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Book Title: Комедианты: Роман|
The author of the book: Graham Greene
ISBN: No data
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Date of issue: 1985
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 977 KB
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Reader ratings: 5.8
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Our main character is a world weary drifter. The novel starts with him returning to Haiti on a cargo ship with just a handful of passengers. There are so few Europeans in Haiti that all these passengers and some of the crew enter the story again. Disengaged from his courtesan mother and even unsure what his last name really is, he has worked in European restaurants and sold forged low-end paintings. His mother dies and leaves him a hotel/cabaret in Port-au-Prince. He attempts to run the hotel and has an affair with a South American ambassador’s wife who is obsessed with her child. He ruins the affair with his jealousy.
The real story is the brutality of the Haitian dictatorship. Despite the blatant brutality of their regimes, the US supported the Haitian dictators “Papa Doc” Duvalier from 1957-1971, and his son, “Baby Doc,” until 1986, because they were anti-communist. This was the time after Castro’s takeover of Cuba.
Key figures in the story are the Tontons Macoute, perhaps the original “Men in Black.” They are the ‘police’ who run the country; basically terrorist authorized to kill, rape, torture and steal. The drive around in US military style jeeps and they all wear cheap sunglasses. They are the KGB and the SAVAK of Haiti. (I have known folks from the Caribbean who are visibly upset when the term “Tontons” is mentioned.) More people die in this book than in a typical Friday the 13th horror movie.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The phones don’t work; electricity is intermittent; no one travels at night for fear of the Tontons; the capital city is a shantytown; school kids are rounded up to watch executions in the park. The country is thoroughly corrupt. (The book was published in 1965. I found it in a used bookstore and in the back was a clipping of a NYT article from 1982 about how half the food aid being sent to Haiti was stolen and diverted into the black market. I thought, ‘Only half?’)
A very naïve couple from the US, promoters of vegetarianism, serve as foils for the events. The husband is always referred to as “the Presidential candidate” because he ran against Truman and got a few votes as one of those numerous also-rans. So we have the black humor of conversations about goings-on in Haiti which begin literally as soon as the main character arrives back at his hotel and within minutes finds the body of a government minister in his pool.
“They can’t make it out to be anything but suicide,” I said. “They can make it out to be whatever suits them.”
“Has he seen a lawyer?” “That’s not possible here. The police wouldn’t allow it.”
“A witness here can suffer just as much as the accused.”
“What is the charge?” “There won’t necessarily be a charge.”
“The minister said he was a Haitian and he could do what he liked with a Haitian.”
“The police may exceed their instructions.”
If someone is silly enough to ask about things such as ‘bail’ or a ‘warrant,’ the police laugh and pretend not to understand. (Or genuinely do not understand.)
The main theme of this novel, from which the title derives, is this: a few people have a purpose in life. They are dedicated to a cause, committed to some purpose; they have dedication, courage and integrity. They might be Catholics or communists or, like the husband-wife team in the story, even vegetarians. But they have something. The rest are comedians. The main character admits to being a comedian. In early conversation on the ship one of the other characters speaks of the same idea, calling the people with purpose tofts, and the comedians, tarts. Here’s a great quote from a priest at a funeral; he’s obviously not a comedian (spoken in the Dominican Republic; he would not dare say this in Haiti):
“…our hearts go out in sympathy to all who are moved to violence by the suffering of others. The Church condemns violence, but it condemns indifference more harshly. Violence can be the expression of love, indifference never. One is an imperfection of charity, the other the perfection of egoism.”
This is Graham Greene, so obviously we expect and we get excellent writing. A few examples:
“He was only half way through his own story and he had no audience left: he resembled a sea-lion who has dropped his fish.”
“He knew as many intimate things as a prostitute’s dog.”
“’There’s a rendezvous I have to keep,’ I told her without knowing that I spoke the truth.”
“…his teeth were very big and white and separate, like tombstones designed for a much larger cemetery. A curious smell crossed his desk as though one grave had stayed open.”
Talking about religion:
“I remember now. I used to think you were nothing.”
“I am nothing.”
“Yes, but a Protestant nothing, not a Catholic nothing. I am a Protestant nothing.”
Other novels I have read about Haiti all portray the same tragic story such as The Kingdom of This World and Love, Anger, Madness: A Haitian Trilogy. The Feast of the Goat is about the kindred spirit of the brutal dictator Trujillo around the same time as the Docs in neighboring Dominican Republic, with which Haiti shares its island.
Photos, top to bottom, from andygallacher.com; forargyll.com; hardrainproject.com
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Read information about the authorHenry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenplay writer, travel writer and critic whose works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene combined serious literary acclaim with wide popularity.
Although Greene objected strongly to being described as a “Catholic novelist” rather than as a “novelist who happened to be Catholic,” Catholic religious themes are at the root of much of his writing, especially the four major Catholic novels: Brighton Rock, The Heart of the Matter, The End of the Affair, and The Power and the Glory. Works such as The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana and The Human Factor also show an avid interest in the workings of international politics and espionage.
(Excerpted from Wikipedia)
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