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The Quiet American
by Graham Greene


Book Description
While the French Army in Indo-China is grappling with the Vietminh, back in Saigon a young and high-minded American named Pyle begins to channel economic aid to a "Third Force."

Caught between French colonialists and the Vietminh, Fowler, the narrator and seasoned foreign correspondent, observes: "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused." As young Pyle's policies blunder on into bloodshed, the older man finds it impossible to stand aside as an observer. But Fowler's motives for intervening are suspect, both to the police and to himself: for Pyle has robbed him of his Vietnamese mistress.

"No serious writer of this century has more thoroughly invaded and shaped the public imagination than Graham Greene." (Time)


From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, February 01, 2004 10:57 AM Today marks the official start of The Quiet American discussion. Please post all notes about the book here. This book really struck a chord with me because I was part of the generation that fought and protested the U.S./Vietnam war. The copyright of this book is 1955. I only wish Americans had paid more attention to it before we got so heavily involved in the country, although perhaps it was too late even then. By 1954, the United States was paying for 80% of the French war effort. I don't have access to any contemporary reviews of the book, but I imagine that many reviewers in this country saw it as anti-American. None of the Americans is presented in a favorable light. Pyle is the best of the lot and he is show to be naively inexperienced, a man who perhaps had good intentions in theory but caused great harm in practice. Early in the book, Fowler says of him: He didn't even hear what I said; he was absorbed already in the dilemmas of Democracy and the responsibilities of the West; he was determined - I learned that very soon - to do good, not to any individual person but to a country, a continent, a world. Well, he was in his element now with the whole universe to improve.. I believe that Greene saw Pyle as representative of American foreign policy. The aims might have been good on paper, but they did not take into consideration historical realities or the suffering of the Vietnamese people who were the pawns in these plans. Perhaps it is inevitable that individuals are sacrificed to diplomatic strategies. In the book, how "innocent" do you think Pyle was? How much was he acting behind the scenes as as secret agent, and how much was he just a tool? My view is colored by the movie, which I saw first. In the film, it is clear that Pyle was very actively involved in manipulating events. Also, what was you reaction to Phuong? She reminds me of a beautiful young Vietnamese woman whom I met in 1973. She was married to an American who would have had trouble finding an American wife. She was not happy in her marriage, but I'm sure it was a compromise she made in order to get out of the chaos of Vietnam and survive. Phuong likewise does what she has to do, but she has to bury her own emotions and, as a result, may seem somewhat flat as a character. Do you think that Pyle would ever have married her? After all, he was very WASP and upper crust? If he truly had had "honorable" intentions, wouldn't he have married her in Vietnam? How accepted would she have been by his family in the mid-1950's? Was Fowler guilty of murder? How much of a motivator was jealousy? At the end of the book, he receives a letter from his wife. I don't remember that from the movie. Did I just forget? Ann
From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Sunday, February 01, 2004 12:05 PM Ann: I had some difficulty keeping track of all the peripheral players and their agendas in this one, but from the very first sentence I never doubted that these people and their surroundings were exceedingly real. Greene's prose is almost never flowery, but there's an elegant solidity to it that blows me away. The opening paragraph of Chaper IV, for instance: From the bell tower of the cathedral the battle was only picturesque, fixed like a panorama of the Boer War in an old Illustrated London News. An airplane was parachuting supplies to an isolated post in the calcaire, those strange, weather-eroded mountains on the Annam border that look like piles of pumice, and because it always returned to the same place for its glide, it might never have moved, and the parachute was always there in the same spot, halfway to earth. From the plain the mortar bursts rose unchangingly, the smoke as solid as stone, and in the market the flames burned palely in the sunlight. The tiny figures of the parachutists moved in single file along the canals, but at this height they appeared stationary. Even a priest who sat in a corner of the tower never changed his position as he read in his breviary. The war was very tidy and clean at that distance. *** Damn, the man could write. >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, February 01, 2004 12:48 PM I never thought the possibility that Phuong was flat because she was emotionally flat. Could be. I just thought she was flat because she was poorly written. Writers should never try to make someone look like a saint. Big trap. I had a hard time getting into this book. It didn't come alive for me until about halfway through. Like Dale, I couldn't keep the intrigue straight. Who the hell was Gen. The? Nobody comes off very well in this. Pyle is dangerously naive, Phuong is phlat, Fowler seeks moral superiority by not taking sides. Yech. R
From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Sunday, February 01, 2004 01:00 PM Nobody in the story comes off very well? Definitely. However, I didn't see Phuong as poorly written or saintly...not even altruistic. I thought she tried, with the questionable expertise of her sister as manager and advisor, to strike the best long-term bargain from the very limited options she had. The shadowy General The was, I finally presumed, the area rebel leader whom the outside interests were bankrolling in hopes of getting rid of the communists. >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, February 01, 2004 01:45 PM I should qualify what I meant as saintly. Both Fowler and Pyle seemed to regard her as such. I saw her as an opportunist, understandable under the conditions, but nevertheless an opportunist. However, we're really given no inkling of her true character. This book could have benefited from a score card so we could keep all the factions straight. I wasn't as enamored of the writing as you were, Dale, but every once in a while he did pull off some good ones. R
From: Jean Keating jbkeating@cox.net Date: Sunday, February 01, 2004 04:23 PM I saw Phong as a survivor--a woman with very limited options trapped in a hellish place. Her big advantage was her beauty and she used it to survive. I'm conflicted as to the naivete of Pyle. I think there was a large measure of arrogance in his character with his determination that he knew what was best. From the movie I gathered that he was CIA, undercover there. Also in the movie quite a point was made by Fowler that Pyle spoke Vietnamiese when he had earlier said he didn't. Jean K.
