Skip to main content

The Quiet American - By Graham Greene- Book Review

Writer: Graham Greene
Genre: Fiction, Classis
Rating: Must Read
Every writer has a story to tell. It is all about a story which finds its way to the paper. We all tell stories. What makes a story well-told and great, to my mind, is the connect the writer establishes between the story and the environment which sets the context of the story. Once we understand the world in which the story unravels, we are immediately hooked to it. In a subtle view, the writer sets the context which helps the reader learn the micro as well as macro contexts of the story. A great story like Stendhal's Red and Black is not only the story of the protagonist, but it also narrates the French revolution, the sudden absence of Napoleon from the french world within which the protagonist falls in love and out of it. 

The Quiet American by Graham Greene is one such exceptionally told story which contextualizes the murder of an idealist, tentatively a propagandist, American, Alden Pyle in Vietnam, struggling between an absolutist communist and a fierce democratic ideology struggling for space in Vietnam. The story does not float in the dark, unknown skies like floating candle with no connect with the Earth over which it hovers, rather it settles down with its weight in the marshy farms of Vietnam, where amid physical violence of the war, also plays the ideological war of the Americans. The young diplomat, Alden Pyle, supposedly working to create a middle-path arrives in the war-torn Vietnam and befriends the narrator, middle-aged and cynical war-correspondent Thomas Fowler. Here is Fowler describing the naive, plush wide-eyed idealistic admiration for someone like York Harding-

"I was to learn later that he had enormous respect for what he called serious writers. That term excluded Novelists, poets and dramatists unless they had what he called a contemporary theme." 

 A young, rich and well-connected Pyle wins over the native girl, Phuong with the false promise of marriage and a great life in America. Pyle, a fan and admirer of York Harding, an ideologue and writer, eventually turns out to be an under-cover operative getting weapons and explosive into Vietnam. The story ends with the murder of Pyle. 

Through the wonderfully told story, full of aphorism and words of wisdom, we find the conspiracy of media and politics unraveling. We understand how those reporting the news grow too big for themselves and begin to believe themselves to be the News. While we may not be in a physical war now, there are multiple wars unfolding, numerous battlefields in operation, and it is a great book to understand how media, at times, work not only as a tool to the politics; many a times, it tries to use politics as its tool. Fowler calls it out when angered and frustrated (suddenly I was angry; I was tired of the whole pack of them with their private stores of Coca-Cola and their portable hospitals and their too wide cars) at the loss of young life of Pyle, he tells the Economic Attach`e 
referring to Pyle- 

'Yes, they killed him because he was too innocent to live. He was young and ignorant and silly and he got involved. He had no more of a notion than any of you what the whole affair's about, and you gave him money and York Harding's book on East and said, "Go ahead, win the East for Democracy. He never saw anything he hadn't heard in a lecture-hall, and his writers and his lecturers made a fool of him." '

When I read this, I think of JNU, when I read of York Harding, I think of Chomsky, writing open letters based on fake, manipulative news articles. And I think of numerous Indian journalists and media personalities when I read Fowler deliberating on his own- 

"He's a superior sort of journalist- they call them diplomatic Correspondents. He gets hold of an idea and then alters every situation to fit the idea." 


Popular posts from this blog

The Great Shake in Governance- New Modi Cabinet- My Take

This week, the Narendra Modi government was expanded. However, as it turned out, it was not merely an expansion, rather complete rehash of the cabinet, with many faces, widely believed as non-performers eased out of their positions.  The expansion came with the dropping of some key names, much famed and widely seen on TV Channels, perceived to me closest to the leftist media houses. Prakash Javadekar was shunted, Ravishankar Prasad was dropped, so was Ramesh Pokhariyan Nishank. Apart from the worthies of Ministries of Information & Broadcasting, Law and IT and HRD, Dr. Harshvardhan was also dropped from health.  Before we look at the addition, it is pertinent to look at the deletions from the earlier Cabinet. Prakash Javadekar, as I&B Minister was expected to take strong stand, make statements, blast the inane propaganda in key policy initiatives that the Modi Government was taking. From Land Acquisition Bill to Demonetization to GST to Triple Talaq to CAA to Farmer's Bill-

Analyzing the Analysts- Failed Attempts to Understanding the Modi Magic

  " When a writer tries to explain too much, he is out of time before he begins. " wrote Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1978 Nobel Winning writer. As year wraps to an end and Bengal Elections are around the corner, Analysts are jumping over one another to analyze the way politics panned out over this Pandemic-ridden unfortunate and sad year.  When you go through most of the analysis, you find them dipping into the froth floating at the top. They often develop the hypothesis first then try to fit the data. This gap between interpretation and data leads to their conclusions mostly turning way off the mark. The most common and prevalent hypothesis that is being currently floated is that those who support Narendra Modi are some sort of fanatic army, which has no reason to support him and which are loyal to him in the most retrograde terms. For that very reason, Narendra Modi, in return, cares only about those who voted for him and no one else. While there is no proof of Narendra Modi app

Pandemic, Politics and Propaganda

  There is an interesting episode in Mahabharata , in Drona Parva . Mighty Drona, the teacher of Kaurava and Pandavas took charge after the great Commander of the Kaurava Army, Bhishma had fallen. There was a huge battle and Krishna predicted complete routing of the Pandava forces if Drona was to fight even for half a day. To circumvent this, Bhima was to make an announcement that Drona's son Ashwatthama was slain. This would have led to a dejected Drona surrendering his weapons and thus could be killed, unarmed. As Drona  did not believe in Bhima, he called upon  Yudhisthira, the eldest of the Pandava to confirm.  Yudhishthira, the righteous one, than famously said that  Ashwatthama was dead, not the man but the Elephant. It is then mentioned in before now the Chariot of Yudhishthira had remained at the height of four fingers' breadth from the Earth's surface; but after he uttered the lie, his steeds touched the Earth.  There is a certain glory and lightness of spirit in s