A few passages from The Quiet American

October 11, 2011

I finally delved into Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, and as expected, it is an awesome book. Beyond the insightful and prescient portrait of Pyle, the personal honesty of Fowler, the narrator, make for some memorable passages in the book:

…I know the depth of my selfishness. I cannot be at ease … if someone else is in pain … Sometimes this is mistaken by the innocent for unselfishness, when all I am doing is sacrificing a small good … for the sake of a far greater good, a peace of mind when I need think only of myself. (pg. 114)

I don’t think that sentiment is uncommon, yet most people delude themselves into thinking their motivations are pure. In the words of King Missile, “That’s the way we are. We are pigs.”

The book also has a great dissection of journalism, and a clue as to what’s gone wrong with today’s new media:

Perhaps truth and humility go together; so many lies come from our pride – in my profession a reporter’s pride, the desire to file a better story than the other man’s… (pg. 122)

Granted, the push for profit has had its own malignant influence on journalism, but Greene sees, rightly, the corruption in that desire to be “first,” where getting it first has more cachet than getting it right.

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