From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Sunday, February 01, 2004 04:40 PM Phuong as opportunist I can buy, Ruth. I also agree she's pretty much a cipher in the character department. I got the impression she did exactly what her sister told her to do, and we learn even less about the sister than we do about Phuong. And true, Jean, both the women were doing their best in an impossible situtation. Ann writes: I believe that Greene saw Pyle as representative of American foreign policy. The aims might have been good on paper, but they did not take into consideration historical realities or the suffering of the Vietnamese people who were the pawns in these plans. Perhaps it is inevitable that individuals are sacrificed to diplomatic strategies. To which I say a double amen, Ann, with a special accent on historical realities. Substitute "Iraqi" or any number of other nationalities for Vietnamese, and your statement is just as true, almost 50 years after Greene's novel was published. As to the questions of culpability...wow. Culpability is the water that this whole narrative swims in, isn't it? I haven't seen the film, but in the book I believed Pyle to be every bit the naif he presents himself as. I vaguely recall some hints to the contrary, but somehow I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Not sure why. As for Fowler's responsibility... I don't remember the exact phrasing, but in Fowler's version of what happened, the faction who waylaid Pyle under the bridge intended to verbally scare him off his mission, and Fowler hoped that stronger steps (which I took to mean roughing him up) wouldn't be necessary. Whether Fowler had any reason to believe a "stronger step" might escalate to murder is never directly addressed. If Fowler did know, the question becomes whether Pyle is a morally defensible sacrifice to prevent more women and children from being blown up in marketplaces. If that's the case, then the irony is that Fowler the neutral guy has fallen into the same rationale the U.S. has for being in Vietnam in the first place. His sort of private "domino theory," if you will. It would be nearly impossible for an outsider to judge Fowler's culpability even if that were the only dynamic; add in the romantic triangle with Phuong to muddy the waters, and I think it becomes impossible for Fowler even to know his own intentions where Pyle was concerned. Now, I'm wanting to see the movie. >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, February 01, 2004 06:11 PM Jean, I think arrogant is a good way to describe Pyle. Arrogance combined with naivete is a deadly combination, add a little missionary zeal into that mixture, and whammo. R
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, February 01, 2004 07:20 PM My view of Phong was influenced by the movie - where she was incredibly beautiful, but also empty of overt expression. Both Fowler and Pyle loved Phong for her physical beauty. They hardly knew her as a person, which is why I think the character in the book is rightly so sketchy. Fowler wanted desperately to keep her because he was afraid of facing the end of his life alone, but he acknowledged that she was not the love of his life. That would have been the woman he left his wife for. Later, he left her too because he was afraid that she might do it first. Do you think that kind of self-destructive abandonment of someone you love happens in real life? Jean, good point about the movie revealing that Pyle could speak Vietnamese. I agree with you, Dale, that the book paints Pyle as a true naif. In that respect, I think the movie diverges from the book because Pyle appears to be involved behind the scenes in ways that aren't shown in the book. Even so, Greene see him as very dangerous. After the incident in the square, Fowler thinks about Pyle: "What's the good? he'll always be innocent, you can't blame the innocent, they are always guiltless. All you can do is control them or eliminate them. Innocence is a kind of insanity." ............... Plot Spoilers ............ Dale, I think that you are right that Fowler himself could not have untangled his motives. However, in rereading their last conversation, I think that Fowler might have backed out of the plan if only Pyle had accepted responsibility for the bombing and not referred to the people who died as necessary casualties of war. He says. "They were only war casualties..It was a pity, but you can't always hit your target. Anyway they died in the right cause...In a way you could say they died for democracy." Fowler replies, "I wouldn't know how to translate that into Vietnamese." (Great line, eh?)
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, February 01, 2004 07:27 PM >>Do you think that kind of self-destructive abandonment of someone you love happens in real life? Absolutely, I've seen in someone close to me. R
From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, February 01, 2004 08:35 PM I think one of the reasons that Phuong is such a flat character is that we see her through Fowler's eyes, and he admits that he's never understood her. In fact, he says in more than one place that he used to ask her about her thoughts and feelings and she would never tell him. Maybe it's just part of the "inscrutable" image. Lynn
From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@ivillage.com Date: Monday, February 02, 2004 07:12 AM I'm only able to comment about the movie, I knew I wouldn't have time to read the book, but I wanted to be part of the discussion. In the movie I had the sense that Pyle was not as innocent as he first appeared, he knew what he was doing from the beginning. I think Fowler liked him because he seemed different from the other Americans and seemed to want to learn from Fowler. The love triangle complicated things. I think Fowler did what he did in the end in part because of jealousy. I don't think he thought it would end in death, but hoped to get him out of Phoung's life. And in the movie he apologizes to her, she asks for what and he says he feels he should apologize to someone. I think he felt a little guilty. I don't know anything about Greene, did he spend time in Vietnam? Sherri
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Monday, February 02, 2004 07:14 AM One of the points made in my reading about this book is the fact that Fowler ultimately got "involved" with his actions regarding Pyle. He is a journalist who lives outside what is happening, observing and writing. But, in the end, in this situation, he affects the outcome which is a crucial move away from his previous role, both vocationally and, perhaps, in life. Barb
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Monday, February 02, 2004 07:32 AM I've wondered about why the men were so drawn to Phuong. Here's what I've come up with. Phuong is totally non-judgmental. For Fowler that's very potent. She has sex when he wants, she fixes him his fixes, she doesn't question him in any way. For Pyle, she's someone to save. He doesn't want her to end up like the prostitutes. I see Phuong as a metaphor for the whole country. She is being fought over by two factions, who really aren't sure what they have or who she is. She will go with whichever faction gives her the best deal. Pyle wants to save her from prostitution (communism?) Fowler wants her comfort and beauty (colonialism?) It may be a stretch, but it seems to fit. Sherry
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Monday, February 02, 2004 09:30 AM Sherri, Yes, Greene did spend time as a journalist in Vietnam. He was also in the British secret service during World War II. Barb, Regarding Fowler finally becoming "involved," the character Heng has a great line. He says to Fowler, "Sooner or later..one has to take sides. If one is to remain human." Sherry, I really like your analogy between Phoung and her country. I hadn't really thought of it that way, but it all makes sense. Ann (home again today because of another big snow storm.)
