Alger's Reviews > The Quiet American

The Quiet American by Graham Greene
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's review
Aug 12, 2007

really liked it
Recommended for: The intelligent and the aware
Read in October, 2004

Graham Greene is an artist of sarcasm and loathful protagonists. 'The Quiet American' follows in that tradition, but delves into what that means and turns the whole thing on its head. The main character, Fowler, is as foul as his name implies; swearing, drinking, smoking opium, and cheating on his wife with a nubile young Vietnamese girl. Conversely , we are shown the eponymous 'Quiet American', Pyle, who is quiet in that he is sweet, naive, doesn't drink, doesn't do drugs, doesn't fornicate, is sincere, etc. Fowler comes off as the black clothed man with a twisted moustache to the blonde, muscular cliche that would be applied to Pyle. In all actuallity virtue lies entirely with the character of Fowler and the character of Pyle is toxic, birthing death and destruction from his naivete and ignorance.
The backdrop of the story is Vietnam circa 1955 when the Vietminh movement was still fighting the French Colonial Forces. Fowler is a British journalist stationed in Indochina where he comes to meet an American government man, Pyle. Through Fowler, we see the fall of French imperialism and the rise of American Far Eastern imperialism. This book is interesting to read while keeping in mind the Bush Administration's expeditions into Afghanistan and Iraq.
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04/03/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Sarra (last edited Jan 04, 2010 12:57PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sarra I think you missed one of the main important issues of the book that is: Taking portrayed fowler as a"fool" which I have to disagree with...folwer's consumption of opium reflects his desire to stay detatched "from life, from religion" but more importantly in my sense is his desire to stay detached from politics, as a report his objectivity is also valuable..he chooses that life style to avoid seeing the attrocities of the war!!!but as Hinh told him "one has to take sides if one is to remain humain" wich folwer will eventully do by making a deal with the communists to dispose of Pyle..By the way i think that Fowler's affair is due to 1- his unhappiness with his wife and 2- He is most afraid of lonliness, he needs a woman by his side and phoung is not demanding, she is a little passive,and that's suits Fowler perfectlly!!! Yet he has love for her.

Steve Ford I like this review! You nailed it precisely in pointing out the seeming innocence and bumbling naivete of Pyle that causes so much more damage than Fowler's apparent cynicism.

This book has always read to me like an incredibly prophetic cautionary tale to all who would aspire to economic and ideological imperialism (OK, the American way). Read alongside Philip Jones Griffiths' epic polemic piece of photojournalism "Vietnam, Inc" one wonders at America's capacity to drink its own Kool-Aid and believe it's collectively acting for the greater good, and yet still it happens.

Greene's genius is in translating this from geopolitics into the personal, using the bitter love triangle as an extended metaphor. It's never been done better.

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