Vacuum salesman turned hesitant secret agent, Wormold is MI6’s man in Havana, a man who accepts a covert government mission mainly to support his daughter’s lavish tastes. Using Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, Wormold files bogus reports to London and passes off vacuum cleaner designs as military installations and weapons. When headquarters sends a female agent to assist him, he fears his cover is blown. Soon though, his fabricated stories and make-believe agents take on a life or their own, and the "other side" comes to the conclusion that Wormold is a spy and they attempt to kill him.
Our Man in Havana is an excellent satire, poking fun at the pervasive incompetence of political and military leaders in the reckless games they play. You can’t read the 1959 Graham Greene novel without thinking about the debacle of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. In Our Man’s introduction, Christopher Hitchens comments on Green’s topical writing: "As with his setting of The Quiet American—in Viet Nam just before the critical battle of Dien Bien Phu—or with his decision to locate The Comedians in the midnight of ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier’s Haiti, Greene seemed to have an almost spooky prescience when it came to the suppurating political slums on the periphery of America’s Cold War empire."
Our Man in Havana is an exciting, fun read, still relevant fifty years later. Though it may have taken thirty some years for me to read my first Greene novel (seen the movie The Third Man countless times), it won’t take nearly as long to read my second.
Related Links: Greene Bio | DVD Talk on the 1959 film
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