Three men meet on a ship bound for Haiti, where corruption and terror reign. Disillusioned and noncommittal, they are the “comedians” of Greene’s title, hiding from life’s pain and love behind their chosen masks.
©1965 Graham Greene (P)1993 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Graham Greene arouses responses of curiosity and attention comparable to those set up by Malraux…Faulkner and Hemingway.” (New Statesman)
"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
"We mustn't complain too much of being comedians—it's an honourable profession. If only we could be good ones the world might gain at least a sense of style. We have failed—that's all. We are bad comedians, we aren't bad men."
I started out thinking I was going to just listen to a 'minor' Greene, and finished the novel once again shocked by my ability to completely underestimate Greene once again. The Comedians is a dark tragedy set in a Haitian Hell ruled by Papa Doc and his Tonton Macoute. Into this tortured hell floats Brown, the Smiths and Jones. This sad troupe each struggles with overcoming fear, death, love and apathy while dancing on the edge of the abyss. It reminded me a little of Under the Volcano, but instead of one man's struggle with mescal, it is humanity's struggle with apathy and fear.
I don't think he necessarily meant it that way, but his delivery came off snide and condescending instead of ironic and empathic. I don't think Haitians sound as he made them sound, and his American accents were lame caricatures.
I would, if only to get a sense of Haiti during the Duvalier regime.
The details Greene poured into this world. You got a strong sense he had seen at least some of the events that occurred in this world.
I had a hard time differentiating between some of his voices, especially for Brown and Jones. His attempts at an American accent for Mr. and Mrs. Smith came off as attempts rather than authentic.
You'll like this: it's an interesting exploration of life in Cold War Haiti with compelling characters and an important but tragic lesson for those who think they can remake societies.
Although it was hard to read, this was a very insightful book. The book was thick with foreign words, locations and references to foreign events. It would behoove you to look up many words and phrases. However, it is not required to understand the plot of the book.
Words to especially look up:
I went to Haiti in 1986, two days after Baby Doc left. I was immersed in the foreknowledge of VooDoo thanks to an excellent book (later a horrible movie) titled "Serpent & The Rainbow". I was able to see a whole different layer of complexity thanks to the author's experience recorded in the book.
So I read "The Comedians" with vested interest. I wanted historical facts as much as anything. And I got that.
What was missing was story. Though full of color, it was thin in meaning. I didn't care about the people. Ever.
And the reader's voice didn't help.
It is a wonderful, disturbing story. I would not recommend this version because the reader preforms his task so poorly. I have listened to dozens of recorded books. This was the worst performance I have heard.
The End of the Affair, of course.
I was astounded at how badly the book was read. The reader's attempts at accents were...I don't know what to say...a little like a stew made by a drunken house-painter. Beyond that, the reader betrayed no understanding of timing, inflection, or the intent of the author. He almost manages to ruin the story itself...but not quite.
I somehow missed that Joseph Porter was the narrator. He is a truly awful voice talent. I couldn't get past chapter 2. I don't know if it is a good story - I just can't get past his narration.
Anyone. Really, anyone else.
No. When I listen to a book, I want to believe in the narrator's voice. I want to believe in the accents. As far as I could tell, Porter read it with some type of British accent, which he flattened to indicate an American, and well, I'm not sure what he did to indicate a Haitian. Certainly, his French accent is inexcusable--nearly unintelligible.
If I have no choice...
"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players...."
Read _Seeds of Fiction_ by Bernard Diederich first. It will increase your enjoyment: he sets the scene for Greene so nicely.Haiti is a difficult world to explain to ordinary folk. It is difficult, first of all, to explain that the Haitian people can be so wonderful yet be oppressed by such terrible dictators time and again. Is it the fault of America, as Greene suggests? It certainly is true that America saw so many communist bogey men in the bushes it failed to recognize the TonTon Macoutes as being more detrimental to the health and well-being of the "tired and poor, yearning to be free" than any Castro. And WAS Papa Doc that bad? No, he was worse even than that. Are there men and women alive today that see to the heart of goodness, as the Smiths did? It certainly is difficult to juxtapose the two: Smith and Duvalier. The absolute is difficult to swallow, yet there do exist absolutely good people. As there also exists absolutely evil ones. This book is peopled with both of them, yet one cannot/should not forget that it is also peopled with the rank and file, the company troupe, as it were, of actors, who learn their lines and continue to repeat them, never learning from a new script. The comedians.
Porter's voice has a tenseness that conveys the fallibility of the novel's protagonist very well.
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