THE QUIET AMERICAN -- Graham Greene's classic exploration of love, innocence, and morality in Vietnam
The Quiet American by Graham Greene (1955, William Heinemann; 180 pages)
The popularity of Ken Burns’ documentary The Vietnam War reminded me of my favorite novel that takes place during wartime Vietnam, The Quiet American by Graham Greene. It is important, though, to distinguish right away that Greene’s book was published prior to American involvement in the war, which is precisely one of the reasons I love the book so much. The story itself is so surreal & dark that it could have served as the screenplay for Apocalypse Now! or Platoon. This detail is what affected me so deeply when reading the story of the French experience fighting guerrilla warfare in Vietnam. I couldn’t escape the thought of, ‘If only those making the decisions in the USA had read this…’ because the American experience proved to be very similar to the French experience. History buffs should also check out Robert Miller’s excellent Indochina and Vietnam, a non-fiction book that stresses the American involvement in the war as an extension of the French involvement of the thirty-five year war for the Vietnamese, as complimentary reading to Greene’s story. The protagonist in The Quiet American is a cynical British journalist (just as Greene was in real life) who encounters a young American idealist who also happens to be an undercover CIA operative. The story that follows isn’t just surreal and dark but also strikes at what it means to be human and part of a society. Greene has the ability to string some words together in a single sentence that not only fits the narrative of the story but also makes the reader pause and reflect on the deeper meaning and implications of the sentence. And, after all, isn’t that what all books are supposed to do?
Find this title in our catalog: The Quiet American
Recommended by: Andrew