Friday, 28 May 2010

The Quiet American

It was a long time between novels this time. I've said that before, right?

The other day I finished reading The Quiet American, the first novel I've read by Graham Greene. Its a story set in the latter days of French colonial Vietnam, just as the US started getting involved. The central characters, the English reporter Fowler, the eponymous American Pyle, and the Vietnamese Phuong, feel very much like metaphors for the old colonial powers, for the US, and for Vietnam itself, although I was never very sure whether this analogy was intended as an analogy or just the way the whole scene was seen by Pyle.

The story, which isn't very long (it could probably be classed as a novella), is fairly simple, and well-told. Although I haven't been to southeast Asia (one of the conspicuous holes in my travel experience), it felt evocative of the place and time in which the story is set, although it really doesn't explore or even expose the French point of view. I get the feeling, too, that the book, which was written before the real buildup of US involvement in the country, has proven more prophetic than the author could possibly have imagined.

After finishing the book, I watched Philip Noyce's 2002 adaptation, with Michael Caine as Fowler and Brendan Fraser in a very subdued mode as Pyle. The movie was faithful in its adaptation (other than conflating Fowler's Indian assistant with his local Communist contact/s, in order to reduce the number of characters), but lacked a spark. I certainly enjoyed the book more, and felt the movie would have been a bit bland seen in ignorance of the book.

Friday, 7 May 2010

The NBN and latency

I blogged some thoughts about latency and the NBN over at my other blog. Having separate work and personal blogs made more sense 5 years ago, when I wanted to separate boring technical stuff from whining about being homesick (for the benefit of both sets of readers). Now it seems kind of redundant. Especially since I hardly post to either of them any more :)