|The Quiet American|
|Cover artist||Brian Cronin|
|Publisher||William Heinemann London|
|Publication date||December 1955|
The Quiet American is one of Greene's later books, published in 1955, and draws on his experiences as a SIS agent spying for Britain in World War II in Sierra Leone in the early 1940s and on winters spent from 1951 to 1954 in Saigon reporting on the French colonial war for The Times and Le Figaro. He was apparently inspired to write The Quiet American in October 1951 while driving back to Saigon from the Ben Tre province. He was accompanied by an American aid worker who lectured him about finding a “third force in Vietnam”. Greene spent three years writing it.
Thomas Fowler is a British journalist in his fifties who has been covering the French war in Viet Nam for over two years. He meets a young American idealist named Alden Pyle, who is a student of York Harding. Harding's theory is that neither Communism nor colonialism are the answer in foreign lands like Viet Nam, but rather a "Third Force," usually a combination of traditions, works best. Unlike most Americans, Pyle is thoughtful and soft-spoken. Fowler finds him naïve.
The two men meet accidentally at the Continental, a popular Saigon hotel. Pyle dances with Fowler's live-in lover, Phuong. Only twenty years old, Phuong is considered the most beautiful girl in Saigon. Her sister's goal in life is to marry Phuong off to a rich European; she does not like Fowler because he is married. Fowler and Pyle meet again at the Continental. Some vulgar Americans and Brits who have been drinking too much go off to the House of Five Hundred Women. Pyle goes with them, but cannot handle himself among the prostitutes because he is too naïve. Fowler rescues him. Later that night Pyle seems protective of Phuong.
Fowler goes to the city of Phat Diem to cover a battle there. Pyle travels there to tell him that he has been in love with Phuong since the first night he saw her, and that he wants to marry her. They make a toast to nothing and Pyle leaves the next day. Fowler gets a letter from Pyle thanking him for being so nice about Phuong. The letter is annoying because of Pyle's complete confidence that Phuong will choose to marry him. Meanwhile, Fowler's editor wants him to transfer back to England.
Pyle comes to Fowler's place and they ask her to choose between them. She chooses Fowler, her lover of two years. She does not know that he is up for a transfer. Fowler writes his wife to ask for a divorce in front of Phuong.
Fowler and Pyle meet again in a war zone. They end up captive in a tower, and spend an extraordinary night talking about everything from sex to God. As they escape, Pyle saves Fowler's life. Fowler goes back to Saigon where he lies to Phuong that his wife will divorce him. Pyle exposes the lie and Phuong moves in with Pyle. Fowler investigates Pyle's activities more closely and finds out that Pyle is importing military supplies into Viet Nam from the United States. Fowler goes into the war zone and does some serious reporting.
When Fowler returns to Saigon, he goes to Pyle's office to confront him but Pyle is out. Pyle comes over later for drinks and they talk about his upcoming marriage to Phuong. Later that week there is a terrible explosion and many innocents are killed. Fowler puts the pieces together and realizes that Pyle is behind the bombing. Fowler decides that Pyle must be eliminated. His naïve theories and interference are causing innocent people to die. Fowler takes part in a murder plot against Pyle. Although the police believe that Fowler is involved, they cannot prove anything. Fowler goes back to Phuong as if nothing had ever happened.
Thomas Fowler is a British journalist in his fifties who has been covering the French war in Vietnam for over two years. He has become a very jaded and cynical man. He meets Alden Pyle and finds him naïve.
Alden Pyle is the "quiet American" of the title. Pyle is thoughtful, soft-spoken, intellectual, serious, and idealistic. He comes from a privileged East Coast background. His father is a renowned professor of underwater erosion who has appeared on the cover of Time magazine; his mother is well respected in their community. Pyle is a brilliant graduate of Harvard University. He has studied theories of government and society, and is particularly devoted to a scholar named York Harding. Harding's theory is that neither Communism nor colonialism is the answer in foreign lands like Vietnam, but rather a "Third Force", usually a combination of traditions, works best. Pyle has read Harding's numerous books many times and has absorbed Harding's thinking as his own.
