Exploring the backstory that led to the writing of Graham Greene's beloved satirical spy novel, Our Man Down in Havana evokes this pivotal time and place in the author's life.When U.S. immigration authorities deported Graham Greene from Puerto Rico in 1954, the British author made an unplanned visit to Havana and discovered that “every vice was permissible and every trade possible” in a Caribbean fleshpot of mafia-run casinos and nude revues. The former MI6 officer had stumbled upon the ideal setting for a comic espionage story. Three years later, he returned in the midst of Fidel Castro’s guerrilla insurgency against a U.S.-backed dictator to begin writing his iconic novel Our Man in Havana. Twelve weeks after its publication, the Cuban Revolution triumphed in January 1959, soon transforming a capitalist playground into a communist stronghold.
Combining biography, history, and politics, Our Man Down in Havana investigates the real story behind Greene’s fictional one. This includes his many visits to a pleasure island that became a revolutionary island, turning his chance involvement into a political commitment. His Cuban novel describes an amateur agent who dupes his intelligence chiefs with invented reports about “concrete platforms and unidentifiable pieces of giant machinery.” With eerie prescience, Greene’s satirical tale had foretold the Cold War’s most perilous episode, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Exploiting a wealth of archival material and interviews with key protagonists, Our Man Down in Havana delves into the story behind and beyond the author’s prophetic Cuban tale, focusing on one slice of Greene’s manic life: a single novel and its complex history.
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About the Author
Christopher Hull, PhD, is Senior Lecturer in Spanish&Latin American Studies at the University of Chester. His research focuses on British interactions with Latin America. He first visited Cuba in 1997 and has traveled extensively around the island during seventeen further visits, often in the footsteps of Graham Greene. He lives in England.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Our Man Down in Havana: The Story Behind Graham Greene's Cold War Spy Novel based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
I love books about books and I love Graham Greene, so I was excited to find Christopher Hull’s Our Man Down in Havana, the story behind the inspiration and writing of Greene’s spy satire Our Man in Havana. Hull has clearly done his research, and he is obviously well-versed in Cuban history. This, however, was the problem with the book for me: there was just so much information presented that it often got bogged down in tiny details from Greene’s childhood, his years in Britain’s intelligence service during WWII, the history of Cuba—even what Greene ate on each of his visits to the island. I understand that some of this is necessary for an understanding of how Our Man in Havana reflected Greene’s experiences and the era in which he was writing, but I just thought tighter editing would have made the story clearer and elevated this book to the status of Lesley Blume’s Everybody Behaves Badly, about the writing of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Still, the book was enjoyable for me as a fan of Greene and Our Man in Havana—which I would highly recommend reading before sitting down with this book.