From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Monday, February 02, 2004 12:08 PM Sherri: Good to see you back! Sherry: Hmmm. Phuong as a metaphor for Vietnam itself? I hadn't thought of it, but it sure rings true for me. So true, in fact, that I'm glad Greene had the good judgment not to draw attention to the parallel. Very subtle, but there. And in that light, there's a special irony that her heart's home seems to be the UK, or at least a fantasy of it from royal family picture books. >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, February 02, 2004 12:42 PM Brilliant, Sherry! R
From: Tonya Presley t-pr@comcast.net Date: Monday, February 02, 2004 02:04 PM Me too, Sherry. I thought the reason Phuong is so shadowy and hard to figure out is because we wanted to be involved in Vietnam without an understanding of what made it tick. As to Fowler's culpability, in both the book and the movie it seemed he knew with 98% certainty that the communists would kill Pyle, but he had some small reserve of irrational hope that Pyle, his friend, would survive. I really believe that having Phuong back was secondary. Since she is available again, he will have her. But if Pyle had not turned out to be OSS and determined to manipulate General The into power, Fowler would have gone on without her. In the latest movie, Fowler tells Phuong that he won't go back home in spite of the fact that his wife does not agree to a divorce. That was different from the book, in which his wife does agree. I'm not sure it is terribly important which ending is used, and I imagine it is only a sign of our time that it was changed. Tonya
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Monday, February 02, 2004 10:28 PM Tonya, Thanks for clearing up the matter of that second letter from the wife. I certainly didn't remember it in the movie, but ever since I told everyone that Cold Mountain had a "happy" ending, I've started to distrust my memory. Why do you suppose there was no second letter in the movie - too obvious? Ann
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 07:19 AM The one thing I remember from the movie that was different from the book, is that in the movie his personal servant was the man on the bicycle, looking out for Pyle at the river. When we saw that, we knew that there was a connection between Fowler and the plot. In the book, if I remember correctly, his servant "knew" someone, but didn't seem to be physically involved. I like the movie version better. In the few Greene books that I've read, there seems to be an undercurrent of cynicism and ennui. But that seems to be a result of a deep anger, or rage, even, at circumstances. I think Fowler's "passivity" was a cover-up for his basic belief that no matter what he did, it would be futile. Does anyone else feel that? (Thanks, Ruth--nobody has ever accused me of being brilliant before.) Sherry
From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@ivillage.com Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 07:45 AM Sherry, I remember that from the movie too. Before when they are in the office, his helper says he has people that want to talk to Pyle, doesn't Fowler say something about not hurting him? But then while Fowler's at the restaurant waiting, he's anxious, and when he sees his helper on a bicycle, I think he knows. I think he was hoping it wouldn't come to death but deep down he knew it would. I think if not for Pyle he would have remained going through life, not really getting involved, but then Pyle and Phuong forced him to get involved. I think he was not happy to get involved the way he did but he could no longer remain neutral. Sherri
From: Tonya Presley t-pr@comcast.net Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 08:51 AM Here is the big difference between the book and the movie that surprised the heck out of me, these words: I can't say what made me fall in love with Vietnam-- that a woman's voice can drug you, that everything is so intense. The colors... the taste... even the rain. Nothing like the filthy rain in London. They say whatever you're looking for, you will find here. They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes, but the rest has got to be lived. The smell. That's the first thing that hits you, promising everything in exchange for your soul. And the heat. Your shirt is straightaway a rag. You can hardly remember your name... or what you came to escape from. But at night, there's a breeze. The river is beautiful. You could be forgiven for thinking there was no war, that the gunshots were fireworks, that only pleasure matters. All through the book, I kept waiting for things Michael Caine said in the movie, but in the end it was just this opening narration that I missed. Tonya
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 09:56 AM Was this the narration from the movie? How did you remember that? Sherry
From: Tonya Presley t-pr@comcast.net Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 10:12 AM Well, I always remember snippets of it-- after all when Michael Caine narrates he feels every word of it. But to add it in this topic, I turned on subtitles and wrote it down. Of course another HUGE difference in the book and the movie was the newspaper front pages showing the U.S. involvement and escalation at the end of the movie. (In a way I understand 1958 movie makers questioning Greene's prediction on the outcome of American involvement- speaking as someone who was 1 year old at the time! But during the heyday of the "domino theory", didn't the majority of people buy it?) If it hadn't gone as Greene expected, there wouldn't even have been a Michael Caine version, I guess. I remain bowled over that he wrote this in 1955. I remain bowled over that intelligence services are still performing at about the same level of accuracy, that 50 years later we still choose to manipulate foreign governments and societies. Tonya
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 10:58 AM Yes, in the movie his helper was a Vietnamese who was working with the Communists. In the book, he was an Indian with a Portuguese name - much more of an outsider. Tonya, I thought everyone bought the domino theory in the 1950's, but now I wonder if there were any Americans who dissented. After Eastern Europe fell country by country to the Communists, it probably seemed more logical than it does now. Ann
From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 11:56 AM Ann: I'd like to know more about just how much dissent there was over Vietnam policy, and how high up, in the various presidents' administrations during those years. As for the soldiers on the ground, though, I'd imagine many of them felt like this Vietnam veteran who's quoted in an interview I ran across on www.commondreams.org. He's now involved with a non-violence project: "My dad was a Navy chaplain, I was in R.O.T.C. in college in South Carolina and went to Vietnam with an Army mobile marine force," Nelson said. "Some of that footage from 'Apocalypse Now' looks pretty familiar. "I bought the Domino Theory, hook, line and sinker. Once I got there and saw the reality though, I remember thinking, 'Boy, it would really be a waste if I got killed over here for this.' " >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 02:06 PM I just finished this book yesterday, and saw the movie about 2 months ago. I expected that reading the book would be a richer experience (as it usually is), but did not find it so. In fact, I think having the movie running in my head helped the book. In particular, I think seeing the movie helped me buy the Alden Pyle character. (Alden? Are we supposed to think "Massachusetts Bay Colony"?) Brendan Fraser made him human and believable. (The scene in which movie Pyle speaks Vietnamese after the bombing makes him a more complex character than the Pyle of the book. There are probably other examples.) I think the Pyle of the book is pretty 2-dimensional, basically (mixing metaphors here) a straw man set up by the author to take pot shots at the US. When Fowler, in the weeks before Phuong leaves him, notes that he began knocking all things American, I felt that he was speaking a bit for Greene. I couldn't make up my mind whether Greene/Fowler are simply burned at seeing another empire rise as theirs collapses, or whether they are the voice of experience frustrated