Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Comedians by Graham Greene. 1965. The Bodley Head and Wm Heinemann

The 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.)

Monday, 3 May 2010

The Rainbow and the Rose by Neville Shute (1958) Heinemann

TasmaniaImage via Wikipedia

The retirement to a small flying club in Tasmania was John Pascoe's choice. He had been an international airline Senior Captain  The choice could be compared to an international golfer retiring as the pro at a small golf club in the Shetlands. People come for lessons, get the hang of the skill and off they go flying their own fairways in the sky. This facet of the story made me feel that I actually could take flying lessons with someone like John and be in the air fearlessly solo in no time.

He always looked about the same, from the time I remember him when I was a boy. He would have been about five feet nine in height with partially grey hair, regular features, rather a fine face, very tanned, a little lined toward the end. He hadn't got a great deal of humour in him, rather stiff. Women liked him.
The narrator of the quote above