17 July 2008

The Quiet American, by Graham Greene

I suppose this is meant to be this profound investigation of the disastrous consequences of foreigners meddling in the politics of other countries, and the impossibility of genuine neutrality, cleverly couched in a love triangle. But I just didn't find it all that compelling. The racism and misogyny of it wore me down and ultimately robbed me of much sympathy for the characters. By the end I was tired and frustrated by the arrogant idiocy of soft colonialism. 

At first, the cold, somewhat detached style of it really appealed to me, but after awhile, I yearned for a bit of description, a sense of place. The main character is haunted by images of violence, but there's almost no imagery in the novel at all - it's totally flat. It's really just psychological exploration, which can only take you so far when you despise the characters. Ok, sure, so maybe it's a profound exploration of the very racism and misogyny I'm complaining about, but I'm tired of that shit. It's the kind of thing that people calling for a rethinking of the literary canon complain about, and it makes perfect sense to me now. The prose isn't masterful enough to merit listening to the anguished ramblings of colonizers. We hear their side of it all the goddamned time - I'd rather hear the other one, for once.

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