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Our Man in Havana: An Entertainment (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – January 1, 1995

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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews


Graham Greene's new "Entertainment" offers only a questionable diversion this time, substitutes a lightminded travesty of secret service operations (the intentions are not too clearly decipherable) for the surer suspense of the earlier books in this genre. Wormold, a vacuum cleaner representative in Havana, a middle-aged man whose daughter is his prime security interest, is tapped as secret agent number 59200 stroke five by the British Secret Service. With "no accomplice except the credulity of other men", Wormold turns in bogus reports and fabulous diagrams (vacuum cleaner parts), recruits an extensive payroll of imaginary sub-agents, and rigs an elaborate deception which backfires when one of his men materializes- only to be killed, his friend Hasselbacher is a second victim, and he is a potential third... For all the occasional overtones and undercuts, this is no more than a genial form of nonsense in which Greene is not at his best. This still may be good enough for a great many people to whom the name assumes more than is this time assured. (Kirkus Reviews) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

Mr. Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman in a city of powercuts, becomes a spy to earn extra income. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (September 3, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140184937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140184938
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #304,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

128 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
This 1958 novel was a complete surprise to me. I'd read three books by this author before and found them dark and introspective. But "Our Man in Havana" is a satirical spoof and I found myself giggling throughout. It deals with a theme that Greene has revisited on many occasions - that of a spy in a foreign country. But this time, it's all in fun, although between the 220 pages of this slim volume, he manages to say a few important things about social class, the Catholic Church, and the absurdity of international relations.
The hero of the story is Jim Wormold, a divorced vacuum cleaner salesman from England in pre-Castro Cuba. His 17-year-old daughter is growing up fast and he finds he needs money. So when the British Secret Service recruits him, he invents a whole world of secret agents and intrigues just to keep the money flowing. He is even sent a secretary, which introduces a bit of romance to the outrageous plot. All of a sudden, the lies he has invented seem to be coming true and the plot thickens, moving along at a breakneck pace. I was totally involved, and found myself laughing out loud at times. What a delightful read! Highly recommended.
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63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Andrew McCaffrey VINE VOICE on March 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
I went into OUR MAN IN HAVANA with very few expectations. I was under the vague impression that it was a thriller of sorts and I somehow knew that there had a been a film made out of it a number of decades back. So I was a bit surprised when I started reading the book and found out that it was a comedy. Surprised and delighted, because OUR MAN turned out to be one of the more understated and enjoyable satires that I've read in a good long time.
The book is a smart send up of a lot of the standard material one would have found in the noir films and books of the time (the novel was published in 1958, when the genre was starting to wear itself out). A British secret agent, looking to increase his community of contacts, has arranged for an ordinary vacuum cleaner salesman to file reports of any unusual activity in the area. The merchant, Mr. Wormold, reluctantly agrees to this arrangement for no reason other than the lure of extra money; he has a teenage daughter with very expensive tastes (to whit: men and horses). To keep himself employable, Wormold constructs a whole world of intrigue to write home about. The back-cover hints at one of the book's funnier gags, but all of Wormold's fictions (and especially the reaction they receive at the other end) are hilarious.
Despite the comic portions of the plot, the characters themselves are allowed to retain a certain dignity. The prose is also as lush as one would expect from a Graham Greene novel. One particular scene stood out as a wonderful piece of writing. Placing two main characters inside a dark, dingy saloon, Greene describes the other inhabitants as looking like paratroopers about to parachute out of an airplane. Their quick glances at the door and their hushed demeanor are all exquisitely described.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
More successful than most of Greene's "entertainments," this comic spy tale set in pre-Castro Cuba concerns an insignificant little man-a vacuum cleaner salesman to be precise-who, against his better judgment, becomes MI6's "man in Havana." A longtime Havana resident, Englishman Jim Wormold is divorced, but the custodian of his beautiful, Catholic teenage daughter, Millie. One day he is approached by Hawthorne-a hilariously daft MI6 agent, whose speech is littered with upper crust slang-who shanghais him into becoming a spy. Although he is resistant to the whole notion, his best friend (a German named Hasselbacher), suggests he simply manufacture his sources and intelligence and take the ample money. Millie's expensive tastes and his own devotion to her result in his succumbing to this temptation, and he spends a few happy weeks inventing subagents and fake intelligence. For the first time in years he's doing something interesting, and no longer has money worries-in the funniest bit, he submits drawings of vacuum cleaner parts as sketches of a new Cuban weapons installation.
Of course, this being Greene, complications arise. He is sent reinforcements from the London office, and must scramble to keep them in the dark as to his deception. At the same time, his inventions seem to be taking on a life of their own as people start dying around him, and somebody seems to think he's a real spy. Integral to all this is the ever-present Captain Seguras, a policeman of some renown as a sadist who seeks Millie's hand in marriage. Although a deep melancholy and tragedy lurks in the background, and there's a rather lame love injected, it remains a delightfully absurd tale, one of Greene's better efforts.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By W. Weinstein on September 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
In this novel, set in Cuba in the days before Castro, Mr Greene is at his most ironic. He tells the tale of Jim Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman who lives quietly in Havana and worries about his devoutly Catholic teenage daughter whom he is raising as a single parent. He is unexpectedly recruited, in a public toilet, by the British Secret Service to "keep an eye on things" in Cuba. When no obvious "things" present themselves, Wormold decides to invent agents and situations to pad his reports. But then things start to go wrong and reality begins to mirror fiction.
Graham Greene captures the sleepy, sensual heat of the Caribbean perfectly. His characters are extraordinarily vividly painted and the book lurches wildly from comedy to tragedy to farce, damning the bureaucrats, the police and the sinister, grey men of the secret services along the way. With The Comedians and Brighton Rock this must surely rank as one of Mr Greene's best entertainments.
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