Graham Greene seems to stay in the mind of a good number of people, but he seems to have fallen off the popular radar for sure. I am somewhat abashed to admit that it was only recently that I finally picked up Our Man in Havana on a whim at the library (my usual brainstorming activity). I haven’t even seen the Carol Reed film with its stellar cast apart from a few clips here and there.
Hmmm, looks like there’s a TOA/V I’ll need to do as well.
Greene books I tend to either dive in at once or never get there at all. Happy to say that this is one of the former. Despite the cringingly archaic casual racism of the first page the hangdog humour and laconic air of despair suck you in immediately. Jim Wormold is not one of the winners of the world and you know that things are going to spin out of control before he realises it, because life is pretty much a baffling trial to him before events get complicated.
Espionage shenanigans in Cuba could be the stuff of serious drama (and of course have been) but Greene’s touch here is so deft and light that you can’t really feel the terrible weight of the events though terrible they must be. Cuba maintains a seedy sort of presence and the ridiculousness of the spy trade comes out brilliantly in Greene’s satirical take.
Some quotes to give you an idea of the delight you’re in for:
“We none of us have a great expectation of life nowadays so why worry?”
“You should dream more, Mr Wormold. Reality in our century is not something to be faced.”
“Seeing her walk, you could almost believe in levitation.”
“Worlmold thought, if the overdraft had been fifty thousand instead dollars, he would have called me Jim.”
“In a mad world it always seems simpler to obey.”
“Childhood was the germ of all mistrust…Schools were said to construct character by chipping off the edges. His edges had been chipped, but the result had not, he thought, been character — only shapelessness, like an exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art.”
If you haven’t indulged in this, do pick it up. It’s a classic for a reason and great fun.