Image of Papa Doc via Wikipedia with attribution and thanks to PikiWikiIsraelThe photo is of Papa Doc at his installation ceremony as Haiti's President for Life in 1963. My thanks to copyright holder Pikiwiki Israel for allowing free use.
The earthquake in Haiti in January this year was a colossal tragedy: 230,000 dead, 300,000 injured and a million people homeless. Amongst the early televised reports and interviews was one with the Haitian ambassador in Washington. He seemed mainly concerned with the safety of his boss, the prime minister of Haiti. He assured us that this man was safe and well. I was reminded of an earlier horror of a different type that had happened to this poor country: a governing clique that ruled by fear with a self-appointed President for life. Graham Greene had dramatised this situation in a book I had read many years ago.
Set in the Haiti of dictator Papa Doc Duvalier and the Tonton Macoute (bogey men) with their black glasses and murderous reputation, the title is puzzling. There is not much to laugh at. There is a fine sense of minority representation in the characters. Greene always includes Roman Catholics and on this occasion Vegans. The latter are Mr and Mrs Smith, nice people with nice manners and firm beliefs who make up a lot of food in their hotel bedrooms. Brown, the main character meets up with them as passengers on a cargo ship from Philadelphia to Haiti, where Jones is also a passenger. ( Greene didn't bother with atmospheric names.)