THE QUIET AMERICAN
........ is a disquieting examination of a central, contemporary issue, and substitutes political conscience for the spiritual concern of Greene's recent vela but the battleground is still a highly personal terrain- and an individual is the chief casualty. Tom Fowler tells the story, in an attempt to exercise his guilt, and Fowler is an Englishman, a man of middle years, of few scruples, of even less courage, and disillusioned to the point of diffidence. It is in Salgon where he is stationed as a reporter that he meets Alden Pyle of the American Economic Mission, an innocent and an idealist, who belongs to ""a psychological world of great simplicity, where you talked of Democracy and Honor without the 'u'"". They have only one thing in common-Fowler's mandarin mistress Phuong whom Pyle is ready to marry. Fowler's first act of betrayal is toward Phuong- as he conceals from her the fact that his wife- in England- will not free him. His second is toward Pyle who has been engaged with a small time local General in an attempt to back a Third Force against the Communists, and when a bomb demonstration misfires, Fowler is equally responsible for the retaliation which leads to Pyle's death... A morality tale of these times- of impulsive idealism which is often ignorance on the one hand, up against the moral inertia of the rest of the world. Indochina, and the shabby, shoddy accent of the East sharpens the background for a novel which is an effective entertainment as well. It should assure a wider audience than Robert Shaplen's A Forest of Tigers (Knopf) which deals with this theme and this part of the world.