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The Comedians (Penguin Classics) Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (January 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143039199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143039198
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

One of Graham Greene's most chilling and prophetic novels, The Comedians is set in a Haiti ruled by Papa Doc and the Tontons Macoute, his sinister secret police. Just as The Quiet American offered a preview of the coming horrors of American involvement in Vietnam, this novel presages the chaos in Haiti. Classic Graham Greene. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Laughter is possible even in the dark night of Haiti...a vision that is at once comic and intensely serious...a major novel. -- Roger Sharrock --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This is a good story which is entertaining.
Kevin M Quigg
We also meet Mr. and Mrs. Smith, naive American do gooders who absurdly want to open a vegetarian center in the midst of Haiti's nightmarish capital.
John Sollami
THE COMEDIANS by Graham Greene is one of Greene's books that is a must-read for his fans and those who are interested in taking him up.
Stacey M Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 67 people found the following review helpful By IRA Ross on June 12, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Graham Greene's forte lay in writing novels (and "entertainments") of political intrigue. I do not know if this master British novelist visited any or all of the countries about which he wrote. Mr. Greene seemed to have considerable knowledge of both the current and near recent political and societal conditions of the countries that formed the backdrop of his books. For example, in _The Comedians_ Mr. Greene shows an unusual grasp of the extreme poverty and deprivation suffered by Haitian people living under Papa Doc Duvalier's corrupt, dictatorial, and totalitarian regime as well as the extreme human rights violations and abuses of Papa Doc's sadistic secret police, the Tontons Macoute. Several characters in the book note with some irony vis-a-vis American foreign policy, that as bad as Papa Doc seems, he is at least a strong anti-Communist.
Graham Greene does something very unusual with his major caucasian characters: he gives them very common, non-descript surnames. The reader never learns their first names. The narrator of the novel, an Englishman, is merely called "Mr. Brown." He runs a financially deteriorating hotel in Haiti that he inherits from his mother. Like the author, Mr. Brown is a fallen-away Catholic. A British soldier of fortune and con artist who comes to Haiti is simply called Major Jones or just "Mr. Jones." His talents consist mainly in charming women and in telling funny jokes. An American couple, named Mr. and Mrs. Smith, come to Haiti hopefully to set up a vegetarian center. Mr. Smith ran in the 1948 U.S. presidential election on the Vegetarian Line. He is derisively referred to as "the Presidential Candidate" throughout the novel and utilizes this sobriquet as a method of influencing the Duvalier government to approve of his scheme.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By R. J. Marsella on January 7, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The novel opens on a cruise ship steaming toward Haiti. We meet a diverse group of characters who are revealed through the device of setting them in a game of cards on board ship.
Brown, the primary character and narrator is returning to Haiti to reclaim a hotel he inherited and through his eyes we see the political changes occurring in the country and are made aware of the ominous threat of the Tonton Macoute secret police that hangs over the entire story adding dramatic tension.
Jones , his fellow passenger is revealed to be a con-man who gets by on his ability to make others laugh (one of the comedians) . Smith a failed presidential candidate from the US is naively seeking to establish a vegetarian center in Haiti seemingly oblivious to the turmoil all around him.
Brown's romance with the wife of a diplomat provides a subplot that mirrors the theme that everyone is deceiving someone. The comedians all prove to be actors playing on a stage filled with political violence and the everpresent threat of more to come.
This was a very engaging novel and if not Greene's most well known book it may be one of his best. I enjoyed it and highly recommend it for it's memorable characters and stunning evocation of a country approaching chaos.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Doug Vaughn HALL OF FAME on December 29, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
To call a novel about the most horribly repressive and violent period in Hatian history The Comedians is typical Graham Greene irony. The main characters, Jones (a Brit expatriate on the run from a never disclosed shady past), Smith (a vegetarian crusader who was once a splinter candidate for U.S. president), and Brown (a man of no real country who has inherited a run down hotel in Haiti from his absent mother) are all rootless failures playing at life who are brought together in Haiti during a time of terror and political chaos when the country was descending into a kind of primitive madness. Against their will and in ways they don't anticipate, they are each sucked into the vortex. How they respond highlights the questions that Greene is forever posing about faith, redemption, commitment and responsibility.
The dreams of each character, flimsy as they are, are doomed to fail in a land where utilities and civil order have broken down, where beggers predominate and order is maintained by the Tontons Macoute, the zombie figures in dark glasses who dispense Papa Doc's brutal 'justice' and leave the evidence of it lying beside the road. Smith, who with his wife, wants to start a vegetarian center in the Haitian capitol, flees the country when he realizes that he must resort to bribes for the simplest permissions and even then the promises are a sham. Jones, who tries to con the Hatian government into buying arms that he doesn't possess, is uncovered as a fraud and flees to a South American embassy for protection (the British don't want him - or want him too much).
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By John Sollami on September 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
Graham Greene did not feel this was his favorite work, and according to Paul Theroux, it's not his best. [Read Theroux's introduction, which should have been called the Afterword, AFTER reading the book.] Yet this novel captures a historic time and the fate of a "failed state" under the spell of a mad dictator, Papa Doc Duvalier, whose obsessions with Voodoo and power engender perpetual terror and ruin, enforced by his personal goon squad, the sunglass-clad Toutons Macoute. Greene brilliantly divides the world into "comedians" and those who actually do something. We meet a rich mix of both, beginning with Brown, Smith, and Jones, the comics, on a Dutch ship with a Greek name, the Medea, in Greek mythology an enchantress who repeatedly resorted to murder to gain her ends, like Papa Doc and others in this enchanting book. Greene weaves a tight narrative, for the most part, where dialog comes at you in staccato fashion, revealing the soft spots, lies, and bluffs of each speaker. Brown, Greene's persona, narrates the book and shows himself to be a brooding egotist dwelling on his lost father and falsely promising youth at the Jesuit College of the Visitation at Monte Carlo, where his mother had abandoned him. He's the jealous, possessive sort, a lapsed Catholic who has replaced his faith with unattainable romance. His lover, Martha, the wife of a South American diplomat, is always in his thoughts, even though he attempts to keep her out. He dwells on her every word. Greene gives their secret affair a real feel of desperation and passion, mixed with distrust and futility. We also meet Mr. and Mrs. Smith, naive American do gooders who absurdly want to open a vegetarian center in the midst of Haiti's nightmarish capital. Then there's Jones, a grifter who is the victim of his own comic farce.Read more ›
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