Book Review: THE COMEDIANS, by Graham Greene

I give you the back of the book:
Like one of its predecessors, The Quiet American, The Comedians is a story about the committed and the uncommitted. The Negro, Doctor Magiot, is committed. His last letter to Brown, who tells the story, is a statement and an appeal by the committed -- by a man who has by his nature to share the terrible events of his time. But the Comedians have opted out. They play their parts -- respectable or shady -- in the foreground; they experience love-affairs rather than love; they have enthusiaisms -- like Mr. Smith for his vegetarian centre -- but not a faith; and if they die, they die, like Jones, by accident.
I cannot decide if that is the worst blurb I've come across, or the very best, but it certainly tells the interested reader nothing about THE COMEDIANS. In fact, until the very last page of the book, I had no idea at all where the "committed" and "uncommitted" business came in, but oh well. I bought the book because it said "Graham Greene" on the cover, regardless of the gibberish on the back, and I was well rewarded.

THE COMEDIANS is set in Haiti, amidst all kinds of political turmoil, and follows the rather uncommitted Mr. Brown as he struggles to run a hotel without guests, staff or money. When he finds the Secretary of Social Welfare dead in the hotel swimming pool of an apparent suicide, Mr. Brown and an odd assembly of characters (including Martha Pineda, Mr. Brown's mistress, the wife of an obscure South American ambassador; Mr. Smith, an American ex-Presidential Candidate who ran on the vegetarian ticket, and his formidable wife, Mrs. Smith; Jones, a pleasant but slightly shady recent arrival to Haiti who has aroused the curiosity of several governments; and Captain Concasseour, a leader in the politcal bogeymen, the Tonton Macoute) find themselves caught up in events comical, political and absurd.

Perhaps that is a more helpful summary, even if it is not much better.

I am quite infatuated with Graham Greene, really. He is just odd enough to appeal to me on a very deep level (as I'm quite odd myself), and his stories range from lovely and haunting to hysterically funny. He is sharp-witted; his locales are diverse and exotic, his characters fascinating. I desperately need more Graham Greene in my life--which is funny, because if you say his name fast, it sounds an awful lot like "gangrene". So it sounds like I'm saying "I desperately need more gangrene in my life," which I really don't.


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