Fowler's mistress, a beautiful native girl, creates a catalyst for jealousy and competition between the men and a cultural clash resulting in bloodshed and deep misgivings.
Written in 1955, prior to the Vietnam conflict, The Quiet American foreshadows the events leading up to the Vietnam War. Questions surrounding the moral ambiguity of the involvement of the United States in foreign countries are as relevant today as they were 50 years ago.
©1983 Graham Greene; (P)1993 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"There has been no novel of any political scope about Vietnam since Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American." (Harper's)
"Greene is a superb storyteller. He evokes the most actual streets, the most vivid skies, and individuals who can have a lacerating reality as they search the labyrinth of their lives." (Newsweek)
Because Audible asks us about performance, I feel that I should bring it up. But first, because of a recent trip to Viet Nam, I decided to get and listen to this book. The story, itself, is remarkable and very prescient regarding American impending tragic and misguided involvement into Southeast Asia. But at it's heart, "The Quiet American" is a tale of two dissimilar men and their love for a beautiful Vietnamese woman. One man is an older British newspaperman saddled with a wife back in England. The other is a young, naive, low level, diplomat from Boston. The bonds, these two forge in friendship and rivalry, whether in a Saigon dance club or in the heat of battle, takes up the majority of this book.
Unfortunately, Joseph Porter, fails miserably on all accounts in his narrating. Aside from his stilted readings of prose that is both beautiful and exciting, his accents, age and sex differentiation's are atrocious. His Englishmen seem to all come from some strange middle-class. Fowler, the stories narrator, is a mid-fifties hard drinking and smoking Londoner and yet he sounds like bland radio personality. Pyle his rival and friend is even worse, sounding like a late forties mid-westerner with an sixth grade reading level. All the other characters just sound canned-spaggetti versions of real people.
Seriously, forget listening and read the book.
Audilble please redo this classic and terrific story with a much better voice.
While the story was intriguing enough, the narration was a great distraction. The attempt at an American accent (that should have been Bostonian but came across as a bad Southern accent) was poor to be generous. If you want to know what the American accent sounded like, watch Young Frankenstein and listen to the character "Inspector Kemp." It was to say the least very distracting, bordering on annoying.
I had to read this book for a U.S. History course in college. I got through a good portion of the book by reading - but decided to buy the audiobook as listening is much more convienent. After 5 minutes of listening I had to turn it off. The narrator is so unlively and boring that it made the book unbearable. Take caution and listen to the sample before buying.
I still give it two stars, because the story is excellent for those who are history junkies :]
Retired teacher of literature with an interest in religion and in science and in history. I have loved reading for 50 years.
The Quiet American of the title is not the simple aide worker he seems to be...he has been sent to Vietnam to open a door for American influence, to secure a place for American power to grow from a tiny beginning. The American government sees that the French are about to lose the country, and the Americans do not plan to stand by and let the country go "communist."
Greene astutely points out that to the peasants in the rice fields, who have been there for hundreds of years and will be there for hundreds more, the style of government in the capital, whether it be Hanoi or Saigon or elsewhere, matters little. The rice farmer is concerned with his work and with feeding his family...he knows nothing of the democracy of the Greeks or of the socialism of Marx.
But powerful nations are determined to play out their chess game in Vietnam, indeed in all of Indochina. And this quiet American is calm on the surface but roiling inside with his idealism of saving these little brown brothers from the evil of communism....saving them even at the cost of killing a few, or more than a few of them in the process.
Along with a morally ambiguous plot, standard in Greene novels, there is an unusual love story involving two western men who are captured by the allure of a young and beautiful Vietnamese woman. For both men she is life itself...but she may also be death, perhaps for the one who wins her and also for the one who loses her.
An earlier reviewer did not like the narrator, the reader of the audiobook. Like him, I say listen to a sample. I did not find the reader to be unsatisfactory. For me, the reader simply disappeared as I got caught up in the story. Isn't that the way it should be?
People need to take it easy on the narrator. His upper crust British accent is perfect for the material. His "American accent" is a bit distracting at first, mostly because of all of the horrible reviews it got. It isn't that big of a deal. He uses it relatively rarely throughout because the book contains much more narrative than dialogue. The writing is exquisite.
A storyteller, reader, and writer (in that chronological order) since childhood, Audible helps me to bring all 3 together.
Most of the interest of this story relies on the fascinating, and engaging character of the narrator, a cynical British journalist, whose moral sense is paradoxically awakened by the naive, seemingly-innocent, but fundamentally even more corrupt idealism of a crusading young American. The title misrepresents the book in my opinion: it's less about this man than the Brit who tells the story, and the American is not all that quiet, either. But it's a superb story, with a surprise ending. Even more surprising to me, is that it came from Graham Greene. I'd thought of him more or less as a Catholic author, but any limitations suggested by that label are blown out of the water by this book. Its moral subtlety and irony is like Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Doctrinaire Catholics (or doctrinaire anything) would certainly be disturbed by it.
However, the narration was ... well, tolerable is all I can say. At times, the narrator speaks mechanically, as if he's reciting a text. At other time, he comes more alive, but it's very uneven. He adopts a cynical tone, which is quite appropriate for the novel's narrator, but he overdoes it, using it all the time, even for situations where it sounds incongruous.
Say something about yourself!
This is absolutely one of my favorite Graham Greene novels, one that I have reread three times now. It provides a very unique insight into Vietnam during the 1950s prior to direct US involvement. Though the narration is uneven and the American accents in particular are dreadful, do not let that get in the way of this incredible story.
The Quiet American is an interesting, engaging and beautifully written novel inspired by Greene's own experiences as a war correspondent. Unfortunately, the audio is terrible. The narration was one of the worst I have ever heard. He has a very nasally voice with very odd inflections.
The worst part of his narration was the attempt at American accent. One of the main characters, who was supposedly from Boston, was rendered with an American Southern twang blended with British/English accent. The Vietnamese characters sounded very much like a racist comedy sketch. It was so bad that I spend the entire first hour trying to figure out how to return the book or consumed with horror at the awfulness of it all. Eventually, I sped it up to make it through it as fast as possible. To be far, the narration improves (or I just got used to it) after the first half because Pyle (the American) has less dialogue but overall the audio really destroyed my ability to truly the story.
The sample provided does not give you a good sense of how terrible it really sounds because the it doesn't let you hear the American accent (and this character is quite prominent). That said, it's a good book so I would highly recommend that you pass on the audible version and buy the hard copy or ebook.
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