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Posted May 7, 2016 by

Our Man in Havana- Graham Greene  – 1958

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Posted by Lale on 19/5/2015, 10:16:44

In December when we were in Havana, I bought from a book seller Graham Greene’s “Our Man in Havana.” Of course it is a popular book for tourists in Cuba, everyone was reading it in their own language, people from Finland were reading it in Finish. Anyway, I only got around to reading it last week. The copy I bought in Cuba turned out to be a very lousy print, possibly a pirate. It had way too many typos for me to enjoy. So, I went out and bought a Vintage edition.

What a delightful book! I loved it. It is very rare that a good book is also funny (in fact I can’t think of any funny good books other than The Confederacy of Dunces, and now this, Our Man in Havana). What a gem. If you haven’t read it yet, stop what you are doing now and go buy a copy.

I just imagine this story as a lovely movie. I didn’t check if it was already made into a movie but even if it was, it wasn’t very famous because I never heard it. Anyway, the ideal movie version would have starred the late Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine (like they were in Irma La Douce).

When I was reading the book, I was also writing the screen play in my head.

Lale

~

Posted by guillermo maynez on 19/5/2015, 11:59:05, in reply to “Our Man in Havana”

Both Graham Greene and Ian Fleming worked as spies for Great Britain in WWII, but while Flemind idealized spies in a satirical way, Greene told the truth about the work of many spies, coaxed into the work for emotional (the thrill of risk) or economic reasons. Wormold, a great character, epitomizes the fraudulent way in which many spies, to this day, perform their work. Spying being essentially a clandestine and covert activity, it is easy to be done in a spurious way, inventing “discoveries” and forging information as well as inventing informants. That’s what the money-pressed Wormold does in Havana, in what effectively is one of the funniest and at the same time great work of literature. I also loved it.

But I must take issue with your assertion that not many great novels are funny. In fact, A sense of humor (not just any and all) is indicative of greatness. We usually think of Dostoevsky, for example, as a bleak writer, but if you read his books in a certain way, there is a dark humor embedded in all his portraits. Also, Dickens is profoundly humorous, and not only in THe Pickwick Papers. Other great examples:

The Vicar of Wakefield

Tristram Shandy

Shakespeare’s comedies (not novels, but still)

Vargas Llosa’s “In Praise of the Stepmother”, “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter” or “The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto”

Don Quixote

John Updike’s “The Witches of Eastwick”

and many others

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Posted by Sterling on 22/5/2015, 21:24:19, in reply to “Re: Our Man in Havana”

I agree with Guillermo. Many great novels are funny. I would add to his list:

Henry Fielding (Tom Jones)

Tobias Smollett (Humphrey Clinker)

Denis Diderot (Jacques the Fatalist)

Mark Twain (Huck Finn)

Evelyn Waugh (just about anything)

Vladimir Nabokov (Pale Fire)

Philip Roth (Portnoy’s Complaint)

Kingsley Amis (Lucky Jim)

Martin Amis (Money)

and of course there are many, many more.

~

Posted by guillermo maynez on 25/5/2015, 13:52:49, in reply to “Re: Our Man in Havana”

A few more:

  1. Pedro A. de Alarcon: The Three-Cornered Hat (a wild romp in Andalusia)
  2. Apuleius: The Golden Ass
  3. Jane Austen: Emma
  4. Julian Barnes: A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters
  5. Alphonse Daudet: Tartarin of Tarascon
  6. Jorge Ibarguengoitia: Whatever you can find in English
  7. Marcel Proust: not THE WORK, but certain moments when his gay sarcasm results in hilarious moments.
  8. Mark Twain: much of what he wrote

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Posted by Sterling on 22/5/2015, 21:07:07, in reply to “Our Man in Havana”

: I just imagine this story as a lovely movie. I didn’t

: check if it was already made into a movie but even if

: it was, it wasn’t very famous because I never heard

: it. Anyway, the ideal movie version would have starred

: the late Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine (like they

: were in Irma La Douce).

There is a movie, starring Alec Guinness and directed by the great Carol Reed. It was actually filmed in Cuba, although just after Castro took over. Hitchcock was reportedly interested in filming the book, but Greene preferred Carol Reed. I haven’t seen it, although it is available on DVD.

~

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