Phuong, Fowler’s lover at the beginning of the novel, is a beautiful young Vietnamese girl who stays with him for security and protection, and leaves him for the same reason. She is viewed by Fowler as a companion to be taken for granted and by Pyle as a delicate flower to be protected, but Greene never makes clear which, if either, of these views is actually the truth. Pyle's desire for Phuong was largely interpreted by critics to parallel his desire for a non-communist south Vietnam. Her character is never fully developed or revealed. She is never able to show her emotions, as her older sister makes decisions for her. She is named after, but not based on, a Vietnamese friend of Greene’s.
Vigot, a French inspector at the Sûreté, investigates Pyle's death. He is a man torn between doing his duty (pursuing Pyle's death and questioning Fowler) and doing what is best for the country (letting the matter go). He and Fowler are oddly akin in some ways, both faintly cynical and weary of the world; hence their discussion of Blaise Pascal. But they are divided by the differences in their faith: Vigot is a Roman Catholic and Fowler an atheist.
After its publication in the U.S. in 1956, the novel was widely condemned as anti-American. It was criticized by The New Yorker for portraying Americans as murderers, largely based on one scene in which a bomb explodes in a crowd of people. According to critic Philip Stratford, “American readers were incensed, perhaps not so much because of the biased portrait of obtuse and destructive American innocence and idealism in Alden Pyle, but because in this case it was drawn with such acid pleasure by a middle-class English snob like Thomas Fowler whom they were all too ready to identify with Greene himself”. However, it was popular in England and over the years has achieved notable status, being adapted into films in 1958 and most recently in 2002 by Miramax, starring Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser and earning the former a Best Actor nomination.
Blaise Pascal's Pensées, specifically "The Wager" - “Let us weigh the gain and the loss, in wagering that God is, let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.”
Fowler claims that he is not a Berkeleian, a reference to the ideas of George Berkeley.
The novel is set during the First Indochina War and lists cities such as Saigon, Haiphong, and Hanoi. Though fiction, it mentions and involves actual people and groups, such as the Vietminh and Trinh Minh The. The book contains a detailed description of the syncretic Cao Dai religion of Tay Ninh province.
This novel was first published in Great Britain in 1955 by William Heinemann Ltd. It was first published in the United States in 1956 by the Viking Press, Inc. The ISBN of the American edition is 0-09-947839-0.
|Born|| Henry Graham Greene|
2 October 1904
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England
|Died|| 3 April 1991 (aged 86)|
Short story writer
|Genres||Literary fiction, thriller|
Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH (2 October 1904 – 3 April 1991) was an English author, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene was notable for his ability to combine serious literary acclaim with widespread popularity.
Although Greene objected strongly to being described as a Roman Catholic novelist rather than as a novelist who happened to be Catholic, Catholic religious themes are at the root of much of his writing, especially the four major Catholic novels: Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair. Several works such as The Confidential Agent, The Third Man, The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana and The Human Factor also show an avid interest in the workings of international politics and espionage.
Greene suffered from bipolar disorder, which had a profound effect on his writing and personal life. In a letter to his wife Vivien he told her that he had "a character profoundly antagonistic to ordinary domestic life", and that "unfortunately, the disease is also one's material".
Greene was born Henry Graham Greene in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, the fourth of six children. His younger brother, Hugh, became Director-General of the BBC, his elder brother, Raymond, an eminent physician and mountaineer.
His parents, Charles Henry Greene and Marion Raymond Greene, were first cousins, members of a large, influential family, that included the Greene King brewery owners, bankers, and businessmen. Charles Greene was Second Master at Berkhamsted School, the headmaster of which was Dr Thomas Fry, who was married to a cousin of Charles. Another cousin was the right-wing pacifist Ben Greene, whose politics led to his internment during World War II.
