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The Comedians [Paperback]

Graham Greene
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

7 Oct 2004


Three men meet on a ship bound for Haiti, a world in the grip of the corrupt 'Papa Doc' and the Tontons Macoute, his sinister secret police. Brown the hotelier, Smith the innocent American and Jones the confidence man - these are the 'comedians' of Graham Greene's title. Hiding behind their actors' masks, they hesitate on the edge of life. And, to begin with, they are men afraid of love, afraid of pain, afraid of fear itself...

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The Comedians + Travels With My Aunt (Vintage Classics) + Our Man in Havana (Vintage Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; Centenary Ed edition (7 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099478374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099478379
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 94,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Graham Greene was born in 1904. He worked as a journalist and critic, and in 1940 became literary editor of the Spectator. He was later employed by the Foreign Office. As well as his many novels, Graham Greene wrote several collections of short stories, four travel books, six plays, three books of autobiography, two of biography and four books for children. He also wrote hundreds of essays, and film and book reviews. Graham Greene was a member of the Order of Merit and a Companion of Honour. He died in April 1991.

Product Description


"The ultimate chronicler of twentieth-century man's consciousness and anxiety." (William Golding)

Book Description

A striking depiction of Haiti on the brink of chaos, delivered with Greene's characteristic dark humour, forceful story-telling, and very obvious human sympathy.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece 26 Mar 2006
By David
I first read "The Comedians" around thirty years ago and then again around twenty years ago. Remembering how much I enjoyed and admired the novel I have just finished re-reading it and have now sadly closed the book.
It is an extremely satisfying novel written by one of the finest novelists of the 20th century.
The three main characters are the men, Brown, Smith (with the feisty Mrs. Smith) and Jones who meet as strangers on board the cargo-ship "Medea" bound from New York to Haiti where their paths cross and re-cross.
Brown, the main character, is a rootless hotelier with a shady past and without faith or hope.
Smith is a one-time American Presidential Candidate on an evangelic crusade to establish a vegetarian centre.
Jones is a mystery at first, a liar certainly, a con man perhaps, who falls in and out with the regime but eventually finds some redemption.
Set in the era of Papa Doc Duvalier's misrule with his sinister Tonton Macoute secret police the novel captures the atmosphere of a nation failed by it's corrupt leaders with a people living in fear and oppression.
But this story is not about Haiti, it is about failed romance, disillusionment, cynicism but with some hope and redemption (but not for all).
The introduction by Paul Theroux is a spoiler - he unravels and lays bare the plot and it is his opinion that this is "not one of Greenes best" and a "tepid novel" - whatever that means. I strongly advise readers to read Theroux's introduction AFTER the book and make their own minds up.
I believe this to be one of Greenes finest novels that even thirty years on from our first meeting was immensely pleasurable to read and one I highly recommend.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read and be ready for the hilarious "one liners" 20 May 2011
I bought this after watching an old repeat of Alan Whicker's documentary on Haiti. Whicker's World - Vol. 1 [DVD] He asked Papa Doc (the dictator of Haiti) what he thought of Greene's book as it casts an "honest" on-the-ground eye on the Tontons Macoute (who were notorious for wearing their black impenetrable shades) and his answer was characteristically evasive. I read the book in a day, it's a cracking page-turner. Mr Brown comes back to Haiti to inherit his estranged mother's hotel. It turns out she wasn't the woman he thought she was, she'd worked with the French resistance for instance. As the book unfolds, the apparent "blows-with-the-wind" Mr Brown is blown away as he mixes himself up in intrigue, hiding suicides, his affair with the diplomat's wife. All this set to the backdrop of fear, road blocks, and every day violence.
We also meet Mrs Smith, who's husband ran for vegetarianism against Truman in the elections, and to reflect her puffed up self-elated position: "Mrs Smith was dressed in a kind of old colonial nightgown and her hair done up in metal rollers which gave her an oddly cubist air".
The book opens with the main characters on a boat heading to Haiti, the way Greene establishes the main protagonists is spot on, each is introduced to us simply through Mr Brown's opinion of each, all to the lolling of the boat as they slowly approach the Island. The tense expectation of Papa Doc's regime looms as the boat docks into harbour.
Lots of humour in the book too, as is typical of Greene: "He seemed to swing from wall to wall on ropes of laughter".
and something I can quite easily associate with (maybe too easily!):
"I flung myself into pleasure like a suicide on a pavement"
Go read it
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Knowing a true classic when you read it 19 Dec 2012
By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER
This harsh revelation of the "violence, injustice and torture" imposed on Haiti by the thuggish "Tontons Macoute" supporters of the sinister "Papa Doc" during the 1960s forms the background to a novel that is a mixture of tense thriller, sad love affair, and reflection on the meaning of life provided through the portrayal of a variety of characters. Sadly, this impoverished island escaped from Papa Doc's control only to suffer the ravages of AIDS in the 1970s.

