid attracting undue attention to himself and his activities, acclimated to the oriental culture, happy with a medioc
Ben Sharafski
Jul 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Set in Indo-China of the fifties, against the backdrop of the Vietnamese insurgency against their French colonial rulers and the onset of US involvement in the conflict, a love triangle unfolds between the narrator, a wry middle-aged English man, his gorgeous Vietnamese girlfriend and a wide-eyed, good-intentioned young American.

In flowing, lucid, evocative, at times gorgeous prose, Greene brings to life a bygone era, and although some of the social conventions restricting the characters seem t
In French Indochina in 1952, a disillusioned and cynical Englishman becomes the friend of an idealistic American. The second falls in love with the mistress of the first. Friendship, love, jealousy, politics and espionage come together in a captivating story until the end. It is also a dotted description of the transfer of power that will take place two years later between the French and the Americans, who will bitterly learn that idealists do not mix well with warriors. As often with Graham Gre ...more
Brett C
Mar 26, 2022 rated it really liked it
This was a well articulated story about human existence. It showed the human existence of people living their lives in the midst of war. Also the dichotomy of life existing parallel to the death and destruction of war. The story had two main characters also living in opposite internal mindsets. The first character was the older, mature, and cynical war correspondent Fowler. The second character, Pyle, was a young and motivated yet naive CIA operative believing he too could make a difference in t ...more
Jul 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"There was always a Third Force to be found, free from communism and the taint of colonialism. You only had to find a leader and keep him safe." - American Agent Pyle

"We are the old colonial people Pyle, but we've learned a bit of reality, we've learned not to play with matches. The Third Force comes out of a book." - British Reporter Fowler

"We all get involved in a moment of emotion and then we cannot get out. War and Love, they have always been compared." - French Bomber Pilot Trouin

"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,
Jun 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, reviewed
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Greene intertwines two mirror image triangular relationships in early 1950’s Viet Nam. The fictional plot is centered on a real event, a car bombing in a busy downtown Saigon square in January 1952. The French Sûreté blamed the rogue nationalist Colonel Thế. The American mission blamed the Viet Minh. Greene was a war correspondent based in Saigon at the time and many scenes in the book are drawn from things he witnessed. He started writing the book in March 1952.

Greene’s first triangle is perso
Jun 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
The Vietnam War is an era that is all too real for me. If you lived through it, you will probably agree that, as a people, we never understood what we were doing, why we were there, or who we were “saving”. The French had already tried to remake Vietnam into a Western style democracy, and had failed entirely. This book takes place just at the passing of the baton--France has not quite given up, and America is beginning to think they have the solution.

That is the scene, but this book, as with all
Woman Reading
4.5 ☆
nothing nowadays is fabulous and nothing rises from its ashes

The Quiet American was set during the the early 1950s when France was fighting a losing war to retain Indochina. Battles between the Communist Vietnamese and the French were fiercest in the north, close to the border with China. In the south, Saigon and its environs were also contested territories among the French and various private armies with their own agendas.

"I'm not involved." ... It had been an article of my creed
Tim Null
Nov 02, 2022 rated it really liked it

This was the third and final book I stole from my brother. For some reason, my brother suddenly stopped keeping his books on a shelf, and I never discovered where he had hidden them. I am grateful he never told our parents what I had done. I'm guessing he probably had his own secrets.
‘He’s a good chap in his way. Serious. Not one of those noisy bastards at the Continental. A quiet American,’ I summed him precisely up as I might have said, ‘a blue lizard,’ ‘a white elephant.’

No, not noisy, but Pyle is a determined young idealist who’s an armchair expert on Vietnam, having read all the books. He arrived with the Economic Aid Mission and wants to save the world. The man describing him above to a Vietnamese policeman is Fowler, a jaded English journalist who’s lived in Vietn
Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤
Jul 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
My first Graham Greene and it is brilliant. His writing is sparse yet descriptive. A less talented or more loquacious author might have taken 500 pages to deliver what Mr. Greene succinctly packed into these 168 pages.

I wish I could say more but am still struggling with writing. I'll let my five star rating speak for itself.
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
[4+] The Quiet American could be called "The Ignorant American" or "The Arrogant American" but the wry title sets the tone of the novel. Written in 1955, the novel is a searing look at the beginning of U.S. involvement in Vietnam through the eyes of a war-weary English journalist. If only we had heeded Greene's cautionary message! I'm glad my book club is going to discuss this novel because there is so much going on under the surface to talk about. ...more
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Particularly known novels, such as The Power and the Glory (1940), of British writer Henry Graham Greene reflect his ardent Catholic beliefs.

The Order of Merit and the Companions of Honour inducted this English novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenplay writer, travel writer, and critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene combined

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