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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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Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Spy Who Invented Himself May 5 2004
By Slokes
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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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Wickedly entertaining March 7 2004
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 of it a number of decades back. So I was a bit surprised when I started reading the book and found out that it was a comedy. Surprised and delighted, because OUR MAN turned out to be one of the more understated and enjoyable satires that I've read in a good long time.
The book is a smart send up of a lot of the standard material one would have found in the noir films and books of the time (the novel was published in 1958, when the genre was starting to wear itself out). A British secret agent, looking to increase his community of contacts, has arranged for an ordinary vacuum cleaner salesman to file reports of any unusual activity in the area. The merchant, Mr. Wormold, reluctantly agrees to this arrangement for no reason other than the lure of extra money; he has a teenage daughter with very expensive tastes (to whit: men and horses). To keep himself employable, Wormold constructs a whole world of intrigue to write home about. The back-cover hints at one of the book's funnier gags, but all of Wormold's fictions (and especially the reaction they receive at the other end) are hilarious.
Despite the comic portions of the plot, the characters themselves are allowed to retain a certain dignity. The prose is also as lush as one would expect from a Graham Greene novel. One particular scene stood out as a wonderful piece of writing. Placing two main characters inside a dark, dingy saloon, Greene describes the other inhabitants as looking like paratroopers about to parachute out of an airplane. Their quick glances at the door and their hushed demeanor are all exquisitely described.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Our Man in Havana
A good entertaining book. We used it in an English as a second language class and it was really enjoyed by the students
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A Clever Novel
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. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Murray
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and insightful.
Wonderfully entertaining political commentary. The characters are well done and very likable with a few unexpected twists to remind you of your own biases.
Published 12 months ago by Tina Townsend
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
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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