In 1910 Charles Greene succeeded Dr. Fry as headmaster. Graham attended the school. Bullied, and profoundly depressed as a boarder, he made several suicide attempts, some, as he claimed in his autobiography, by Russian roulette. In 1920 at age 16 he was psychoanalysed for six months in London, afterwards returning to school as a day boy. School friends included Claud Cockburn the satirist, and Peter Quennell the historian.
After graduating with a second-class degree in history, Greene took up journalism, first on the Nottingham Journal, and then as a sub-editor on The Times. While in Nottingham he started corresponding with Vivien Dayrell-Browning, a Catholic convert, who had written to him to correct him on a point of Catholic doctrine. Greene converted to Catholicism in 1926 (described in A Sort of Life) when he was baptised in February of that year. He married Vivien in 1927; and they had two children, Lucy Caroline (b. 1933) and Francis (b. 1936). In 1948 Greene separated from Vivien. Although he had other relationships, he never divorced or remarried.
Greene's first published novel was The Man Within (1929). Favourable reception emboldened him to quit his sub-editor job at The Times and work as a full-time novelist. However, the next two books, The Name of Action (1930) and Rumour at Nightfall (1932), were unsuccessful; and he later disowned them. His first true success was Stamboul Train (1932), adapted as the film Orient Express (1934). Most of his novels would be so adapted.
He supplemented his novelist's income with freelance journalism, book and film reviews for The Spectator, and co-editing the magazine Night and Day, which folded in 1937. Greene's film review of Wee Willie Winkie, featuring nine-year-old Shirley Temple, cost the magazine a lost libel lawsuit. Greene's review stated that Temple displayed "a dubious coquetry" which appealed to "middle-aged men and clergymen". It is now considered one of the first criticisms of the sexualisation of children for entertainment.
In 1973, Greene had an uncredited cameo appearance as an insurance company representative in François Truffaut's film Day for Night. On the DVD of the movie, it was reported that Greene was a big admirer of Truffaut, and had always wanted to meet him, so as it turned out, when the small part came up where he actually talks to the director, he was delighted to have the opportunity. Truffaut was apparently unhappy not to have been told at the time that the actor playing the insurance company representative was Greene, as he would have liked to say hello, being an admirer of Greene's work.
Greene originally divided his fiction into two genres: thrillers (mystery and suspense books), such as The Ministry of Fear, which he described as entertainments, often with notable philosophic edges, and literary works, such as The Power and the Glory, which he described as novels, on which he thought his literary reputation was to be based.
As his career lengthened, both Greene and his readers found the distinction between entertainments and novels increasingly problematic. The last book Greene termed an entertainment was Our Man in Havana in 1958. When Travels with My Aunt was published eleven years later, many reviewers noted that Greene had designated it a novel, even though, as a work decidedly comic in tone, it appeared closer to his last two entertainments, Loser Takes All and Our Man in Havana, than to any of the novels. Greene, they speculated, seemed to have dropped the category of entertainment. This was soon confirmed. In the Collected Edition of Greene's works published in 22 volumes between 1970 and 1982, the distinction between novels and entertainments is no longer maintained. All are novels.
Greene also wrote short stories and plays, which were well-received, although he was always first and foremost a novelist. He collected the 1948 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Heart of the Matter.
Greene was awarded Britain's Order of Merit in 1986.
In 2009 The Strand Magazine began to publish in serial form a newly discovered Greene novel entitled The Empty Chair. The manuscript was written in longhand when Greene was 22 and newly converted to Catholicism.
Throughout his life Greene travelled far from England, to what he called the world's wild and remote places. The travels led to him being recruited into MI6 by his sister, Elisabeth, who worked for the organisation; and he was posted to Sierra Leone during the Second World War. Kim Philby, who would later be revealed as a Soviet double agent, was Greene's supervisor and friend at MI6. As a novelist he wove the characters he met and the places where he lived into the fabric of his novels.