Returning to the rundown hotel in Haiti which he cannot sell, Brown has to deal with the body of a dead government minister in his swimming pool. This must be concealed from his only two guests, an idealistic but naive American couple, the Smiths, who are resolved to transform Haiti with an ill-timed project to promote vegetarianism. Can Brown maintain his clandestine "semi-detached" affair with Martha, whom he resents having to share with her spoilt and all-too observant young son, while Brown is unsettled by the suspicion that Martha's ambassador husband knows about the relationship but appears to accept it. What has brought Captain Jones to Haiti - a congenital liar beneath his blustering charm?

Although Greene himself did not regard "The Comedians" as one of his best works, and he admitted his experience of Haiti was superficial, this book hooked me from the first few pages with his gift for storytelling, constructing a plot in which every incident and character counts, creating a strong sense of place and devising scenes which are by turns poignant, philosophical, menacing, exciting or hilarious - hence the idea that we are all to some extent playing the part of comedians.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Cosy and warm
The older grandchildren love it when they come for the afternoon, I have it round my knees and the gas fire on low, I am warm which is a priority as I am elderly. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Rosie
5.0 out of 5 stars Still a fantastic read after all these years!
As a regular visitor to Haiti I was somewhat remiss in not reading this famous Graham Greene novel earlier. But once I started it I could not put it down. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Steve Morgan
2.0 out of 5 stars Not so much a story as an account.
Written from the point of view of the self centered and unlikeable Mr Brown, somehow this book has a ring of truth about it. Read more
Published 21 months ago by George
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring badly written
This is a very boring book,I vaguely remembered reading it at school and thought I would re read it to see if I enjoyed it 45 years later. Read more
Published on 16 Jan 2012 by Chris
5.0 out of 5 stars Joyous Haitian Gloom
Paul Theroux, in his Introduction to this edition, says that this is not one of Greene's best novels. Perhaps that is true, but he does set the bar pretty high. Read more
Published on 14 Jun 2011 by G J Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars Nervous laughter
I recently watched an old Alan Whicker encounter with Papa Doc Duvalier, life president of benighted Haiti, which prompted me to buy The Comedians. Read more
Published on 14 Feb 2011 by Eric Woodcock, UK
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange and dazzling tale
One of the most fascinating books, set amid the mania of Papa Doc's regime, Greene offers a stunning insight into human nature. Read more
Published on 1 Jan 2011 by Silver
5.0 out of 5 stars A seriously good read
What is so masterful is the way Greene imparts information. You never feel that the action has been put on hold while he rolls out the purple prose, yet the evocation of life in... Read more
Published on 4 Jun 2010 by J. Wickens
4.0 out of 5 stars Darkly comic
Three men - Brown, Smith and Jones, find their fates intertwined on the deeply disturbed island of Haiti during Papa Doc's reign of terror. Read more
Published on 18 April 2010 by Adrenalin Streams
4.0 out of 5 stars Not stand-up comics
Graham Greene takes the figurative French sense of the word comédiens, meaning those who pretend, impersonate, bluff, and he sets his novel in Haiti in about 1960, just a... Read more
Published on 10 Feb 2010 by Lost John
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