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Book Title: Omul Nostru Din Havana|
The author of the book: Graham Greene
Edition: Editura Polirom
Date of issue: 2005
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 842 KB
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Reader ratings: 5.6
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Graham Greene is one of the most highly regarded British authors of the 20th century. The American novelist John Irving has paid tribute to him, calling him,
"the most accomplished living novelist in the English language."
Very popular as a thriller-writer, writing "entertainments", as he called them, Graham Greene also wrote deeply serious Catholic novels, which received much literary acclaim, although he never actually won the Nobel prize for Literature. In these he examined contemporary moral and political issues through a Catholic perspective. Many of them are powerful Christian portrayals, concerning the struggles within the individual's soul. He argued vehemently against being characterised as a "Catholic novelist" however, saying that he was a novelist who happened to be a Catholic. Graham Greene had been an unhappy child, attempting suicide several times according to his autobiography, and as an adult he suffered from bi-polar disorder. Of this, he said,
"Unfortunately, the disease is also one's material."
Our Man in Havana though is a product of the other side of Greene's imagination. It is a humorous suspense novel; a spoof spy story, incorporating two of his favourite themes - espionage and politics. Greene had actually been recruited by MI6 during World War II, and had worked in counter-espionage. Earlier, in 1922, he had been a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. His experience from such times provided much of the inspiration for the characters in Our Man in Havana. In it he pokes fun at the intelligence services, especially the British MI6. Yet the novel also has a darkly philosophic edge, and its conclusion is very bleak.
Our Man in Havana was written in 1958, and set in Cuba before the missile crisis of 1962. In some ways the book feels very reminiscent of spy stories dating from World War II, and in others, such as the parts of the plot about missile installations, it seems to anticipate coming events.
The tone of the novel is light and droll, occasionally lapsing into outright farce. There is little description; the language is simple and direct to the point of being spare. Graham Greene's realism and lean writing - his readability - is considered to be one of his greatest strengths. One critic has said,
"nothing deflects Greene from the main business of holding the reader's attention."
The main character in the story is James Wormold, a mild-mannered vacuum salesman who seems oddly isolated in Cuba. He is surrounded by other characters described in high relief, his manipulative Catholic daughter Millie, a political gangster Segura, and his closest friend who is also an isolated enigma, the World War I veteran, Dr. Hasselbache. When the bumbling Wormold, desperate for money to indulge his spendthrift daughter, is approached by Hawthorne, he is at first disbelieving. (view spoiler)[Hawthorne offers him a job working for the British secret service, which Wormold has misgivings about. However he slips into the job, conjuring up whatever seems to be demanded of him, drawing complicated diagram of bits of his vacuum cleaners to represent various missile components, and inventing fictitious contacts. (hide spoiler)]
"It astonished Wormold how quickly he could reply to any questions about his characters; they seemed to live on the threshold of consciousness - he had only to turn a light on and there they were, frozen in some characteristic action."
As the events unfold, Wormold's descriptions become increasingly elaborate and, to a reader's eye, the scenarios unlikely and farcical, with Wormold himself ruminating on the way his life is proceeding.
"People similar to himself had done this, men who allowed themselves to be recruited while sitting in lavatories, who opened hotel doors with other men's keys and received instructions in secret ink and in novel uses for Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare. There was always another side to a joke, the side of the victim."
(view spoiler)[The willingness of MI6 to believe reports from their local informants becomes more and more astonishing - and more and more deadly. (hide spoiler)]
"He had no accomplice except the credulity of other men."
Yet in the middle of his humdrum life, real people were becoming the victims, people he knew, people who had been his friends. Life for Wormold was beginning to take on a surreal aspect,
"Somebody always leaves a banana-skin on the scene of tragedy."
Wormold becomes entangled in a web of his own making, inadvertent as it is. The abstract idea has become the individual - his individual - responsibility.
"I don't care a damn about men who are loyal to the people who pay them, to organisations ... I don't think even my country means all that much. There are many countries in our blood, aren't there, but only one person. Would the world be in the mess it is if we were loyal to love and not to countries?"
At times like this we can see Greene's underlying message,
"If I love or if I hate, let me love or hate as an individual," says Wormold, and the author himself has said,
"In human relationships, kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths."
The book is a bitter black farce, with an ending as much of a "banana-skin" as any I have ever read, with Wormold partly a puppet, partly a numb automaton, and partly ridiculously incompetent. Depending on your sense of humour, you may find the climax hysterically funny.
"There's not much difference between the two machines any more than there is between two human beings, one Russian - or German - and one British. There would be no competition and no war if it wasn't for the ambition of a few men in both firms; just a few men dictate competition and invent needs and set Mr Carter and myself at each other's throats."
Our Man In Havana was famously filmed by Carol Reed, with Alec Guinness playing the part of Wormold. Many of Graham Greene's novels, plays and short stories have been adapted for film or television. He is perhaps one of the most cinematic of twentieth-century writers; he tells a good yarn, an exciting adventure story. However this one perhaps had more resonance at the time. The themes of an individual against an organised society, of conscience and responsibility; these are timeless, yes. But it could be said that the specific setting now feels rather dated.
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Read information about the authorHenry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenplay writer, travel writer and critic whose works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene combined serious literary acclaim with wide popularity.
Although Greene objected strongly to being described as a “Catholic novelist” rather than as a “novelist who happened to be Catholic,” Catholic religious themes are at the root of much of his writing, especially the four major Catholic novels: Brighton Rock, The Heart of the Matter, The End of the Affair, and The Power and the Glory. Works such as The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana and The Human Factor also show an avid interest in the workings of international politics and espionage.
(Excerpted from Wikipedia)
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