OUR MAN DOWN IN HAVANA by Christopher Hull

OUR MAN DOWN IN HAVANA

The Story Behind Graham Greene's Cold War Spy Novel
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The enigmatic novelist Graham Greene (1904-1991) inspires a new investigation.

In his literary debut, Hull (Spanish & Latin American Studies/Univ. of Chester) minutely examines the plot, characters, context, creation, reception, filming, and afterlife of Greene’s 1958 satirical novel, Our Man in Havana. Drawing on Greene’s published and unpublished writings; studies and biographies of Greene; abundant archival material; and his own 17 visits to Cuba, Hull sets Greene’s life amid Cuba’s tumultuous history. Compared to “the Hemingway cult in Havana,” Greene’s “many visits to his preferred watering and feeding hole,” Hull laments, have gone unacknowledged. He aims to correct this oversight by meticulously documenting every step that Greene took, every diary entry he logged, and every letter he wrote to his wife and several mistresses concerning his many visits to Cuba and the writing and filming of his novel. Despite Hull’s valiant efforts, though, his portrait of Greene is overly familiar: a troubled man, restless, self-absorbed, and moody, a manic-depressive who sought relief from his “tormented self” (as well as his many romantic crises) by traveling to “risky, seedy, and distant troubled locations.” Among the seediest was pre-Castro Cuba, reputed to be “an uninhibited tropical paradise,” where gambling casinos, brothels, bars, and risqué nightclubs flourished. Beginning in 1954, with an unplanned two-night detour to Havana, Greene, with his “magnetic attraction to seediness,” partook of all Cuba’s offerings, including copious alcohol and illicit drugs. During many of his visits, Greene had little contact with Cubans, and the idea for Our Man in Havana originated, Hull reveals, in 1944, when a Brazilian film director asked Greene for a film outline and Greene decided to write a Secret Service comedy based on his own wartime observations. Although he did not draw on Cuban politics to represent duplicity and bungling among agents and politicians, Hull asserts that the novel reflected Cold War paranoia and proved prescient in its foreshadowing of the Cuban missile crisis.

A biography notable for its deep research.

Pub Date: March 5th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-64313-018-7
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Pegasus
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2018




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