Our Man In Havana Paperback – May 22 2001
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
An entertaining read; now I see where John le Carre got his inspiration for "The Tailor of Panama".Published 16 months ago by Juliet Gill
A good entertaining book. We used it in an English as a second language class and it was really enjoyed by the studentsPublished on July 25 2014 by Amazon Customer
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 on Oct. 25 2013 by TinaT
Somehow I ended up with three copies of the book, two from Awesomebooks and one for World Books... Read morePublished on April 12 2010 by Raymond Drouin
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
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
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 morePublished on Oct. 24 2003 by ransome22