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[[ Prime ]] The Quiet AmericanAuthor Graham Greene –

499 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 1950s The novel implicitly questions the foundations of growing American involvement in Vietnam in the 1950s 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 attention due to its prediction of the outcome of the Vietnam War and subsequent American foreign policy since the 1950s Graham Greene portrays a U.S official named Pyle as so blinded by American exceptionalism that he cannot see the calamities he brings upon the Vietnamese It was adapted as two different movies, one in 1958 and another in 2002 The book uses Greene s experiences as a war correspondent for The Times and Le Figaro in French Indochina 1951 1954 He was apparently inspired to write The Quiet American during October 1951 while driving back to Saigon from Ben Tre province He was accompanied by an American aid worker who lectured him about finding a third force in Vietnam 1984 1344 1395 350 9786004043243 1367 259 1370 1389 1955. 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 readGraham Greene.If you enjoyed this book and wish to havebackground 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 Fitzgerald s masterful Fire in the Lake about the Vietnamese and the American conflict Gripping stories. This is a cautionary tale about the involvement of America and Britain in the Vietnam war Reading this book was a great way to learnabout the Vietnam 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 deluding himself that he is only an indifferent spectator Pyle, the American, represents the idealistic principles that the Americas brought in the Vietnam war and the lack of guilt for the damage they had created by their innocent causes Innocence is a kind of insanity 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 One of the conclusions of the books is that Sooner or laterone has to take sides If one is to remain human Another is somehow similar to the other book that I was reading in the same time, Blindness It is about peoples s ignorance to human suffering, futility of life and the permanence of death This is the first book I read by Greene and it won t be the last I enjoyed his subtle tone. 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 involvement in Vietnam If policy makers would have read this book and realized that they were consulting an oracle, many unnecessary deaths would have been avoided many lives would have never been shattered, and the billions of dollars spent trying to destroy a mythical idea could have been spent advancing humanity in numerousproductive ways Instead of being lauded as a cautionary tale, the book was declared anti American.Alden Pyle, not the typical blustering, pushy American abroad but a rather quiet American, was in Vietnam He wasn t there to learn about the culture He was there to figure out the best way to impose his Western point of view on a country in turmoil He had been fully indoctrinated into the idea of American Exceptionalism This was a strength because believing in oneself and a cause is essential to achieving success, but it was also a weakness because it potentially keeps an American from recognizing what has gone wrong for others will also go wrong for them It also keeps an American from seeing the value in a foreign culture and that the concepts of others of what makes a wonderful life may be completely different from what Americans are being led to believe is an exceptional way of life Alden Pyle, in other words, was a very dangerous man Thomas Fowler was a world weary British journalist, addicted to opium, and living with a 20 year old Vietnamese woman named Phuong There were some reverential descriptions by Fowler about his relationship with opium and Phuong dutifully serving him his pipe in a manner reminiscent of Japanese tea ceremoniesIt was a superstition among them that a lover who smoked would always return, even from France A man s sexual capacity might be injured by smoking, but they would always prefer a faithful to a potent lover Now she was kneading the little ball of hot paste on the convex margin of the bowl and I could smell the opium There is no smell like itFowler had found a simple way of life that made him way happier than I think he ever expected to be He had a job that he understood He had a reasonably nice apartment He had a beautiful girlfriend who provided him with the comfort of companionship and sexual gratification He didn t need anythingthan this With the arrival of Pyle, this nirvana existence was suddenly in jeopardy Pyle became enad with Phuong Fowler had a dilemma which Pyle soon exploited in his quest to save Phuong from the lecherous clutches of this old world colonizer I hadn t really thought about it until this reading, but Pyle s need to save Phuong was symbolic of the American belief that Europe was corrupt and only America could guide the world forward Fowler was British and the French colonized Vietnam, but the Brits were the largest, most successful colonizers the world had ever seen.Come with me little girl I am pure of heart Fowler s dilemma was a serious disadvantage, given that he was already married to a devoted Catholic woman back in England who did not want to divorce him Fowler s poignant letters to his wife to try and change her mind were revealing about his true feelings about Phuong The reader might wonder if losing Phuong was just an inconvenience or he really did love herPerhaps you will believe when I tell you that to lose her will be, for me, the beginning of deathFowler s years of marriage had left he and his wife scarred and battered A mere prick by one to the other would now bleed as heavily as a mortal wound Pyle was irritatingly trying to play fair in the tug of war over Phuong Fowler had no such illusions about playing fair He definitely subscribed to the adage, All is fair in love and war This is