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The Quiet American: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Posted February 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Atmospheric and poignant

    A classic and for good reason, the novel tells one perspective of the story of the beginnings of American involvement in Vietnam prior to what is now referred to as the Vietnam War, during the 1950's when it was still a French colony. Fowler is a well crafted character, as is Pyle to a lesser extent, though I agree with many critics that Phuong's character is too childish and simplistic and Greene perpetrates the same degree of "othering" that many of his peers do in this kind of writing. Still, it's a well told story, there's a great sense of tension and sense of place, and a good starting point for looking at this not-told-nearly-enough story of the US/Vietnam relationship.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2001

    Make Love Not War

    For anyone who wondered where the Vietnam War protest slogan, 'Make Love Not War' came from, The Quiet American offers an explanation. Here an American operative (Pyle) helps engineer the exit of the French from Vietnam to make way for the 'Third Force' paving the way for a U.S. role. He does his part by planting Bicycle Bombs. Although this is a fictional novel, the bicycle bombs are historical. Some believe that so too, is Pyle, The Quiet American, who may be a composite that includes (Major-General) Ed Landsdale, then a gosh-golly gee whiz lad from Boston who guided the Diem regime in Vietnam until his assassination in 1963. Greene portrays Pyle as the insensitive architect of chaos and bloodshed, who is oblivious of the destruction of his actions. He is often wide-eyed and earnest to the point of insanity and this painfully embodies something of the general American disposition in Vietnam at the time. But like Fowler, the aging British journalist, who reflects the fading power of European colonialism, and Phong, the young, beautiful woman both men desire, who is Vietnam, Greene paints all these characters with such depth that the surface story of human entanglements and moral dilemmas could stand alone without knowledge of their historical allegories.

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