Friday, 20 November 1998

Graham Greene: The Comedians (1966)

The Comedians coverEdition: Bodley Head, 1966
Review number: 172

The Comedians is about three men, Smith, Jones and Brown, a shifty sounding set of names, as the narrator remarks. They meet on a ship bound for Papa Doc's Haiti, each travelling there for a very different reason. Brown, the main character and narrator, owns a hotel there which he has been trying to sell in the US because it has become a liability rather than an asset through the vagaries of the Duvalier regime; Smith and his wife are evangelists of vegetarianism, rich Americans who have a vision of a vegetarian centre in the Caribbean, possibly in Haiti; Jones is someone with a somewhat murky past, about whom the captain of the Medea has received warning telegrams.

Through their time in Haiti, each is shown to be, to some extent, playing a part and putting on a show. (This is the reason for the novel's title.)

The background of third world sleaze and corruption is something that Greene was a master at; imitators include Len Deighton (MAMista) and John le Carré (The Tailor of Panama), both of whom are perhaps rather heavy-handed by comparison. (A nineties thriller is perhaps expected to be more violent and sordid, which would also explain this difference.)

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