Vietnam in the midst of a long struggle and love is alwayspoignant against the backdrop of war Phuong spractical sister wanted her to go with Pyle because he was free to marry her I kept thinking to myself as this love triangle unfolded that the one person whom we really didn t know her feelings was Phuong Fowler at several points accused Pyle of treating Phuong like a child, which was true To Pyle, she was a mere child who must be saved from her circumstances He was the white knight and sitting so high on his horse that one might wonder if he really wanted her or simply wanted her away from Fowler The American Imperialist knew best Out with the old and in with the new How far would Fowler go to win this battle with Pyle By the end of the book, you will see The frustrating thing for Fowler was that he liked Pyle, and Pyle, despite his misgivings about Fowler, liked him as well It is so much easier when our adversaries are asshats with few redeeming qualities We can feel vindicated in our all consuming loathing of them Under different circumstances, Fowler and Pyle might have been lifelong friends, but there were other things percolating that would keep them from being friends What exactly was Pyle up to in Vietnam And what did he mean about all this blathering about creating a third force Fowler, in the course of his job, would have crippled the budding friendship by eventually revealing the truth, so alas, there really was no chance for Pyle and Fowler to walk off into the sunset together, conversing about the beginning of a beautiful friendship.Still I would want to ask Pyle, out of all the beautiful women in all of Vietnam, you had to pick mine So you can read this book at whatever depth you chose and still find it to be one of the best books you ve ever read I do believe this is my third read, and I made new connections and observations that I hadn t with the previous two reads It is such a powerful story for such a short book, proving that epic tales don t have to come in whale size packages I want to thank my friend Lisa Lieberman for prompting this latest reading of The Quiet American Her new book The Glass Forest is a tribute to Graham Greene s novel I have been wanting to reread The Quiet American for some time now, and her book release was the perfect excuse.Lisa is giving away a free ebook of her first book, All the Wrong Places for the month of November as a lead up to the release of The Glass Forest on December 10th Don t miss out Click this link to get your free book All the Wrong Places Free eBook You must discover for yourself why I call her the Queen of the Hollywood Noir If you wish to seeof my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at 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 itDeath was farcertain than God The most interesting was the difference between Fowler and Pyle Fowler is cynical, he saw all of it, he has no illusions Pyle is new, full of hopes, believing in pretty theories he read about Pyle is naive to a point where he is delusionalSooner or laterone has to take sides If one is to remain human The perfect novel.Ingenious in its pace and tone The plot unravels in a peculiar, non linear way, easily enviable by even the most capable of writers Perhaps because it islike 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 LoooVE this book It s incredibly elegant, both prophetic and historic, very very adult. 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 bystanders like Pyle s innocent good intentions that he becameandobsessively predisposed to a sort of truculent silence, a retreat into his own less than virtuous anodynes.He agreed wholeheartedly, at a rather morbid distance from orthodoxy, with T.S Eliot s image of the beleaguered and battered Word of God at the non retaliative heart of existence We would see a sign The Word within the worldUnable to speak a wordSwaddled in darkness.Signs are taken for wonders Against the Word The unstilled world still whirledAbout the Centre of the Silent Word.The image of the crucifixion is central to the Catholic imagination, and Greene was imbued with it too.So, drugged and dropped out in his down for the count habits, like the principal character of this novel who is a world weary opportunist he distances the innocence of Pyle in much the same way as John Keats stylistically distances his own too Personal experiences through the romance of literate and storied rhyme.For Keats discovery of the literary device of distancing you can see it in the mythical sense of chivalrous historicity imparted to a rather unworthily mundane act, in his St Agnes Eve gave him a methodology to glean a collection of poetic images, jostling for their release from his teeming brain AND as well to provide him with a catharsis of his own nagging sins in public confession So too, Greene distances his own perverse personas in the manic phases of his bipolar disorder, AND gives voice to his personal mistrust of the US presence in Vietnam in one fell swoop by creating the Quiet American, Pyle.My third year uni prof said distancing came to the foreground with the lyrical images of Wordsworth, notably in his ennobling segue from the sight of a young peasant girl working in the fields into a meditative digression into a timeless and and spaceless apotheosis of her lyricism, in The Solitary Reaper.It s a long, grim sludge for us, though, from the wheat fields of pastoral England to the napalmed black jungle of Vietnam.The Quiet American is likewise, for Greene, the distancing of his own sordid presence amid the horrific American aporia of innocent intentions gone so abominably wrong, and the making of Pyle into a universal symbol as well as a fractured piece of himself as a great writer.Mishaps dog the young Pyle in Vietnam.As they did his country after a Quiet America entered its jungles.For the young America had indeed entered Quietly into French Indochina but would leave it injured and aged.But