as a newcomer makes all the same mistakes. I, too, was very impressed by Greene's prescience regarding US involvement in Vietnam, and I appreciate Sherry's insight regarding Phuong. I think she made herself a cypher because that was good for business -- meaning the business of survival. It struck me that Pyle loved her as someone he could save and Foster loved her (or, loved having her around) because she made his life comfortable and he cherished the illusion that she was someone he couldn't hurt. At least Fowler was honest enough to realize that he was creating a character to match his needs. ------------SPOILER------------------------- I was mulling over Pyle's relationship to Phuong and concluded that, if he'd lived, he never would have married her. He'd keep up the idea that it would be better if he married her in the States, and as the time approached and he was less enchanted with the idea of her and more acquainted with the actual her, after picturing her in that house with his mother and father and at parties with his friends, he would convince himself that it was in her best interest to stay in Vietnam, that it would be cruel to bring her to a place where she wouldn't fit in. And he'd leave her (like all those folks at the embassy who couldn't get onto the helicopters) to go home and marry some girl wearing a twin set and pearls. Mary Ellen
From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@ivillage.com Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 05:28 PM I never felt that Pyle would really marry Phuong. I think he liked the idea and I think he liked having the power to take her away from Fowler. In the movie Fowler goes to visit a village (where they find the massacre that no one is responsible for) and Pyle shows up. His excuse is that he wants to talk about Phuong and be upfront about it, but it struck me as odd. Why go all the way there for that kind of conversation? I'm sure it was a cover for whatever spying he was doing but it seemed strange to me, maybe he was setting Fowler up for the eventual leaving of Phuong? Sherri
From: Tonya Presley t-pr@comcast.net Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 06:54 PM I have to agree, Mary Ellen, that seeing the movie enriched reading the book. I really wondered at times if reading the book would have been just a flat experience without having had Caine so perfectly show me who Fowler was; and ditto Frasier/Pyle. I think Pyle went to pains to take proper steps while stealing Phuong from Fowler to show his good intent. He could take better care of her, he could marry her, he was nearer her age. He knew what was best for her, just like he knew what would be best for Vietnam, and just like his reasons for fiddling with Vietnam were, by his standards, honorable. (I agree he was doing some covert work when he went north, he did want to talk to Fowler too.) He never doubted that Phuong would choose him, once presented with the choice, and be grateful to him. (It was sorta cute how that rankled Fowler.) He knew without a doubt he presented Phuong the best chance for a happy, health, prosperous future. All that was true for Vietnam, too. Tonya
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 08:25 PM Mary Ellen: "Foster loved her (or, loved having her around) because she made his life comfortable and he cherished the illusion that she was someone he couldn't hurt." Excellent observation. No, I don't think Pyle ever would have married her either. In the beginning, he probably told himself he would marry her, but if his intentions had really been "honorable" he would have taken care of it in Vietnam. Sherri - in the book it never explains what Pyle was doing in the North. Surely it didn't make sense that he went there just to talk to Fowler about Phoung. The movie made it explicit that he was somehow involved in his secret work at the time. That at least seemed logical. I agree with those who said that Pyle was a much more interesting character in the movie than the book. However, I think that Fowler is a pretty compelling character in either medium. Ann
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 08:48 PM Got the movie from Netflix today. Will watch it either tonight or tomorrow. I'm really interested now that I've read everyone's comments. R
From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 09:54 PM My favorite movie reviewer, Roger Ebert, gave this one four stars out of four. About Caine's acting, he says: Michael Caine's performance seems to descend perfectly formed. There is no artifice in it, no unneeded energy, no tricks, no effort. It is there. Here's the article with all of Ebert's comments... http://www.suntimes.com/ebert/ebert_reviews/2003/02/020702.html >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: Ernest Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Wednesday, February 04, 2004 01:19 AM I just finished reading all the postings and you people already said the things I had in mind. This is a very tragic story that deals with attachments men & women get into in times of war or closely thereafter. I know a number of men who married girls they met in Japan, Korea and Vietnam. There have been quite a few marriages between American soldiers and German ladies. This applies to a number of people I know. These attachments and relationships have a long and unfortunate history and biologists will explain all that in Darwinian terms. I could not put the book down once I got started. That was the case with several of his other books I have read. Greene frequently describes the main character in his book as a cynical and not very likeable people. "In the end they all are trying to get something out of you. So I trust no one." This is the way he describes the main characters of a number of his books. Yet, when we go a bit beyond that we get a trace of decency just the same. To return to The Quiet American I see the same thing. Fowler has given up so to speak and lives from day to day. He has a failed marriages and a somewhat phony job. He has to give his reader what the editors wants him to write. But deep down he truly cares for Pyle and loves the comfort and mothering he gets from Phnong. Deep down he would like to have a spouse like her, but is aware that things would never work out in the long run. So in essence we are dealing with basically decent people. But thinking about it I am not sure my generalization has gone too far. Not too long ago I read an article on Greene which was highly critical of him as a person. I recall that Greene changed religion once or twice that he was in the secret service, etc. But the writer in this article had nothing good to say about him. I sure would like to find this article and read it again. But regardless, I do love the way Greene writes, presents his characters and himself. Ernie
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, February 04, 2004 01:44 AM I, for one, did not find the movie Pyle to be more compelling than the book Pyle. In fact, quite the opposite. To me, in the book, Pyle came off as a dangerous naif, dangerous because he was sure he knew the answers, committed to his cause without being about to see why it was destructive. A "we had to destroy the village in order to save it" mentality. I found the movie Pyle to be much more of a cipher. Even tho the movie is much more direct about who Pyle actually is, telling us he's CIA, and having him speak Vietnamese, these are outer attributes. I never got a sense of Pyle's own character. Still, it was a very good movie. R
From: Sheila Ash Date: Thursday, February 05, 2004 07:08 AM I had been really looking forward to participating in this thread. But when I went to find my copy of this book I couldn't find it - it must have gone with my ex - and it is not in my dog eared compendium of his writings. So I sent off for one thinking it ought to come really quickly, but made the mistake of ordering something else at the same time and now it doesn't look like it is going to get delivered till next week! Living away means I can't just pop into the library for a copy either. This makes me doubly annoyed as I never got to see the Michael Caine film although I have seen the older Michael Redgrave one which I adored. Damn!!! Sheila
