This post comes almost after two months. But I am thankful that it’s not due to compulsion of filling the space. Most of my past posts have been book review, as is this one. Usually, before I request a book from librarywala.com, I spend considerable time in searching book fitting the mood. After spending quite some time reading spiritual books, I wanted to read some fiction work. I don’t remember how I landed on this book. But after reading I was happy about the catch.
Three men meet on a ship bound for Haiti, a world in the grip of the corrupt “Papa Doc” and the Tontons Macoute, his sinister secret police. Brown the hotelier, Smith the innocent American, and Jones the confidence man—these are the “comedians” of Greene’s title. Hiding behind their actors’ masks, they hesitate on the edge of life. They are men afraid of love, afraid of pain, afraid of fear itself...
Has it been difficult transition for you from contemporary read to a classic? Well, it always has been for me. There are times when I have put down the book never to pick up again. I feared that this book too has same fate, returned without reading. But it completely surprised me. The book is such that it doesn’t grab your interest on it’s first page but gradually and smoothly you get involved in the story, the characters and the life.
The author Graham, narrating as Mr. Brown, warns us of Haiti, as to the other characters and takes us through the life there. He meets Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Mr/Major Jones on the ship. Jones is visiting for (doubtful)business and the Smiths for the cause of ‘Vegetarianism’. When they all land on the Haitian soil, the story begins. It’s when we read, do we know there is some country out there which is completely with different and difficult life.
As Mr. Brown gives us a rough ride through the country, the politics, the indifference towards life, more apt death, he also takes us through the complexities of life, the mind and thoughts of the three characters. He refers them - Smiths, Jones and himself, as comedians, living the comedy of tragedy. While he Smiths with their comic ‘Vegetarian’ agenda look like the comedians, they emerge as heroes and the Jones, the comedian, who has his art of making friends by making them laugh, and who is dreaded by Brown, turns out like his twin.
For me, the book is semi-fiction. It gives picturesque info about the Haitian life, it’s hideous politics (Greene is also said to be spy/journalist). At the same time it also exposes to the vulnerability of human nature in relationships. The most I like in the book is the artistic way it is written and the mind / relationship elements that it touches, be it about love / lust / patriotism / cruelty / jealousy / shame. One thing I regret is the un-translated French conversation that you come across now and then.
If you don’t mind reading heavy books and are a fan of story telling, I would definitely recommend this book.