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Our Man In Havana [Paperback]

Graham Greene
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 22 2001 0099286084 978-0099286080
Mr. Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman , was short of money. His daughter had reached an expensive age — so he accepted Hawthorne’s offer of $300-plus a month and became Agent 59200/5, M.I.6’s man in Havana. To keep the job, Wormold pretends to recruit sub-agents and sends fake stories. Then the stories start becoming disturbingly true.

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“Comical, satirical, atmospherical.” — Daily Telegraph

“Graham Greene had wit and grace and character and story and a transcendent universal compassion that places him for all time in the ranks of world literature.” — John Le Carré

“He had a sharp nose for trouble and injustice. In Our Man in Havana — a witty send-up of an agent’s life — it was Cuba before Castro.” — Financial Times

From the Back Cover

“Comical, satirical, atmospherical.” –Daily Telegraph

“Graham Greene had wit and grace and character and story and a transcendent universal compassion that places him for all time in the ranks of world literature.” –John Le Carré

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First Sentence
'THAT nigger going down the street,'said Dr Hasselbacher standing in the Wonder Bar, 'he reminds me of you, Mr Wormold.' Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Spy Who Invented Himself May 5 2004
I first read this book several years ago when it was titled "The Tailor Of Panama" and written by John le Carré. I finally realize why I enjoyed that earlier book so, in that le Carré modeled the work so directly (and with proper acknowledgement) on this 1958 masterpiece.
Le Carré's effort isn't bad, but its often-maudlin tone detracts from the humor of the situation. Not so Greene, who subtitled his book "An Entertainment" and meant it. He doesn't waive all suspense and tragic overtones in search of punchlines; one of the chief joys of this book is how well it works as a spy novel. But unlike heavier Greene works like "The Power And The Glory," "Our Man" plays in a kind of high-adventure, almost Ian Fleming kind of way.
Greene's novel concerns a struggling British vacuum salesman living in Cuba, Jim Wormold, recruited by U.K. espionage to provide intelligence on the local scene as it becomes a hot spot in East-West relations. Wormold can't resist their money, but decides that instead of giving honest information, he will make up stories with the "assistance" of a stable of recruited agents he invents on the spot.
"Just lie and keep your freedom," advises Wormold's best friend, an old German doctor with a mysterious background named Hasselbacher. "They don't deserve the truth...They have no money, except what they take from men like you and me."
So Wormold does exactly that, for the benefit of his blossoming daughter, the flower of his heart whose faith in him and God he seeks to preserve though he doesn't share either belief. The result is a tangle of tall tales about alcoholic pilots and Mata Hari (...) he basically makes up as he goes along.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Clever Novel Feb. 9 2014
By Murray
A character who is common, but uncommon and in unusual circumstances and you have a classic satire written by a master of literature. Not to mention a jolly good read. Greene writes a clever novel that pokes fun at the cold war era.

The story is about a colonial relic, a old style trader, who sells vacuum cleaners in Havana. He gets recruited by a nameless British spy agency and told he has to recruit operators. He creates a phoney spy network and cashes in on the payroll to support his daughter’s expensive hobbies. Fantasy becomes reality and the protagonist has to pay the piper and actually function as a spy.

The setting is revolutionary Cuba and the nightlife of Havana make for a exotic back ground that adds danger and excitement to the yarn. The star Mr Wormold is British and in the mold of an colonial type. He is common; he yearns for his ex, loves and supports his daughter, he muddles through, and cares about his friends. His name is uncommon. It is symbolic for worm and old, and war and mold. These traits can be found in his character. The reader becomes familiar with him and his thoughts when his first name is introduced later in the story; “after all this time I never knew your first name.” Which summed up the character succinctly.

This is a plot driven story, but the characters are rich, making the story shine. Greene spent some time abroad and served in espionage so I wonder how much of Mr Wormold is a self portrait? He does capture the image of a colonial type quite well and the character is interesting to say the least. I like Greene’s works and recommend the author to anybody.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and insightful. Oct. 25 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Wonderfully entertaining political commentary. The characters are well done and very likable with a few unexpected twists to remind you of your own biases.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Our Man in Havana July 25 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
A good entertaining book. We used it in an English as a second language class and it was really enjoyed by the students
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
What a great book. I hadn't read it in ten years, and had forgotten most of the details; the plot itself is revealed in the first few pages, so no matter that I could remember it.
It involves, of course, a vacuum salesman -- who becomes a spy, sort of. He is recruited by British Intelligence, and makes money by "recruiting" imaginary agents and sending them on expensive fictional missions. Brillliant, farcical and more illuminating and entertaining than a hundred Ludlum-type "thrillers."
The amazing thing about Greene is his ability, in the context of his stories, to capture the essential humanity of his characters and place it in writing, and to convey deeper meanings and truths which underly their movements and plot.
Greene's tale might seem preposterous -- but it isn't. Before Pearl Harbor, the Japanese employed an agent who clearly fabricated reports, and proposed means of sending secret signals from a boat he didn't own, and a house he leased to naval officers. In truth, intelligence agencies have suffered legions of failures and even the best of them made egregious mistakes with similarly disastrous consequences. Greene's book is not merely an amusing tale of a few people, it is an allegory and expose of the fallacies of secret organizations, and a biting commentary about the extremes to which they can go to protect their own -- rather than the public's -- interest. Greene, to be sure, must have witnessed some of the bungling, and underlying his farce is a warning and a commentary.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Our man in Havana
Somehow I ended up with three copies of the book, two from Awesomebooks and one for World Books... Read more
Published on April 12 2010 by Raymond Drouin
3.0 out of 5 stars Too sly, too understated for it's own good
This book is well-crafted, and the premise, as judging from the back dustjacket alone, is intriguing.
And I liked it...sort of. Read more
Published on April 6 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Wickedly entertaining
I went into OUR MAN IN HAVANA with very few expectations. I was under the vague impression that it was a thriller of sorts and I somehow knew that there had a been a film made out... Read more
Published on March 7 2004 by Andrew McCaffrey
1.0 out of 5 stars Graham Greenes novels are boring and suck to say the least
One of the most boring books ive ever read in my life. I see why his novels weren't allowed in the U.S.
Published on Oct. 28 2003 by Erich Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars A Farcical Tale of Cold War Espionage
It is the age of The Bomb, the Cold War, and the perceived threats of Soviets in Cuba. Against this backdrop, Graham Greene presents his readers with a dark, yet farcical and even... Read more
Published on Oct. 24 2003 by ransome22
5.0 out of 5 stars Satirical spoof. I found myself giggling throughout.
This 1958 novel was a complete surprise to me. I'd read three books by this author before and found them dark and introspective. Read more
Published on May 9 2003 by Linda Linguvic
4.0 out of 5 stars Liked everything except the name Wormold
Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene is a witty tale of Jim Wormold a vacuum cleaner sales man living in Cuba with his Catholic daughter Milly. Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2003 by Kyle Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Greene�s most hilarious and most mordant entertainment.
Gleefully combining the raucous humor of absurdity with slyly subtle wordplay and caustic satire, Greene entertains on every level, skewering British intelligence-gathering... Read more
Published on Nov. 12 2002 by Mary Whipple
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