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Thursday, February 05, 2004 07:44 AM The discussion will still be here when you get ready for it, Sheila. If it has timed out, Tonya will have it in archives. Do see the Michael Caine movie if you get a chance. Sherry
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, February 05, 2004 12:26 PM Sheila, The Classics Corner notes age off less quickly than those on some of the other conferences because there are not so many of them and because so many of us have trouble finishing some of the longer books on time. Hopefully, they will still be here when you are ready to post. I'd be interested in your opinion as a Brit. Ann
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, February 07, 2004 09:29 AM Sheila, I will definitely be around to listen and discuss when you post your impressions. I'm sure others will be too. As I've been mulling over my impressions during this past week, I realized that I like this book far more than the bits of things I've read of Greene's before. I'm wondering if it is because he usually writes with the detachment of a journalist and I don't care for that quality in a novel. In this one, however, that detachment becomes almost the focus of the story. He confronts the question of whether anyone truly can stay detached. And, so, that quality that bothered me becomes essential to the form of the story and works. I'm also absolutely bowled over by how clearly he saw the factors that forecast doom for anyone who decided to come in and take over that country at that time. Events in an historical context make so much more sense. It makes me wonder if anyone in our current government has read the history of any culture besides our own (if that). Barb
From: Sheila Ash Date: Saturday, February 07, 2004 09:55 AM Barb, Not related to GG at all but a thought came to mind when you said about seeing what is happening, forecasting what will happen and seeing in retrospect: the BBC have serialised the Alan Clarke Diaries - he was a minister in the Conservative government in the 1970/80s. He is played, very well, by John Hurt - he of Elephant Man etc. To set this in context when they started the serialisation the BBC staged an evening on Diairists - I caught one part about Peyps Diaries - intriguing - it set the scene on him, his time (Great Fire of London time) and contemporary reader of his diaries. The evening then went on to cover some aspects of modern political diarists, and I am wondering who in the US government writes, or has written, their diaries? Were there any from the time of the Vietnam war? Sheila
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, February 07, 2004 04:00 PM Sheila, I don't know about diaries, but Robert McNamara, who was Secretary of Defense during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, has recently written a book about the mistaken decisions that were made in Vietnam. It is IN RETROSPECT: THE TRAGEDY AND LESSONS OF VIETNAM. I haven't read it, but it's supposed to be very good. He's not easy on himself. Barb, I share your concern that the leaders of this administration know very little about the rest of the world. But then, when you have a president who actually admits that he doesn't read the newspapers, what can you expect? (Excuse that editorial comment.) I think one of the major problems in foreign policy is that the people in charge are always fighting the last war or misapplying lessons learned in one part of the world to another area. A strong argument can be made that the United States should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War. It didn't, so now George W. is trying to rectify his father's mistake. After the Second World War, the United States watched country after country in Europe fall to the Communists, thanks to the power of the Soviet army, which was our "friend" when we needed it to defeat Hitler. American leaders became convinced that Asia could suffer the same fate - hence, the domino theory. However, they neglected to take into consideration other influential factors, such as nationalism and the the revolt against European colonialism. In general, I don't think most Americans know much about other cultures. That's the kind of thing you get from reading. What do you think, Sheila? Are Europeans move knowledgeable about the rest of the world?
From: Peggy Ramsey ashputtle@comcast.net Date: Saturday, February 07, 2004 05:36 PM I just finished The Quiet American, and want to start by thanking the CC community for bringing it to my attention. I had never read anything by Greene before, and really enjoyed his writing. His prose did an excellent job of placing me in the moment without overdoing it -- all show, very little tell. This is also probably a good time to confess that I didn't make it all the way through the movie -- pretty astonishing, when you consider it had my Brendan in it. I started it too late at night, and wound up turning it off because I was falling asleep. In the next few days, I couldn't summon the interest to finish it, and wound up sending it back to Netflix. Yet I read the book in two days. I don't have a lot to add, discussion-wise, at least not yet. I did believe Pyle was naive right up to the point where the bomb went off in the square. His reaction really hardened me to a character I had been feeling sorry for up to that point -- that wasn't naivitee, that was sheer blind adherence to an idea (WMD in Iraq, anyone?). It was easier to admit the casualties gave their lives for a greater good, than to admit that he might possibly have been wrong. Nevertheless, the thing that strikes me as most telling is that both Fowler and I hoped Pyle would show up for dinner after all, even though both of us knew that he would not. Peggy
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, February 07, 2004 06:10 PM Peggy, I am so glad that you have joined us on the recent CC selections. Your observations are always right on. Ann
From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Saturday, February 07, 2004 06:52 PM I think one of the major problems in foreign policy is that the people in charge are always fighting the last war or misapplying lessons learned in one part of the world to another area. ~ Ann Maureen Dowd recently wrote a column about foreign policy failure in which she talked of the mirror effect - that when we look at foreigners we think that the image is mirror like - that they think and behave and have the goals we do. This couldn't be more wrong. We thought the Iraqis would rush to embrace Democracy just as the Americans rushed to embrace the Bush administration. Wrong! In Vietnam, if I don't misinterpret McNamara, we thought the Vietnamese were fighting to bring about Chinese type communism. Wrong. They thought that we, like the French before us, were fighting to bring them colonialism. They were fighting to preserve their freedom as a country, just as we would fight if we were invaded. Surely they leaned to a communism, but they hated China. Also, we were fighting to try out our weapon systems and our tactics. Too bad so many of our fellow citizens got killed. The horror is that our leaders were not calloused or cynical. They truly felt that the war was necessary for the protection of the United States, even if WMD were never a subject. Given our naive arrogance - gooks, etc. - we will always be fighting the wrong war. pres
From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Saturday, February 07, 2004 07:10 PM I have been intending to see The Quiet American movie ever since it came out. Now that we are NetFlixing, it will get done. But though I was an attentive Greene reader back in the 1940's, I couldn't read TQA last week - started it and gave up. It was not the writing; that seemed very good. It was my dislike of Fowler. Why would I listen to a man so immoral by reason of his total detachment from others, using or seeing them as objects in the world but standing apart from them. It is my understanding that Greene was sour because of his own moral distress, and I saw it in, or brought it to, Fowler in the early pages of the book, though it was not then the subject or the story. pres
