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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly prescient
Greene's Quiet American is a naive young man who believes in his own inherent goodness and his country's innocence; after all, unlike the French the USA isn't a colonialist power, is it?
So he sets about helping the Vietnamese find a third way between French colonialism and communism. It takes the already jaded Fowler to see that such idealism is not only misplaced,...
Published on 7 Oct 2003 by Stephen Newton

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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Quiet American
I have to confess that I know very little about Vietnam in the 1950s. `The Quiet American' pre-supposes an understanding of such terms as Caodaism, Viet Minh and Hoa-Hoas that I was unable to bring to the novel. It may be the case that, when this book was written, these terms were as intrinsic a part of the popular-news zeitgeist as `Taliban', `Shia' and `Hijab' are...
Published on 1 July 2010 by TomCat


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly prescient, 7 Oct 2003
By 
Stephen Newton (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Quiet American (Paperback)
Greene's Quiet American is a naive young man who believes in his own inherent goodness and his country's innocence; after all, unlike the French the USA isn't a colonialist power, is it?
So he sets about helping the Vietnamese find a third way between French colonialism and communism. It takes the already jaded Fowler to see that such idealism is not only misplaced, but cannot possibly coexist with the notion that the ends will justify the means.
Writing in the 1950s, as France struggled to hold Indo-China (or leave with dignity) Greene's is a contemporary story. Yet it reads as if the author's already been through the Vietnam War and witnessed the Quiet American's greatest folly.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars gripping and illuminating, 6 July 2005
By 
A. A. M. Weyenbarg "T Adams" (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Quiet American (Paperback)
This was my first Graham Greene novel, and it won't be my last. It's one of those cleverly constructed 'circular' novels that, after the initial scene, takes you right back to the beginning of the story which slowly unfolds to end with the same initial scene, but seen in a totally different light.
I picked up this novel because I imagined it to be full of the atmosphere of war-torn Vietnam in the 1950s, a historical portrait of the end of colonial Indo-China. And that is indeed one feature of the book, but it is more involving still: realistic characters, consistent only in their complexity, a moving story of a triangular relationship between two men and a woman, a stand-off between the opposing ideologies of cynicism and idealism. I was left wondering: was this a happy ending or not?
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short but perfectly formed, 29 Dec 2007
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Quiet American (Paperback)
'The Quiet American' is a fairly short, but perfectly formed, novel. Set in the Vietnam war, the narrator is Fowler, a cynical British journalist who forms an unlikely friendship with an idealistic young American called Pyle. Fowler is a good central character, very believable and multi-faceted, and I grew to like him. The supporting characters - from the Vietnamese girl the two men fight over to the boozy American journalist Granger - are also well drawn and realistic.

The writing style is clean and economical, with good use of descriptive touches which paint a much more vivid picture than long winded or flowery prose. Greene is equally good at describing emotions: fear, anguish and tragedy. He manages to address serious political issues without being dull or detracting from the plot, and without offering easy answers.

As someone who knows very little about the Vietnam war and the politics surrounding it, I was at something of a disadvantage and I would recommend a quick reading of the historical background (an encyclopaedia entry would have done) for anyone else with little knowledge of this historical period. At times the early story was a little hard to follow, and that is probably due to my lack of previous knowledge. I think Greene presumes that the reader will have at least some idea of the main issues and factions in the war, so it is worth gaining this in order to better appreciate the story.

The plot is well paced, interesting and plausible. The political debates and emotional turmoils of the characters are perfectly balanced by action and dialogue. The story moves back and forward in time, and this is well handled so that it does not become confusing or annoying.

On the whole, a good read and a book that I think would be enjoyed by most readers.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faultless, 30 Sep 2006
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This review is from: The Quiet American (Paperback)
Along with Waugh's "Decline & Fall" I read this book every year & never fail to get something new from it. Not one word is out of place, not one scene mis-judged. Greene's characters inhabit a world unfamiliar to all 21st century Western wage-slaves; a world of physical danger, intellectual doubts & moral crises. But yet their paranoias & motives render every one of them as believable as ourselves & make their world as real as our own. The hero of this book in particular fills us with the uncomfortable realisation that even despicable acts born of unashamed selfishness can sometimes not only strike a chord within ourselves, but make us favour the perpetrators of such behaviour over other more innocent players. If you find nothing in this book for you stop reading.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best, 20 April 2001
By A Customer
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Greene's best work and the best book ever on Vietnam's twentieth century wars (French and American). Works beautifully as fiction and also as a tour of the area and the era. I have re-read this book ten or twelve times and still find something new to enjoy and appreciate with each re-reading. As an American veteran of the second war (1968-69) I find this a particularly compelling book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "He was impregnably armoured by his good intentions and his ignorance.",, 19 Jan 2011
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Quiet American (Paperback)
The subject line is Greene's description of Alden Pyle. Readers may speculate on the larger, metaphorical dimensions of the book's three principal characters, and impose them on their countries of origin. Pyle is the young, crew-cut American, fresh out of an Ivy League school, over-schooled and undereducated, his head stuffed full of the geo-political notions of the fictional York Harding. Fowler is the cynical, accommodating middle-aged British reporter, just "reporting the facts," not taking sides, until he finally feels he has to. And there is the lovely Ms Phuong, trying to make the best of it in a troubled landscape, a lover to both men, and perhaps a symbol of Vietnam herself.

