Toward the end of Graham Greene’s prescient 1955 novel, The Quiet American, the two main characters meet in the aftermath of a terrorist bombing of a
Standing amidst the wreckage, Fowler confronts Pyle.
I forced him, with my hand on his shoulder, to look around. I said, ‘This is the hour when the place is always full of women and children – it’s the shopping hour. Why choose that of all hours?’
He said weakly, ‘There was to have been a parade.’
‘And you hoped to catch a few colonels. But the parade was cancelled yesterday, Pyle.’
‘I didn’t know.’
‘Didn’t know!’ I pushed him into a patch of blood where a stretcher had lain. ‘You ought to be better informed.’
‘I was out of town,’ he said, looking down at his shoes. ‘They should have called it off.’
‘And missed the fun?’ I asked him. ‘Do you expect General Thé to lose his demonstration? This is better than a parade. Women and children are news, and soldiers aren’t, in a war. This will hit the world’s Press. You’ve put General Thé on the map all right, Pyle. You’ve got the Third Force and National Democracy all over your right shoe . . .’
. . . He looked white and beaten and ready to faint, and I thought, ‘What’s the good? He’ll always be innocent, you can’t blame the innocent, they are always guiltless. All you can do is control them or eliminate them. Innocence is a kind of insanity.’
He said, ‘Thé wouldn’t have done this. I’m sure he wouldn’t. Somebody deceived him. The Communists . . .’
He was impregnably armoured by his good intentions and his ignorance . . . A two-hundred-pound bomb does not discriminate. How many dead colonels justify a child’s or a trishaw driver’s death when you are building a national democratic front?
- The Quiet American, Penguin Books edition, pp. 162-163
Different war. Same question. Alden Pyle personifies every
Whatever the reasons for going into
Where is our Graham Greene today?