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The Quiet American (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) Paperback – November 5, 1991

269 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This edition of Greene's novel "of sexual intrigue, savage warfare, and some mystery" (LJ 3/1/56) is the newest member of the Viking "Critical Library" series. Along with the full text of the novel, the volume includes criticism of the work plus biographical information and essays on Greene. Nice for the price.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


"No serious writer of this century has more thoroughly invaded and shaped the public imagination than Graham Greene." —Time --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (November 5, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140185003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140185003
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (269 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,415,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

287 of 299 people found the following review helpful By Andrew McCaffrey VINE VOICE on July 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
I can honestly say that I've spent more time thinking about the events of Graham Greene's THE QUIET AMERICAN than of any other book I've read in months. In short, this is the story of America's involvement in Vietnam, full stop. Astounding is the fact that this was written between 1952 and 1955, yet can serve as a metaphor for almost two further decades of US involvement in that region.
This is no simple tale, although it can be read as one. It works on many different levels. In its simplest form, this is a story about two foreigners in Indo-China: a middle-aged British reporter, and a young idealistic American. They involve themselves in two main plots: one concerning the French Army's battle with the Vietminh, and the second, concerning the two men's relationship with a native woman and the subsequent fight for her affections. On this level, THE QUIET AMERICAN works as an effective thriller. Who is the mysterious "third force" that Pyle, the American, is aiding? Why is he even there, and why is he providing aid to this group? Will Fowler, the British journalist, abandon his policy of neutrality and enter into the conflict? Who will end up with the girl at the end?
But there are all sorts of other subtexts and subtleties going on here. Pyle isn't just "the quiet American"; he is America -- at least as far as the US's involvement in Vietnam is concerned. And the difference in age between Pyle and Fowler is no random chance. Fowler is the older man; his country has already had its expansionist, colonial period. Fowler already knows what it's like to get one's fingers burnt interfering in other people's conflicts. But Pyle won't be told. He's the young inexperienced man who has to find out for himself -- to the detriment of everyone.
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148 of 161 people found the following review helpful By Maginot on February 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
Only the great Graham Greene could have written a story that is as wry and understated as it is prophetic. "The Quiet American" captures several different attitudes during Vietnam's transition from French colonial occupation to American "involvement". In this novel the French do what they do best, namely they undertake a hopeless struggle and experience painful defeat. The Americans enter the scene with grandiose plans, tons of money, and utterly no sense of reality. The Vietnamese are, of course, hard-edged and practical, while the lone Englishman-God bless him-is the epitome of dying yet dignified colonialism.
For those of you who haven't read the book, its both an odd love story and a metaphor for American involvement in Vietnam. The hero, Fowler is a washed up, middle aged, English war correspondent, content with his opium pipe and his Vietnamese mistress, Phuong. His world is gradually disrupted by the arrival of an American covert operative named Pyle who is both a zealous ideologue and a naïve optimist. Things get complicated when Pyle steals Phuong away from Fowler, yet attempts to remain friends with him. The normally indifferent Fowler soon becomes morally repulsed by Pyle's seemingly well intended terrorist activities, and gradually becomes politically involved. By the time Fowler helps to engineer Pyle's murder it is unclear even to him whether he is doing so to help the Vietnamese people or to win Phuong back.
"The Quite American" explores several different concepts. Like many of Greene's novels and short stories it examines the peculiar morality of love. Fowler and Phuong form a strange symbiosis. Fowler is estranged from is English wife, and is old enough to be Phuong's father.
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91 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
Graham Greene wrote this novel in 1955. It's set in the early fifties when Vietnam was still Indo-China and there was a war raging between the French and the Vietnamese. It's obvious he's worried about the future and American involvement, and this theme resonates throughout the book as well as gives an eerie foreshadowing of what we all know happened later. At only 188 pages, it's a seemingly simple story of mystery, adventure and love. But it's also a story of a people, a place and a time as well as a warning about the future.
Thomas Fowler, the narrator, is a hardened British war correspondent. He in a relationship young Vietnamese woman named Phuong, enjoys his opium pipes, and manages to get along with his fellow correspondents. Suddenly, a young naïve American, named Alden Pyle, arrives in Vietnam, supposedly as an aid worker. When he declares his love for Phuong, the plot thickens. But this is just one facet of the story as both men are thrust into the war, viewing the meaningless deaths around them and coming very close to death themselves. Pyle's mission to Indo-China becomes increasingly suspect, and as Fowler discovers one clue after another, the conclusion is inevitable.
I was immediately drawn into the story, which sets up a mystery and keeps the reader wondering until the very end. At the same time, the three main characters are deeply developed, not only as to their individualisms, but also as to their national character. The British correspondent takes a caustic view of the world; the American is effusive and idealistic, and the Vietnamese woman is stoic. They move around in a Vietnam where the French are fast losing their hold, and everyone knows that change is going to happen.
I loved this book. Every word reverberated with a truth that existed when it was written, and which proved to be a prophesy of things to come. It also enriched my understanding of the dark period in history that followed. Highly recommended.
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