Graham Greene’s The Quiet American has been sitting on my shelf for a good long while, and this year’s resolve to read more freely has finally gifted me with the opportunity to take it down off the shelf. Its intriguing beginning introduces Thomas Fowler, an English journalist in Saigon covering the Vietnam War, as he waits for his dinner guest and romantic rival, Alden Pyle, a young and idealistic American operative. Pyle never shows and when Fowler is picked up by the police for questioning, it is revealed that he’s been murdered. The rest of the story unfolds in a weave of flashback and present day, before the United States formerly enters the war.
One of the things that was most fascinating about reading The Quiet American was its pointed bias in examining the rise of the United States as a powerful contender on the world scene, brashly testing its limits in establishing governments and influencing international politics that it understands in purely textbooks terms. Fowler’s justifications and beliefs are thoroughly examined while Pyle’s remain vague and when they are apparent, gauche. As a man, and as a stand in-in for the US, he is clearly green, idealistic, bumbling and dangerous. Green writes a compelling novel that is deftly paced, and a page-turner in its own beautiful and understated way. Pyle’s mysterious dealings, and Fowler’s involvement in his demise haunts the spare narrative. Both disturbing and enlightening, The Quiet American is a thought-provoking read and a worthwhile peek at how other countries and cultures view US Foreign Policy. Recommended.