the damaging self inflicted wounds of its bungled innocence would prove long lasting. I don t know I guess this is what you would get if you crossed Ernest Hemingway with John le Carr Maybe The Quiet American is the story of a British journalist covering the war in 1950s French Indochina and the annoying American who disrupts his complacent lifestyle Sure, he s in a war zone, but he has never had it better He has a beautiful girl by his side and he finds it possible to remain relatively safe, both physically and emotionally physically in that most of his reporting duties occur behind the front lines and emotionally in that he is able to convince himself of Britain s and by extension his lack of involvement with the war itself It is their problem.The annoying American changes all that, and it seems to me the American Pyle, by name is presented by Greene as an extension of America itself innocent in its idealistic principles, yet dangerous in its perceived lack of guilt for the harm its idealism causes.Without getting into specifics, there isto Pyle than meets the eye, and even though I did not love this story as much as I had hoped to, it did pull together for me in the end The protagonist learns that at some point, it becomes necessary to make a choice and become involved no matter how adamantly you believe in your own neutrality Greene does write with a remarkable degree of restraint in my opinion, his writing could even be said to be too restrained which is how he packs a story with such complexity into a reasonable number of pages The problem I had with it lay mostly in the fact that I did not experience much of a connection with any of the characters relationships Though Pyle and Fowler essentially fight over a girl, it is a girl whom neither of them seems to really love, and the two men themselves don t actually develop any quantifiable bond of friendship that would have otherwise made the storyaffecting.Anyway, I am not done with Graham Greene yet Some guy on Goodreads named Ben told me to read The End of the Affair, so I suppose that is what I ll go ahead and do next. 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 If we are to have such a short life, how can we live it to the fullest , I often ask myself Our lives might be inconsequential, what are 70 or even 80 years compared with the history of humanity And what is within our control I hope to live up to my 80 s, but will I As you might have guessed, I am an atheist and have no religion to alleviate my doubts One thing I know is that there is always a beginning and an end So I sometimes get melancholic by this musings But how can we make the best of it Then one day I read Graham Greene s The Quiet American, and everything makes sense again Everything is suddenly all right Oh, I am relieved not to have read it before, for now, it enthralled me for the first time And probably tomorrow it will be another gem that will prove to me how right life is And in reading it I convince myself that Greene shared a little in what I will call here my contemplation momentsFrom childhood I had never believed in permanence, and yet I had longed for it Always I was afraid of losing happiness This month, next year If not next year, in three years Death was the only absolute value in my world Lose life and one would lose nothing again forever I envied those who could believe in a God and I distrusted them I felt they were keeping their courage up with a fable of the changeless and the permanent Death was farcertain than God, and with death there would be no longer the daily possibility of love dying What is The Quiet American all about, after all Many see it as a mere allegory between the forces involved in the conflict portrayed by Greene Others recognize it as just a war or spy novel I prefer to read it as a love triangle where Fowley, the surly middle aged British war correspondent and Pyle, the young and na ve American spy dispute the love and possession of the young and beautiful Vietnamese Phuong Their tangled relationship could, of course, stand for the intricacies of the conflict that was ravaging Viet Nam and what was yet to come But let s just leave at that.Like The End of the Affair, this is a Greene novel that affects you viscerally A na ve American CIA operative, fresh from Yale, arrives in Vietnam and promptly steals the narrator s lover then gets himself and several Vietnamese killed That seems a pretty straightforward plot But it is far from it The story goes back and forth in time and thus increasingly reveals all that is brewing inside the protagonist and narrator Fowler From the beginning, he felt protective of Pyke, and despite their dispute over the girl, they remain quite good friendsI 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 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 But the triangle of Fowler, Pyle and Phuong was evenintricate That is the beauty of it, how they dealt with each other and their desires openlyWhat can you offer her he asked me with anger A couple hundred dollars when you leave for England, or will you pass her on with the furniture The furniture isn t mine She is not either Phuong, will you marry me What about the blood group I said And a health certificate You ll need hers, surely Maybe you ought to have mine too And her horoscope no, that is an Indian custom Will you marry me Say it in French, I said I m damned if I ll interpret for you any With each word, each line and each paragraph Greene demonstrates, through his protagonist, how he articulates internal struggles exceptionally well the meditating but judgmental mind, the bustling innermost turmoil He articulates like few the dark side of love the narrator with his quick and keen mind with a fastidious view of the world, and a hardened heart Despite death, anguish, and hardship, there is hope in the end And each sentence is a treasure, making it a pleasure to quote Greene.And we first hear of Fowler