Greene’s ‘The Quiet American’

There must be two major caveats to giving Greene’s novels a 5-star rating. First, the way the characters come to symbolise their countries can’t help but be a little strained. Second, the book is drenched in a kind of soft orientalism, which plays out mostly in the character of Phuong, so distand and unfathomable, so other, so passive, so seen from without. It’s an orientalism that can’t help but be open to feminist critique. And yet, what a beautifully constructed book that almost perfectly marries the political and the personal. Some of the lines are magnificent. A brilliant achievement. I loved it.

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