“The Quiet American” by Graham Greene

Graham Green’s Quiet American was mentioned several times in Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke, which I recently finished and admired. Green’s book is set earlier in time, during the French occupation of Vietnam. Fowler is a weary, middle-aged reporter covering the conflict. He’s built a comfortable life for himself in Saigon, with a beautiful mistress and an opium habit. All this is jeopardized with the arrival of Pyle, the well-intentioned quiet American of the title.

Captain Trouin insisted that night on being my host in the opium house….he watched me as I stretched out for my second pipe. ‘I envy you your means of escape.’

‘It’s not from the war. That’s no concern of mine. I’m not involved.’

‘You will all be. One day….you will take a side….We all get involved in a moment of emotion, and then we cannot get out.’

I saw the film a few years ago. I thought it was quite good, and now think it is a faithful adaptation of this spare, well-written novel.

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