Perhaps the title for this post is misleading: I don’t mean to suggest that Graham Greene’s The Quiet American is bad writing peppered with brilliant sentences; rather, the novel is well written on the whole, but there are some sentences that made me stop and gape: such brilliance with images, such tidy and punchy sentences. I made mental notes of them all so that I could include them here (reading in the tub is not conducive to underlining, nor, I think, is reading for ‘pleasure’), but (of course) I’ve forgotten them now and the book is packed away for its return to the library.
I realized about twenty pages in that I knew the plot. After consulting others I realized I’d seen the film (the Michael Cain version). Happily, my often failing memory served me well in this instance, as I couldn’t remember what was *going* to happen, but as events unfolded I experienced a rather uncanny recognition that I had known what would take place. I wonder if that is what my middling years will be like? A constant sense of displaced familiarity?
In any case. Fowler is terrific as the caustic, apparently disengaged and whole self-serving anti-hero. Pyle doesn’t come across as much of a character, just a symbol for American arrogance and American quasi-innocence in international policy. A perfect book to read against current global conflicts as the book brings into sharp relief assumptions made about foreign populations (not the least their docility, childishness and happiness at the arrival of the ‘liberators’) and crimes perpetrated under the claim of good will, or worse still, good intention.
I admit to being surprised by the turn of the ending. I suppose I’d accepted the reliability of Fowler as narrator, and hadn’t expected – though in retrospect the novel gives every reason for me to do so, an altogether too trusting reader – his betrayal not just of Pyle, but of the reader, too.
Finishing The Quiet American means I’ve read one book in each of the ten categories. Celebration! I’m having a very good time with 10-10-12. I’d never have read The Quiet American without it, and despite my misgivings about the reliability of Fowler, I enjoyed it a great deal.
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