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Penguin Classics Quiet American [Paperback]

Graham Greene
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 2004 0143039024 978-0143039020 Reprint
Against the intrigue and violence of Vietnam during the French war with the Vietminh, Alden Pyle, an idealistic young American, is sent to promote democracy, as his friend, Fowler, a cynical foreign correspondent, looks on. Fowler’s mistress, a beautiful native girl creates a catalyst for jealousy and competition between the men and a cultural clash resulting in bloodshed and deep misgivings.

Written in 1955 prior to the Vietnam conflict, The Quiet American foreshadows the events leading up to the Vietnam conflict. Questions surrounding the moral ambiguity of the involvement of the United States in foreign countries are as relevant today as they were fifty years ago.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

This edition of Greene's novel "of sexual intrigue, savage warfare, and some mystery" (LJ 3/1/56) is the newest member of the Viking "Critical Library" series. Along with the full text of the novel, the volume includes criticism of the work plus biographical information and essays on Greene. Nice for the price.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


"A superb storyteller with a gift for provoking controversy."
New York Times

“Greene had the sharpest eyes for trouble, the finest nose for human weaknesses, and was pitilessly honest in his observations . . . For experience of a whole century he was the man within.”
—Norman Sherry, Independent

From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Leaves You In A Quandry July 12 2004
By James Gallen TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Audio Cassette
Set during the French War in Vietnam, "The Quiet American" is a multifaceted story told in the words of Thomas Fowler, a cynical British correspondent and one of the novel's two main characters. The story involves a struggle between Fowler and Pyle, an American undercover operative and Fowler's romantic rival. Pyle and Fowler hold opposing views of the war, love, God, democracy, whatever matters to man, they disagree about. Fowler, whose vision of reality stifles his belief in ideals, emerges as a romantic and ideological rival of Pyle, whose ideals blind him to reality. America's Cold War policy in Southeast Asia is critically presented in the person of Pyle. Masterfully written, Graham Greene confronts us with two flawed, stereotypical characters and leaves us to determine the hero and the villain. I still have not made up my mind. A work which can leave the reader in such a quandary is a great work of art. Read and form your own conclusions.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Kind of Prophetic May 22 2003
Graham Greene is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors since I recently read The Power and the Glory, The End of the Affair, and now this masterpiece. The narrative is wonderfully entertaining, the characterization of Fowler is deep and insightful, and Greene's grasp of America's political outlook seems prophetic (particularly considering the recent Iraqi "war").
The story is of Fowler, a middle-aged English journalist, who is covering the civil war in Vietnam (pre-US war), and he is involved with a young Vietnamese beauty Phuong. Enter Pyle, a naive American who sets out to take Phuong and sets out to pursue naive American political interests.
The novel works on a lot of levels. For one, it is very entertaining; I can see how they wanted to make a movie out of it. It also develops an interesting moral commentary as Fowler is forced to handle a moral quandary. The reporter is forced to "take a side," is forced to grasp some type of belief structure. The political commentary Greene gives to this post-colonial world is also highly intriguing. This should be required reading for politicians (particularly in these times). The Quiet American is one of Greene's best novels and will certainly go down as one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century fiction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Malpractice of Heart and Illegitimate Process" April 26 2003
The excerpt comes from a quote from the poet Arthur Hugh Clough that serves as one of THE QUIET AMERICAN's two epigraphs. Graham Greene thrusts us into one of his moral quagmires in which the crabwise scuttling of his narrator comes up against the straightforward thrusts of the dangerously naive.
Thomas Fowler is a British journal in Saigon during the 1950s, when the French were fighting Vietnamese Communist insurgents before the United States inherited that mess after the battle of Dien Bien Phu. He comes upon Arden Pyle, the Quiet American of the title, a man almost too innocent to live. (At one point, Greene writes that "innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.") While purporting to be an economic consultant, he is actually an American agent attempting to apply simplistic principles to a tangled situation that is beyond his understanding.
In the process, he snags Fowler's Vietnamese mistress while pretending to remain the journalist's friend. Although he seems to be invulnerable in his innocence for a while, the quagmire finally claims him as a victim. He is very like one of Conrad's "pilgrims" in THE HEART OF DARKNESS, cool and elegant in their pursuit of nefarious colonial pursuits to the very end.
The "illegitimate process" may be a good description of Pyle's work, but Graham Greene's ever-present "malpractice of heart" is seen in Fowler, the French police inspector Vigot, the mistress Phuong's sister, Fowler's fellow journalist Bill Granger, and the suspicious Mr Heng.
At one point, Fowler wonders, "Wouldn't we all do better not trying to understand, accepting the fact that no human being will ever understand another, not a wife a husband, a lover a mistress, nor a parent a child?
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Pitfalls of Idealism Oct. 17 2002
Greene's The Quiet American is powerful and moving and anyone who desires to better understand the mindset of American policymakers at the outset of the United States' deepened involvement in Indochina. Greene writes with the candor and insight of a seasoned overseas correspondant and shows the ideals and idealism that propelled Vietnamese and American interests to tragically clash. Greene portrays the characters in the novel in a manner in which they are complex and very real and not soundbytes and stereotypes that confront us in other books and in the current news media.
A valuable bonus of the Viking Critical Library edition are the essays at the end of the book that provide additional detail to Greene's story. In addition to reviews of the book in the context of US diplomacy, espionage and counterinsurgency, of particular worth is the brief history of American military involvement in the late 1950s/early 1960s in Indochina by Frank Futrell, former Historian of the Air Force. Futrell is knowledgeable and a prolific yet very readable writer, and his 14-page essay at the end of the book serves as a stark epilogue to the novel.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Saigon Before the Fall
It's great classical writing and I am enjoying reading it. The push and pull between the world weary Fowler and the naive idealist Pyle is of particular interest to me, as is the... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Lily Lai
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone who has an interest in Cold War history I would highly...
Even though first published in 1955, the book still rings true for today. The only thing that has changed are the geographic areas. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Don Thomas
4.0 out of 5 stars Quiet American Revisited
In many respects history has made this book timeless
If the Vietnam had not occurred this book would probably be a footnote in the Greene canon. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Ian F. Wightman
5.0 out of 5 stars Keep in Mind when this book was Written
This book was published in 1955 so Graham Greene didn't have the hindsight that we have almost 40 years later; so he was very accurate and prophetic.
Published on Feb. 17 2004 by BostonLady
3.0 out of 5 stars war story with love trouble
The story plays in the Vietnam war in 1954. A british journalist, Fowler, lives with his mistress Phuong in Saigon. Everything goes the right way until Pyle enters the story. Read more
Published on June 16 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars A intensive story
At the beginnig I didn't understand much about the story, the people and the circimstances at this time. Read more
Published on June 16 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Set it Vietnam in the 1950s, it's a warning about the future
Graham Greene wrote this novel in 1955. It's set in the early fifties when Vietnam was still Indo-China and there was a war raging between the French and the Vietnamese. Read more
Published on May 25 2002 by Linda Linguvic
5.0 out of 5 stars The First Vietnam War Novel
Graham Greene is the sort of writer with very broad appeal. He deals with important ideas, and his fiction has real substance, but at the same time his novels are virtually... Read more
Published on Feb. 13 2002 by Samir Quntar "al-Muti"
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the master's best
This book is one of the best examples of Graham Greene's gift of weaving a personal story, usually centered around a rather ordinary and unattractive character, into the events of... Read more
Published on Aug. 29 2001 by Doug Samuelson
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