Graham Greene’s novel, The Quiet American, follows Thomas Fowler, a British journalist much like Greene during that time. Greene places Fowler in Vietnam as he reports on the French Indo-China War. Much of his dialogue surrounds the woman of his chauvinistic love, Phoung, his opium pipe, and his antithesis, Alden Pyle.
Greene tries to keep Fowler above the conflict at all times. Quoting from the lips of Fowler directly, “The human condition being what it was, let them fight, let them love, let them murder, I would not be involved. My fellow journalist called themselves correspondents; I preferred the title reporter. I wrote what I saw. I took no action-even an opinion is a kind of action.”
However, that hypocritical bullshit ends when he murders an undercover CIA agent who is highly distinguished as being the quiet ‘naïve’ American and who also happens to steal Greene’s concubine, Phuong.
Greene relates Pyle to a dumb leper who has lost his bell and wanders aimlessly meaning no harm. -If you could see me right now, my arms are slowly raising and I am putting this next part into finger quotes, “Meaning he is causing harm, even though he is not trying to.” Well guess what, Greene? 95% of all humans are naturally immune to Leprosy and studies show it is spread by cute little armadillos; Greene’s sloppy allegory would make more sense if 95% of humans were naturally immune to tragedies of war.
This was my first Indo-China war book. I first heard about it through Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations, where he commented on how he reads it every time he visits Vietnam… I should have known then it was going to be a disastrous hypocrisy.
With Bourdain’s new reality cooking show, The Taste, kicking off last week on ABC… the same style reality cooking show he has bashed repeatedly for the last ten years on the Travel Channel, I realized Greene was right about one thing, the Quiet ‘Insert Nation Here’ individual. They can travel the world and learn all they want, but when it comes to it, stated best sarcastically here by Greene,
“We think Americans love dollars, but there must be exceptions.”
There is not.
Greene’s character, Fowler, is the Bourdain of the world… a traveling, writing, it’s cool to be pessimistic, opium-opioid, Mesopotamian-douche. I gather similar to Greene. I bet if Greene were still alive, they would get along fittingly over a cup of Wambulance Tea.
I will say The Quiet American was beautifully written in regards to its descriptive qualities, but Greene reversed the roles for his ‘Quiet American’ attaché between Pyle and Fowler.
Since the 1920’s, blaming America for its roaring, arrogant, and ignorant lifestyle began its snaking syntax into a recurring literary theme. It was easy for Greene to attach its sediments here and kudos to his clairvoyant foreshadow of America, The World Police, as we entered our tragic endeavor into Vietnam.
The problem with Greene’s novel is he chose his target without aiming like the rest of the world in their containment effort to thwart the spread of communism. But, like any reputable journalist worth his word count integrity should know, you can’t just throw out a story and see what sticks.
His book would be more beneficial had he written a “choose your own adventure” or “Mad Libs” book and left a blank space after ‘quiet’ with the “clue” insert your nation here.
If you are going to read any book about this time period, I would sway you from Greene’s Indo-China War novel and persuade you to skip ahead and pick up If I die in a combat zone by Tim O’Brien. That book had me singing by the end without all the convoluted rhetoric.
“If I die in a combat zone, box me up and ship me home, if I die on the Russian front, bury me with a Russian cunt.”
In fact, they should rename The Quiet American to The Loud English Wanker and call it a day.
Welcome to Quiet America,
“We are all wandering lepers without bells.”