From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Saturday, February 07, 2004 10:27 PM As much as I admire Greene's THE QUIET AMERICAN, for my money his towering achievement is THE POWER AND THE GLORY. I came late to it, only discovering it a couple of years ago, but it's on my all-time Top 10 list of favorite novels. >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, February 07, 2004 11:38 PM When we got new carpet a couple of weeks ago, we had to move all 9 trazillion books out of that wing of the house. They're still around in piles, and just yesterday I spied The Power and the Glory in the heap on top of the dryer. Funny, I don't remember anything about it, but it's there so I must have read it. In those days I wasn't as profligate as I am now, and didn't buy books and then not read them. I pulled it out for another look see. R
From: Ernest Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Sunday, February 08, 2004 12:25 AM Dale, I too read the power and the glory and was sort of overwhelmed. But unfortunately that was years ago and I don't remember the details or the book, only my feelings when I had finished the book. Greene is a truly fantastic writer who deals with some of the irreconcilable problems of mankind. I will try to explain what I mean by this. Well there are the realities of life, of a nation that needs to defend itself or can only survive by overcoming another nation. But this is understandable from the survival point of view. Well survival and natural selection are the facts of life, though many people prefer other explanations. AND there are a group of people, the Do Gooders. Theorists like York Harding and his accessory Pyle fall into this group. I will never forget a remark I heard once at a hectic administrative meeting when one of us came up with a pseudohumanistic argument to solve a crisis. One of my co-workers listened and turned to me: God Protect us from the Do Gooders. This comment stuck and I have been thinking about this frequently over the years. They come with a theoretical solution which MAY turn out the most destructive of them all. Here we have Pyle, an example of a Do Gooder gone wrong, but convinced that he was absolutely right. Just the same he was a decent idealistic human being who saved Thomas risking his own life. The tragedy is that the man whose life he saved needed to be instrumental in his death. Now where does this leave Phuong? She innocently was in the middle of things looking for an interesting and capable husband. Of course she was attracted to what she considered the main player of the game. So in essence she was the most innocent of them all, following her natural instinct to have a family. Fowler played the role of a deeply unhappy, disappointed perhaps cynical man. But he is experienced, knows people and can distinguish between right and wrong. He quickly catches on to Pyle's naive and deadly "Do Gooder" inclination after recognizing his role in terrorism. The competition for Phong plays perhaps a subordinate role but increases feelings of guilt on the part of Thomas Fowler. All this makes for an interesting story but it may throws a light on today's terrorism and its cause. What amazed me no end was the similarity of past terrorism to that we read about daily in today's newspapers. Ernie
From: Tonya Presley t-pr@comcast.net Date: Sunday, February 08, 2004 01:38 AM >>"Why would I listen to a man so immoral by reason of his total detachment from others, using or seeing them as objects in the world but standing apart from them." Pres-- I never thought Fowler to be repellant because of his detachment, I just sensed the presence of a rut and maybe mega-ennui. However, to your rhetorical question I must say: Because there is a payoff. "Sooner or later you have to choose, if you are to remain human," is the advice to Fowler, and as much as he hates it, he does make a choice. Tonya
From: Sheila Ash Date: Sunday, February 08, 2004 08:45 AM Ann asked ďAre Europeans more knowledgeable about the rest of the world? I would say in a sweeping generalisation that that is so. When I lived in the US I was struck by how few people would have been able to place countries on a world map, even to the extent of getting them on the correct continent, I always reckoned that more Europeans would have been able to place correctly the US states. More Europeans have passports, after all it was a necessity even to go small distances. I heard that only 1 in 6 US citizens posses a passport. Whatever the figure, itís a low percentage, I can echo this from my experience of working with US companies. Europeans travel quite widely both now and historically. Ok its roots are in our empire pasts and while those may not give people in their time the best perspective of other cultures it did put in place a sense of everywhere else and a tradition of travel. The British, in particular the Scots and the Irish, ventured all over the place to stay permenantly, youíll find us in most countries. In general people went to the US from Europe, not the other way round. Although there was an Age of doing the grand European tour, that was for most folks it, not venturing further field. Today, there is more world news and events coverage, and more in depth reporting from elsewhere in the world in the European media than in the US media. The US media only tend to cover stories when US people or interests are directly involved. Perhaps these say a lot about how our education systems and the extent of our vision horizon and our place/role in the world varies across the Atlantic. I think it also results in many US people not understanding why people from other parts of the world dislike America so much. That the US is in its colonial phase, a commercially based colonial power, possibly as all colonial powers are, is not seen as such within the US. Europeans are more sceptical about the reasons say for the war on Iraq, it being seen as an oil war, a personal retribution for Bush Junior for the failures of and personal impact on Bush senior. Another interesting difference between US and European views comes to mind from Annís comment about the rise of communism in Europe post WW2. My understanding of this is it is not so much a domino effect as one of the world leaders drawing a line in the sand, straight through the heart of Europe and giving one half to Russia and one to the West. The US didnít watch this happen but actively directed this dissection. Which takes us back to Graham Green, his writings draw on his WW2 and subsequent experiences working for the Ministry of Information and MI6. He wrote for The Times and The Spectator magazine and travelled substantially. This is what gives him this perspective on the affairs of the world and a clear vision of what is and is not going on at any time. His predictions about Vietnam would seem way off the mark to any US reader when the book came out, but I suspect not so much to European readers who were perhaps more acquainted with the terrible time France had had for so long in that country. It would be interesting to read accounts of reader responses and reviews to book from the late 50s/early 60s, perhaps US ones would be coloured more by their involvement in Korea. Greene was very much an intellectual, from Oxford, part of the establishment and yet he outraged it often. He had numerous affairs, and his novel the End of the Affair caused quite a stir when it came out. He was acquainted with Kim Philby, double agent of Cambridge Spies fame, and is even thought to have based a couple of his characters on him, including Harry Lime from the Third Man. It is all this experience that he draws on in his writings and makes him a great character writer. His writing is not necessarily the most flowery or poetic, but it is practical, straightforward, I like it a lot. Dale, by the way I am not surprised you like this writer. I came to him through films. I saw most of them as part of a misspent youth watching movies on Saturday afternoons! I sure those of you who havenít read any of his work will have seen some of these - many with Michael Redgrave, Alec Guiness , Richard Attenbourgh - Brighton Rock, End of the Affair, Our Man in Havana, and of course The Third Man. Many have been filmed more than once Ė I suspect it is because they are not only great stories but that directors always think there is more to get at in them. . He also wrote many short stories, I am trying to recall one of a pig on a balcony in Naples but for the life of me canít remember its title just that it was a great tale, very witty and observant of life and society. As for Phuong, her tragedy is Vietnamís. She sees Pyle as the saviour, the way out, her hope for love, a family and a new and better life in the West. It doesnít happen. I always thought she would have been better with Fowler, no family, probably never going to England, he would have stayed in Vietnam, stayed with her time till his death, they might have even been happy. Such are the choices in life! Sheila
