THE QUIET AMERICAN, by Graham Greene, p. 29 (Penguin Classics Edition, Intro by Robert Stone)

Cover Detail, The Quiet American (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

Cover Detail, The Quiet American (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

The narrator, a British journalist, and his Vietnamese girlfriend, Phuong, have just made the acquaintance of a young American named Pyle.  The setting is Vietnam in the last days of French colonial rule (sometime 1950s).

Self adores the writing.  Especially after the flighty, swoony prose of The Great Gatsby, which had her gritting her teeth with annoyance (She did read to the very end, though — which means Fitzgerald did exert some kind of hold on her imagination)

But let’s quit with the digressions and get to the excerpt from Greene:

This was a land of rebellious barons.  It was like Europe in the Middle Ages.  But what were the Americans doing here?  Columbus had not yet discovered their country.  I said to Phuong, “I like that fellow, Pyle.”

“He’s quiet,” she said, and the adjective which she was the first to use stuck like a schoolboy name, till I heard even Vigot use it, sitting there with his green eye-shade, telling me of Pyle’s death.

I stopped our trishaw outside the Chalet and said to Phuong, “Go in and find a table.  I had better look after Pyle.”  That was my first instinct — to protect him.  It never occurred to me that there was greater need to protect myself.  Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it:  innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.

Swoon, swoon, swoon.

Stay tuned.

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