It was January, 1994, and I was leaving the Hanoi War Museum, one of the first wave of Americans to return. Vietnam was just on the cusp of letting tourists wander the country freely; the War Museum had not been "sanitized" yet (which would happen in only two more years), to remove exhibits that might offend our "sensibilities." And over in the corner was an elderly Vietnamese lady, selling books from a small pile, only two of which were in English, this being one of them. Was it just chance, or did she know that this was the quintessential book about the American involvement in Vietnam, prescient beyond belief, having been written at the very, very beginning, in 1955? I had read it prior to my first, year-long trip there, and decided to purchase another copy.

Today the book is even more relevant, in ways that even Greene did not anticipate. It continues to merit re-reads, I've finished my third. Greene modeled the character of Pyle on the very real life Kermit Roosevelt, who led the CIA's coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran, in 1953. Pyle was indifferent to the "collateral damage" of his actions, the civilians who had died for a higher purpose, "democracy." And it was this indifference that finally pushed Fowler to take sides. For a number of years in the `50's and `60's the US Immigration would not allow Greene into the United States. They don't have to state a reason, but certainly this book would be a leading contender.

Greene's biographers reveal a very unpleasant man, who betrayed most of his friends. No doubt there are many elements of Greene in Fowler, an unpleasant man who betrays the person who saved his life. None of the characters are "uplifting," all are profoundly flawed, but wouldn't there be something absurdly wrong to fill a novel with uplifting characters that are involved in one of the more serious, and long-lasting follies of the 20th Century? We should dislike these people.

In real life Graham Green visited Dien Bien Phu on Dec. 12, 1953 (per Bernard Fall). One of the great "takeaways" of this book for me was Greene's description of the lies of the French military, courageously retaking villages that had never been reported loss, always able to definitively report the enemy dead, but not their own, "because they were too busy advancing..." et al. All the PR "spin" that would presage our own.

Greene reserves his main animus for York Harding. The professor of the Ivy League, sitting in his Ivory Tower, concocting theories that turned Vietnamese peasants into a Red Tide sweeping towards Sydney. Consider: "York Harding's a very courageous man. Why in Korea--." "He wasn't an enlisted man, was he? He had a return ticket. With a return ticket, courage becomes an intellectual exercise, like a monk's flagellation." Later, and more specifically: "He's the man you are looking for, Vigot. He killed Pyle--at long range." Indeed, Harding managed to "blind" this very bright man to the reality before his eyes.

How many York Harding's do we have today, constructing grandiose theories about the "clash of civilizations" and our duty to spread "democracy" throughout the Middle East, oblivious to the collateral damage, when Pyle's real life counterpart, Kermit Roosevelt, worked so hard to snuff it out because the people elected "the wrong guy." This book should be required reading in every university today, and by all serious readers thereafter, and twice might not be enough.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on March 13, 2009)
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greene- the Realist., 12 Sep 2002
As a fan of Greene I couldn't wait to pick this book up. I often find this leads to disappointment, but not in this case.
This book embodies Greene's theme of man's blindness, his stumbling through life rather strolling down a chosen path. Fowler, the Foreign correspondent, who wallows through life and the American, Pyle, who is led by his naive allegance to democracy. Pyle's determination to spread the gospel of democracy to Indo-Chine bombards the ordinary Fowler with the extraordinary. In fact this highlights the true realism of Greene's writing and message of the novel: what does a Vietnamese peasant care of politics? His daily struggle is for a bowl of rice whether democratic or communist.
The colonial setting of Indo-Chine is potrayed with ease by Greene, not to mention the imagery.
All in all, this a spectacular read bringing home the absurdity, harshness and reality of the troubles in Vietnam.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A GENUINE CLASSIC, 24 Nov 2000
By A Customer
For a long while this has been one of my favourite Greene books. The portrait of Saigon (especially)how it used to be under French rule. Having been to Ho Chi Minh City (as Saigon is now called)in recent times, I tried to bridge the forty-odd year gap since Greene wrote this novel, but found it impossible. On my return to London I was lucky enough to see a copy of Saigon Express by John Templeton Smith in an airport bookshop. For those who have loved "The Quiet American", try "Saigon Express". Although not intended to be a sequel to GG's work, it does give an equally stirring account of Vietnam at the end of the 20th century, there's even the occasional nod to GG's "Quiet American".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Literary Craftsmanship, 3 Oct 2009
By 
Dr. R. Brandon (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Quiet American (Paperback)
An excellent book and well worth the 'Modern Classic' description. Greene writes in a spare, lucid, style and carefully constructs the story of the American sent to Vietnam to create a 'Third Force', essentially to fight the communists. The role of the American is slowly revealed as the story progresses, seen through the eyes of the world-weary, older, English reporter Fowler. The book contains prescient comment on the increasing role of the Americans bent on regime change under the guise of promoting liberal democracy. The book also has frequent references to religion and belief in a God, this subject being important to the Catholic convert Greene who changed faith at the age of 22. This is a gripping story of political intrigue and jealousy over a Vietnamese woman, Phuong, bent on finding a safe haven in England or America. The 2002 film of the same name starring Michael Caine is faithful to the book and captures the atmosphere very well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest work of Graham Greene's career., 10 Aug 1998
By A Customer
The Quiet American is the quintessential Graham Greene. This book succeeds on a myriad of levels: as a thriller, a romance, a political statement. Never have I read a book that is so brief in length, yet with such character development, such depth of plot, and such vivid description of locales. Greene's characters are tough, sensitive, wistful, imaginative and interesting. The dialogue is sharp and to the point, yet reveals the true essence of the characters. A fascinating look into the Southeast Asian culture, the clash between British and American culture, and a love that transcends all three.
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The Quiet American
The Quiet American by Graham Greene (Paperback - 14 Nov 2002)
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