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, February 08, 2004 10:13 AM I wonder if geography is part of the reason that U.S. citizens travel outside of our country more rarely than Europeans. My first trip to Europe occurred within the last 10 years and I've been returning since. However, I'm a 56 year old, reasonably curious woman and I had not made it happen previously though I had traveled quite a bit throughout the U.S. It just simply seemed more difficult to go elsewhere. When I do travel in Europe now, I am struck by how close everything that I want to do is. For Europeans, traveling in Europe, at least, is like U.S. citizens traveling in their own country. That argument doesn't hold when you consider travel to other continents though. Sheila, do you think that the British, for example, travel more often to Asia than we do? In any case, one of the most outstanding products of my travel outside the U.S. in the last 10 years has been my interest in and understanding of international news. No more skimming of those articles. It's all real now. I've seen those places and talked to the citizens of that country. Bush's lack of worldwide travel absolutely appalls me, for that reason. Was it you who said that he didn't even have a passport prior to the presidency, Ann? Barb
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, February 08, 2004 10:18 AM And, Peggy, I want to repeat what Ann said. I am so glad that you've joined in with us here lately. Barb
From: Sheila Ash Date: Sunday, February 08, 2004 10:51 AM Barb, I think geography is partly involved. The size of the US astounds Europeans when they first encounter it, but at the same time I think back to when travel for all was becoming the norm it still took me over 8 hours to get from London to Edinburgh by train, planes being far too expensive and really not an option for students before the days of low cast travel. I think the other thing is that after WW2 many Europeans were displaced and found themselves in a part of continental Europe that was not their home land, for many it became their home, but they continued to have relatives abroad and so down the generation people did travel more even within Europe to places which by then were quite different - culturally, economically, politically - than where they lived. Sheila
From: Sheila Ash Date: Sunday, February 08, 2004 11:10 AM And I just remembered that I did see the Caine version of the movie ...how could I have forgotten that, perhaps because I liked the older one better? Sheila
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, February 08, 2004 11:54 AM Pres, Thanks for posting that note about Dowd's theory of the mirror effect's influence on foreign policy. She made some excellent points. I did not dislike Fowler, although he was certainly not the kind of man I would like to have as a friend. His disengagement seemed to result from a pervasive depression. In the end, as Tonya pointed out, he did feel compelled to act. Ernie, I think Greene remains interesting to us today because he dealt so much with moral issues. I don't see much of that in recent literature. Sheila, Thank you so much for your comments. Judging from my personal experience, I think that Americans do not have much understanding of the rest of the world. Maybe it is the fault of our educational system, although I think the schools in recent years have made more of an attempt to teach students about the non-European world. I guess that doesn't explain the ignorance about Europe, however. :) People on CR are different because they read and listen to detailed news analyses like those on NPR. Too many people don't even read the newspaper. Regarding the domino theory, I did not mean to imply that it explained the fall of Eastern Europe to Communism after World War II. The presence of the Soviet Army explains that, and the Western leaders couldn't have done much about it unless they had been willing to fight Stalin as well as Hitler. However, I think the shock of seeing so many countries go Communist deeply affected American policy makers. They genuinely feared all of Asia could go the same way. One of their biggest mistakes was in seeing Communism as a monolithic movement. But then, hindsight is always better.
From: Sheila Ash Date: Sunday, February 08, 2004 01:58 PM Ann, There is a lot to commend the US educational system - its broadness compared to the narrowness in subject coverage with age found in English schools for instance - my understanding of the US one is that in many ways it is more akin to the French Baccalaureate. And I absolutely agree about the folks here at CR. Reading widely is what brrought us all together after all. Sheila
From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Sunday, February 08, 2004 02:26 PM As much as I admire Greene's THE QUIET AMERICAN, for my money his towering achievement is THE POWER AND THE GLORY. ~ Dale. That is my opinion also, though I didn't keep up with Greene's writing after my first prolonged wallow in the work published up to the time I discovered him. Even after all these years, the miasmic setting and the "whiskey priest" burble in my mind like bubbles in a swamp. (Golly gee!) TONYA AND ANN: Thanks both for the information about Fowler's development. pres
From: Anne Wilfong annewilfong@comcast.net Date: Monday, February 09, 2004 12:25 PM I just finished THE QUIET AMERICAN. It's my first exposure to Greene, though I have THE POWER AND THE GLORY and THE END OF THE AFFAIR on my shelf, courtesy of Dale's previous recommendations. I had difficulty, initially, getting into the book. I had to go back and reread the first chapter after finishing the book. Yes, it was hard keeping track of characters and timing. As for liking or disliking the characters, I really had no intense feelings for any of them. Fowler was detached and emotionally stunted, it seemed. I wasn't sure he really wanted that divorce, that he really loved Phoung, or that he really disliked Pyle. Maybe opium does that to you--makes you a little indifferent or willing to just go with the flow. Phuong reminded me of many stereotypical Asian women involved with GIs. You never see the crack in their veneer--the act devotedly to their man, but in essence, it could be ANY man. (Note I say "stereotypical". I have Asian female friends who do not fit this mold. I have GI guy friends who were involved with this kind of woman.) Pyle was confusing to me. He seemed as attached to Fowler as his dog was to him. Wanting to please. But also wanting to dominate by taking the woman. And wanting to talk about it so much. He seemed naive, until the incident of the market bombing. Then he seemed all to cold and calculating. Could someone possibly be as naive as to say they were better off dead for democracy? (Don't answer that!) All in all, this was an okay but not stellar reading experience. I did love some of Greene's prose. I think it's what kept me in the book initially, though that often won't happen for me with other novels. And, I was stunned when I checked the copywrite date after I finished. How did he know?? My version of the novel has the literary and movie criticisms, as well as biographical information. I haven't had a chance to delve into that yet. Don't know that I will. Thank you all for a great discussion ahead of me. It helped me understand what I read a bit better. I'm not certain, however, that I want to see the movie. Anne
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Monday, February 09, 2004 01:15 PM It's a really good movie, Anne. Give it a little time for the book to subside. It stands on its own. I think the story was better as a movie than as a book. It flowed better, and I bet you won't have any trouble keeping the characters and plot straight. Sherry
From: Anne Wilfong annewilfong@comcast.net Date: Monday, February 09, 2004 09:16 PM Okay. I'm thinking Tim would probably like the movie, too. Anne (who really doesn't watch many movies!)
