Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Comedians [1966]

Greene loved setting his tales in troubled times and places, making his best works an irresistible mix of the personal and the political. Through his professional association with the Foreign Service, he travelled to various countries around the globe. The Comedians, culled from his experiences in Haiti, is a fascinating tale of love, friendship and crisis of faith, with the repression, brutality and corruption that pervaded the “Nightmare Republic”, the moniker he’d given to the totalitarian regime of François "Papa Doc" Duvalier governed with the aid of his thuggish secret police Tontons Macoute, as its richly textured political backdrop, thus making this dark, bitter and deeply cynical tale reminiscent of his post-WWII Vietnam-based masterpiece The Quiet American. And, like the latter, it was also a tale of despair, jealousy and failure, filled with dark humour, and spoke of a world going astray. The superbly structured and paced tale comprised of three marvelously etched protagonists who were the “comedians” of the story – Brown, the narrator who he based on himself despite his claims otherwise in the preface, is a middle-aged drifter who has made the once swinging but now increasingly decrepit hotel Triannon, which he fortuitously bequeathed from his mother, and located at the gloom-laden world of Port-au-Prince, his home, and is entangled in a self-destructive affair with Martha, the striking wife of a South American ambassador; Smith, a naïve, patronizing and wealthy American, who, with his headstrong wife, is on a crusade to propagate vegetarianism around the world; and Jones, a smooth-talking hustler and slippery conman of mysterious origins, untrustworthy disposition and highly ambiguous motives. Greene imbued the story with corrosive humour, biting irony and deep fatalism. These, along with the bristling storytelling, moody atmosphere and a terrific sense of ‘here and now’, elevated the proceedings to grand farce despite the pervading currents of melancholia and existentialism it was laced with.

Author: Graham Greene
Genre: Black Comedy/Political Thriller/Existentialist Drama
Language: English
Country: UK

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