Greene first left Europe at 30 years of age in 1935 on a trip to Liberia that produced the travel book Journey Without Maps. His 1938 trip to Mexico, to see the effects of the government's campaign of forced anti-Catholic secularisation, was paid for by Longman's, thanks to his friendship with Tom Burns. That voyage produced two books, the factual The Lawless Roads (published as Another Mexico in the U.S.) and the novel The Power and the Glory. In 1953 the Holy Office informed Greene that The Power and the Glory was damaging to the reputation of the priesthood; but later, in a private audience with Greene, Pope Paul VI told him that, although parts of his novels would offend some Catholics, he should not pay attention to the criticism. Greene travelled to the Haiti of François Duvalier, alias "Papa Doc", where occurred the story of The Comedians (1966). The owner of the Hotel Oloffson in Port-au-Prince, where Greene frequently stayed, named a room in his honour.
After his apparently benign involvement in a financial scandal, Greene chose to leave Britain in 1966, moving to Antibes, to be close to Yvonne Cloetta, whom he had known since 1959, a relationship that endured until his death. In 1981 he was awarded the Jerusalem Prize, awarded to writers concerned with the freedom of the individual in society. One of his final works, the pamphlet J'Accuse — The Dark Side of Nice (1982), concerns a legal matter embroiling him and his extended family in Nice. He declared that organized crime flourished in Nice, because the city's upper levels of civic government had protected judicial and police corruption. The accusation provoked a libel lawsuit that he lost. In 1994, after his death, he was vindicated, when the former mayor of Nice, Jacques Médecin, was imprisoned for corruption and associated crimes.
He lived the last years of his life in Vevey, on Lake Geneva, in Switzerland, the same town Charlie Chaplin was living in at this time. He visited Chaplin often, and the two were good friends. His book Doctor Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party (1980) bases its themes on combined philosophic and geographic influences. He had ceased going to mass and confession in the 1950s, but in his final years began to receive the sacraments again from Father Leopoldo Durán, a Spanish priest, who became a friend. He died at age 86 of a blood disease in 1991 and was buried in Corsier-sur-Vevey cemetery.
Greene's literary agent was Jean LeRoy of Pearn, Pollinger & Higham.
The literary style of Graham Greene was described by Evelyn Waugh in Commonweal as "not a specifically literary style at all. The words are functional, devoid of sensuous attraction, of ancestry, and of independent life". Commenting on this lean, realistic prose and its readability, Richard Jones wrote in the Virginia Quarterly Review that "nothing deflects Greene from the main business of holding the reader's attention." His cinematic visual sense led to most of his novels being made into films, such as Brighton Rock in 1947, The End of the Affair in 1955 and 1999, and The Quiet American in 1958 and 2002. He also wrote several original screenplays. In 1949, after writing the novella as "raw material", he wrote the screenplay for the classic film noir, The Third Man, featuring Orson Welles. In 1983 Greene's novel, The Honorary Consul, published ten years earlier, was made into a famous Hollywood movie, entitled Beyond the Limit in the U.S., featuring Michael Caine and Richard Gere. Michael Korda, the famous author and Hollywood script-writer, contributed the foreword and introduction to this novel in a commemorative edition. Greene concentrated on portraying the characters' internal lives – their mental, emotional, and spiritual depths. His stories often occurred in poor, hot, and dusty tropical backwaters, such as Mexico, West Africa, Vietnam, Cuba, Haiti, and Argentina, which led to the coining of the expression "Greeneland" to describe such settings.
His novels often have religious themes at the centre. In his literary criticism he attacked the modernist writers Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster, for having lost the religious sense, which, he argued, resulted in dull, superficial characters, who "wandered about like cardboard symbols through a world that is paper-thin". Only in recovering the religious element, the awareness of the drama of the struggle in the soul carrying the infinite consequences of salvation and damnation, and of the ultimate metaphysical realities of good and evil, sin and divine grace, could the novel recover its dramatic power. Suffering and unhappiness are omnipresent in the world Greene depicts; and Catholicism is presented against a background of unvarying human evil, sin, and doubt. V. S. Pritchett praised Greene as the first English novelist since Henry James to present, and grapple with, the reality of evil.