From: Ernest Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 12:59 AM Dale, You talked me into reading the Power and the Glory once more. Strangely enough I don't remember a thing about this book. Ann & Barb, I talked Pat into reading the Quiet American and am very curious about her opinion about this book. In retrospect I was deeply touched by Fowler's feelings and actions. I see him as an overly sensitive person who tries to protect himself against further pain.His detachment is just superficial and he is able to do his work and get along with people. But his fear of being hurt once more resulted in superficial cynicism. Perhaps he feels himself incapable of a deep love relationship. But he does have his heart in the right place when it counts and this is what the book is about, i.e. the pain of getting "involved" against his will and better judgment. Ernie
From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@ivillage.com Date: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 07:05 AM I dreamed that the library book group met and got the next book and it was The Quiet American and I thought, I don't want to do this, I just read it for Constant Reader. Sherri
From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, February 11, 2004 12:45 PM Pres-- I agree with you that Fowler's utilitarian approach to people is an immoral stance. That is clearest when it comes to his relationship with Phuong. He says, many times, that when it comes to her, his actions are motivated by his desire for his own happiness. She is his insurance against a lonely old age. He convinces himself that she is resilient and that nothing he does can really hurt her. But I found Fowler bearable because he can't keep up this stance for the length of the book. He is horrified by the carnage of the "demonstration" in the square. (I have to admit, though, that when I run this passage through my mind's eye, I am not recalling anything in the book, but the look of devastation on Michael Caine's face. But I think GG's Fowler was genuinely disturbed, too.) Although his motives for entering into the action were certainly mixed -- and I think Greene makes it clear that Fowler was sure Pyle would be killed -- at least part of his motivation is to keep Pyle from doing more damage. I read somewhere (perhaps a link posted here?) that TQA is considered one of Greene's "entertainments" -- like The Third Man & other spy stuff -- not one of his "serious" novels. It seems plenty serious to me. Does Greene bring his preoccupation with moral conflict to all his "entertainments"? Mary Ellen
From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Wednesday, February 11, 2004 08:21 PM Mary Ellen: I do believe that Greene brings "his preoccupation with moral conflict to all his 'entertainments'" in the sense that whether he addresses the conflicts directly or not, they suffuse his outlook, even in the most relaxed of his works. pres
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, February 22, 2004 11:10 AM I have very much enjoyed reading this discussion. Sheila said: My understanding of this is it is not so much a domino effect as one of the world leaders drawing a line in the sand, straight through the heart of Europe and giving one half to Russia and one to the West. The US didnít watch this happen but actively directed this dissection. Churchill, F. Roosevelt and Stalin met in Yalta in Feb. 1945 and agreed to work together to bring about stability by the establishment of democratic governments in liberated Europe. No division lines were drawn. It was simply a matter of advancing until they met. They met in Berlin. As it became clear how the USSR intended to establish "democratic" governments in the parts of liberated Europe under its control, relations between East and West grew ever colder. A line was drawn, however, in Korea. It was agreed that, after the surrender of Germany, Russia would join the war against Japan in return for control in Korea. Japanese troops occupying Korea north of the 38th latitude would surrender to the USSR those south of it would surrender to the US. Mark Twain said that history doesn't repeat itself but it rhymes. In 1869, as a result of French engineering and Egyptian labour, the Suez Canal was completed http://www.sis.gov.eg/calendar/html/cl171196.htm In 1878 Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French engineer who built the Suez Canal, began to dig a canal across the Isthmus of Panama, which was then part of Colombia. The French were attempting to repeat what they had done in Suez by building a lock less canal but disease and engineering problems brought construction to a halt. In 1904, under President Theodore Roosevelt, "a locomotive in a three-piece suit," who was a strong proponent of US naval power, the US bought the rights to the canal and with better technology completed it in 1914. I cannot help but wonder if this American success in the jungle might not have given the US the idea that, in Vietnam, they could again succeed where the French had failed. I see another rhyme between the works of York Harding and the notion of "the white man's burden" which at its heart is arrogant and denigrating of other cultures. Rudyard Kipling had this to say about it http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Aegean/1457/poem6.htm If you're wondering how Kipling could have predicted the current American anguish concerning Iraq, look at the prefatory line to that poem on this site: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/Kipling.html All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, February 22, 2004 01:01 PM By the way, might this be the Graham Greene story about the pig on the balcony which was mentioned earlier: http://www.wh1.tu-dresden.de/~andy/englisch/literature/greene/texts/accident.html All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, February 22, 2004 06:13 PM Dean, I like that idea of history not repeating itself, but rhyming. I guess Kipling didn't have any native "friends," although he lived in India for some years: Take up the White Man's burden-- And reap his old reward: The blame of those ye better, The hate of those ye guard-- The cry of hosts ye humour (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:-- "Why brought he us from bondage, Our loved Egyptian night?" Ouch! Ann
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Tuesday, February 24, 2004 05:57 PM Ann, I don't see this as KIpling's appraisal of another culture but what those who have taken up the "burden" think is the justification for the slow "progress." All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, February 24, 2004 10:15 PM But I think Kipling agreed with those white men who felt they were assuming a "burden" and doing all those childlike creatures a favor. Ann
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, February 25, 2004 05:30 PM I don't think that he did agree. He says Send forth the best ye breed -- Go bind your sons to exile If he agreed he would say "Send forth our sons..." What will your sons do? To serve your captives' need; To wait in heavy harness On fluttered folk and wild -- Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half devil and half child. To serve as jail keepers to to the people you claim to have freed. For what? To seek another's profit, And work another's gain. All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Wednesday, February 25, 2004 10:49 PM Dean, You could be right, but Kipling was a very strong supporter of imperialism, so I don't think he meant the poem as a satire. Ann
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, February 26, 2004 04:53 PM Sounds to me like this poem is a warning against going down the road to imperialism. It's almost sarcastic about the belief that a country would get involved with another country for anything other than self-interest. Governments, regardless of how they are formed, exist for the sole purpose of promoting the interests of the people who form them. All roads lead to roam. Dean

 
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