Graham Greene was born on this day in 1904. To celebrate, we are pleased to share our Vintage Greene series in its entirety. A total of 29 covers were created with photographer Tim Hetherington, beginning back in 2004 to coincide with Greene’s centenary and concluding this year with Reflections and Collected Essays.
Inauspicious vacuum cleaner retailer, Mr Wormold, agrees to enlist in the British Secret Service, mainly in order to pay for his beautiful and willful daughter Milly’s increasingly expensive tastes, and soon finds himself caught in the centre of a deadly conspiracy entirely of his own devising.
In this black comedy that predates the Cuban Missile Crisis, Greene presents a world of espionage: where men are not as they exist in reality; but as they are created through the power of another man’s imagination, and where the only thing that makes a man real: is not loyalty to country, government or institution; but the love and empathy he elicits from a fellow human being.
The photograph is of the First Edition, published by William Heinmann in 1958, with a wrapper design by Donald Green.
For further book scraps, please follow on Twitter.
In this May 12, 1959, Ernest Hemingway, left, speaks with actor Alec Guinness, center, and Noel Coward during the making of Carol Reed’s film version of “Our Man in Havana,” based on Graham Greene’s best seller, in Havana, Cuba.
Co-Presented by the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles
The International Coalition of Art Deco Societies held their 12th congress in Havana, Cuba in March 2013. The L.A. based delegates will share some architectural highlights and stories from their visit, followed by a screening of the 1959 satire OUR MAN IN HAVANA, directed by Carol Reed (THE THIRD MAN) and shot on location in Havana just months after the revolution!
1959 / Sony Repertory / 111 minutes / Directed by: Carol Reed
Directed by Carol Reed (THE THIRD MAN) and adapted from Graham Greene’s novel, this amusingly droll soufflé of a film received only lukewarm reviews upon its initial release, but is more impressive with each passing year. Alec Guinness is single father Jim Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman in pre-Castro Cuba trying to bring up his teenage daughter. When asked by fellow Englishman Hawthorne (Noel Coward) to spy for his country, the strapped-for-money Jim accepts, but proves inept at recruiting contacts. On the advice of a friend (Burl Ives), he comes up with a list of made-up characters - and before he knows it, pleased UK bosses send him a secretary (Maureen O’Hara), and rival Soviet agents begin trying to eliminate him. A great, knowing satire about the unreliability of intelligence-gathering, something more prescient today than ever. With the great Ernie Kovacs as the smoothly sinister captain of police.
Screening Format: 35mm
Join the Art Deco Society after the screening for a (no-host) Mojito, an Ernest Hemingway “El Floridita” Daiquiri or even a “Mary Pickford” across the street at Sadie Kitchen and Lounge on Las Palmas.
My dad brought this on vacation and couldn’t stop laughing out loud. He constantly told me how funny and relatable the book was. So even though I brought a ton of books from my own to-read shelf, I’ve put them on hold to satiate his desire for me to give him my opinion. I’m a huge fan of Graham Greene so I have no problem obliging him. From the back cover:
“M16’s man in Havana is Wormold, a former vacuum-clearner salesman turned reluctant secret agent out of economic necessity. To keep his job he flies bogus reports based on Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare and dreams up military installations from vacuum-cleaner designs. Then his stories start becoming disturbingly true …
First published in 1959, Our Man in Havana is an espionage thriller, a penetrating character study, and a political satire that still resonates today. It remains one of Graham Greene’s most widely read novels.”
The Quiet American: If you want to know what happened recently in Iraq—and what’s going to happen this year in Afghanistan—read Greene’s most essential novel, from 1955. On the surface, it’s a political parable about the British Empire on the wane, a dangerously idealistic new American Empire on the move, and the Vietnam that shimmers between them in the 1950s. Deep down, it’s also a rendingly private story about three people in love, wavering between realism and romance.
The Power and the Glory: The novel that established Greene as a major religious writer—enshrining the gospel of humanity, for those who don’t always believe—is set in Mexico in the 1930s, when the Church was being persecuted by the government. Typically, Greene’s sympathies are with a dissolute “whisky priest” who’s never so bad as he seems, with the lieutenant who’s pursuing him, and with all the dispossessed and impoverished in a landscape of oppression and faith on the run.
The End of the Affair: Greene’s most personal novel was called “one of the best, most true and moving novels of my time,” by William Faulkner, no less. Told, unusually for Greene, in the first person, it’s a characteristically raw, intimate and unsparing account of an adulterous affair in which—a typical Greene touch—God seems to play the cuckold, and the husband and husband’s rival end up living together as best friends.
Our Man in Havana: Greene could be wickedly funny, and part of the power of his work comes from a sense of P.G. Wodehouse bumping into Kafka. This story of a mild-mannered English vacuum-cleaner salesman in louche, 1950s Havana who is somehow chosen to be an agent for British intelligence sets the scene for John le Carré’s The Tailor of Panama and innumerable other bittersweet thrillers about innocents caught in larger designs. It also gets Cuba, even as it is today, to perfection.