The novels often powerfully portray the Christian drama of the struggles within the individual soul from the Catholic perspective. Greene was criticised for certain tendencies in an unorthodox direction — in the world, sin is omnipresent to the degree that the vigilant struggle to avoid sinful conduct is doomed to failure, hence not central to holiness. Friend and fellow Catholic Evelyn Waugh attacked that as a revival of the Quietist heresy. This aspect of his work also was criticised by the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, as giving sin a mystique.
Greene responded that constructing a vision of pure faith and goodness in the novel was beyond his talents. Praise of Greene from an orthodox Catholic point of view by Edward Short is in Crisis Magazine, and a mainstream Catholic critique is presented by Joseph Pearce.
Catholicism's prominence decreased in the later writings. According to Ernest Mandel in his "Delightful Murder: a Social History of the Crime Story": "Greene started out as a conservative agent of the British intelligence services, upholding such reactionary causes as the struggle of the Catholic Church against the Mexican revolution (The Power and the Glory, 1940), and arguing the necessary merciful function of religion in a context Of human misery (Brighton Rock, 1938; The Heart of the Matter, 1948). However, the better he came to know the socio-political realities of the third world where he was operating, and the more directly he came to be confronted by the rising tide of revolution in those countries, the more his doubts regarding the imperialist cause grew, and the more his novels shifted away from any identification with the latter." The supernatural realities that haunted the earlier work declined and were replaced by a humanistic perspective, a change reflected in his public criticism of orthodox Catholic teaching. Left-wing political critiques assumed greater importance in his novels: for example, years before the Vietnam War, in The Quiet American he prophetically attacked the naive and counterproductive attitudes that were to characterize American policy in Vietnam. The tormented believers he portrayed were more likely to have faith in communism than in Catholicism.
In his later years Greene was a strong critic of American imperialism, and supported the Cuban leader Fidel Castro, whom he had met. For Greene and politics, see also Anthony Burgess' Politics in the Novels of Graham Greene. In Ways of Escape, reflecting on his Mexican trip, he complained that Mexico's government was insufficiently left-wing compared with Cuba's. In Greene's opinion, "Conservatism and Catholicism should be .... impossible bedfellows".
|“||In human relationships, kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths.||”|
Despite his seriousness, Graham Greene greatly enjoyed parody, even of himself. In 1949, when the New Statesman held a contest for parodies of Greene's writing style, he submitted an entry under the pen name "N. Wilkinson" and won second prize. His entry comprised the first two paragraphs of a novel, apparently set in Italy, The Stranger's Hand: An Entertainment. Greene's friend, Mario Soldati, a Piedmontese novelist and film director, believed that it had the makings of a suspense film about Yugoslav spies in postwar Venice. Upon Soldati's prompting, Greene continued writing the story as the basis for a film script. Apparently, however, he lost interest in the project, leaving it as a substantial fragment that was published posthumously in The Graham Greene Film Reader (1993) and No Man's Land (2005). The script for The Stranger's Hand was penned by veteran screenwriter Guy Elmes on the basis of Greene's unfinished story, and cinematically rendered by Soldati. In 1965 Greene again entered a similar New Statesman competition pseudonymously, and won an honourable mention.
The Graham Greene International Festival is an annual four-day event of conference papers, informal talks, question and answer sessions, films, dramatised readings, music, creative writing workshops and social events. It is organised by the Graham Greene Birthplace Trust, and takes place in the writer's home town of Berkhamsted, on dates as close as possible to the anniversary of his birth. Its purpose is to promote interest in and study of the works of Graham Greene.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Graham Greene|
Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH (October 2, 1904 – April 3, 1991) was a prolific English novelist, playwright, short story writer, travel writer and critic whose works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world.