s cynical viewsTo be in love is to see yourself as someone else sees you, it is to be in love with the falsified and exalted image of yourself In love we are incapable of honour the courageous act is nothan playing a part to an audience of two Perhaps I was no longer in love but I remembered And how he always preferred escape to the possibility of lossNo, that woman came earlier When I left my wife What happened I left her, too Why Why indeed We are fools, I said, when we love I was terrified of losing her I thought I saw her changing I don t know if she really was, but I couldn t bear the uncertainty any longer I ran towards the finish just as a coward runs towards the enemy and wins a medal I wanted to get death over Death It was a kind of death And I came east Thus, when Pyke saves his life, Fowler was far from thankful, for he had been looking for exactly that escape when he came to SaigonWe ve made it, Pyle said, and even in my pain I wondered what we d made for me, old age, an editor s chair, loneliness and for him, one knows now that he spoke prematurely Then in the cold, we settled down to wait Along the road a bonfire burst into life it burnt merrily like a celebration That s my car, I said All through Greene s narrative, we catch glimpses of how his protagonist recognizes that love, even for the toughest of them, brings with it the possibility of painHer pain struck at my pain we were back at the old routine of hurting each other If only it were possible to love without injury fidelity isn t enoughBut despite knowing from experience the damage of loss, the pain was not any lessI wish I could have those nights back I m still in love, Pyle, and I m a wasting assetBut there wasto it, even if less hurtfulOh, and there was pride, of course It takes a long time before we cease to feel proud of being wantedBut our protagonist fights all that he believes to be true However, he cannot escape to comprehend it all seems impossible and a recurring theme with GreeneWouldn t we all do better not trying to understand, accepting the fact that no human being will ever understand another, not a wife a husband, a lover a mistressIt is unforgivably poignant in its sufferingsI began to plan the life I had still somehow to live and to remember memories in order to eliminate them Happy memories are the worst, and I tried to remember the unhappyAbove all, these passages touch us all theand never go away for their flashes of beauty.Thus, the story of the quiet American is the story of idealism, of naivet , with not knowing but supposing to know best Pyle s good intentions may seem endearing, but they come from ignorance, and Fowler recognizes from the beginning how dangerous, and guesses that his fate was so sealedHave you any hunch, he asked, why they killed him and who Suddenly I was angry I was tired of the whole pack of them with their private stores of Coca Cola and their portable hospitals and their wide cars and their not quite latest guns I said, Yes They killed him because he was too innocent to live He was young and ignorant and silly to get involved Despite the fact that some can view the Vietnamese as weak and ignorant, Fowler by the end presents us the reality of Phuong, and for me, it could not behonest, for these are people that in their effort to survive have to make the most of what they have Talking to Pyke, when they discuss Phuong s future we read how well he can judge herShe s no child She is tougher than you ll ever be Do you know the kind of polish that doesn t take scratches That s Phuong She can survive a dozen of us She ll get old, that s all She ll suffer from childbirth and hunger and cold and rheumatism, but she ll never suffer like we do from thought, obsession she won t scratch, she ll only decay One of the dilemmas that Fowler faces since arriving in Viet Nam is that he avoided getting involved He was always the mere correspondent, just relaying the news he imagined his editors would want to see published He had an assistant that was his way of staying distantYou can rule me out, I said I m not involved Not involved, I repeated It had been an article of my creed The human condition being what it was, let them fight, let them love, let them murder, I would not be involved My fellow journalists called themselves correspondents I preferred the title of reporter I wrote what I saw I took no action even an opinion is a kind of action But what he discovered is that frequently we do not have the luxury of staying neutral Fowler realizes late in his affair that he loved Phuong, also discover that life sometimes has its way of forcing on us to make a standSuffering is not increased by numbers one body can contain all the suffering the world can feel I had judged like a journalist in terms of quantity and I betrayed my own principle I had become as engaged as Pyle, and it seemed to me that no decision would ever be simple againI loved The Quiet American It has everything that a discerning reader might want in a book An astute glimpse of American foreign policy, depicted asa dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm. It has a credible and fascinating love triangle set in a hazy and exotic setting It has challenging characters uncovered as thoroughly human with all their imperfections All this delivered through a majestic narrative This novel will grab hold of you and by the end, as with most great examples of literature, you ll be a little wiser andenchanted with life because of it. I want to thank my friend Vessey for granting me the privilege of reading The Quiet American with her. Into The Intrigue And Violence Of Indo China Comes Pyle, A Young Idealistic American Sent To Promote Democracy Through A Mysterious Third Force As His Na Ve Optimism Starts To Cause Bloodshed, His Friend Fowler, A Cynical Foreign Correspondent, Finds It Hard To Stand Aside And Watch But Even As He Intervenes He Wonders Why For The Sake Of Politics, Or For Love