Our Man in Havana

Our Man in Havana"Patriotic Englishman. Been here for years. Respected member of the European Traders’ Association. We must have our man in Havana, you know. Submarines need fuel. Dictators drift together. Big ones draw in the little ones."

If there was an award for most unlikely to succeed as a spy, Englishman James Wormold would definitely be in the running! You see, he is a vacuum salesman, whose latest machine, the ‘Atomic Pile Cleaner’, is not selling well due to its unfortunate name. After all, this novel takes place in Cuba during the Cold War but prior to the Cuban missile crisis. With sales down and a beautiful and manipulative teenage daughter to maintain, Wormold is in need of some easy cash. When he is approached by British Intelligence agent Hawthorne to serve as an undercover agent within Cuba, he initially thinks there must be some mistake! What on earth could they want with an ordinary, humble man like himself to serve his home country?

"It always seemed strange to Wormold that he continued to exist for others when he was not there."

It seems Wormold has been given no choice in the matter, however. Hawthorne won’t take no for an answer. As well, his daughter Milly has just purchased a horse and along with a number of other expenses he is compelled to ‘accept’ the position. What follows is a hilarious story of a man who has bitten off more than he can chew! He has no idea what a spy should be doing, and so invents both subagents and reports of covert activities. A number of interesting characters share the stage with Wormold and offer up some entertaining dialogue as well. Before long, much to his dismay, his fiction is becoming alarmingly all too real!

"It astonished Wormold how quickly he could reply to any questions about his characters; they seemed to live on the threshold of consciousness—he had only to turn a light on and there they were, frozen in some characteristic action."

This little novel is highly entertaining. There is humor, adventure, and a little splash of romance. When Wormold’s life and the lives of those he cares about most are in danger, he must act and step up to the plate and play the role of unlikely hero. Does he succeed? Well, read this one and find out! This is my first Graham Greene book, and from what I understand a bit different from his more serious work. It’s a quick read that ought to please just about any reader.

"You should dream more, Mr. Wormold. Reality in our century is not something to be faced." Comedy Thriller Daquiri, With a Dash of Shakespeare?

“I don't care a damn about men who are loyal to the people who pay them, to organizations. . . I don't think even my country means all that much. Would the world be in the mess it is if we were loyal to love and not to countries?”—Beatrice, to Wormold

Okay, this may not be one of the very best of Graham Greene novels, but in rereading it after all these years I appreciated so much what a great writer can do with a lesser/lighter story. Greene made distinctions between his books that some of us might contend with; he divides his fiction writing between novels (serious stuff) and “entertainments,” and this book he puts in the latter category, but I’d say it was better written than most novels anywhere. Why be a snob about your own spy thrillers and mysteries?! This is really good!

Our Man in Havana takes place during the Batista regime, 1958, one year before the Castro Revolution, some years before the Cuban Missile Crisis, but presaging all this in some ways. Greene had been a journalist in Havana. What did he know?! Well, what we know he knows is Catholicism and guilt and anguish, in masterpieces such as The Power and the Glory and The End of the Affair, but in Havana (and some other books) Greene here also reveals he knows his thrillers, opening surprisingly with clever humor, turning (deadly) serious in the end. Is this Greene’s ode to Hitchcock?

Wormold is a British expat selling vacuum cleaners—and not very well—in Havana, with his daughter Millie who may want to be a nun but seems like an unlikely candidate, spending most of Dad’s money. So when the British Secret Service comes to conscript him to play a role in the antiCommie cause, he reluctantly agrees, and as with vacuum cleaners, he doesn’t know how to do it, really. Desperate to get paid, he fabricates “reports” he conveys to MI6 in code using Charles Lamb’s Tale of Shakespeare. He takes photographs of vacuum cleaner parts and sends them with the cryptic Lamb quotes back to London. This seems to work out pretty well, until it doesn’t, and some serious things happen to put the stop to the laughs, veering the tale in the direction of dark farce.

And then, there's this kind of prophetic aspect to the farce that emerges: Just a couple of years after the publication of this silly book Greene would appear to have known something, in that the Russians may have actually been building missile sites aimed at the US. Goofy Wormold "madeup" stories that ended up becoming actually true, in the end!

So: Wormold is a bad vacuumcleaner salesman as spy. But he’s not quite a spy. And Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare is not really quite Shakespeare. The lust that Chief of Police Segura has for Millie is not quite love. The truths in Havana emerge out of shadows. We or they can’t always tell the real from the artificial. These twists and turns make their way into turns of phrase, told in the form of oxymoronic ironies and contradictions:

“As long as nothing happens anything is possible. . . ”

“You should dream more. Reality in our century is not something to be faced.”

“As long as you lie, you do no harm.”

“Don’t learn from experience, Millie.”

“Isn’t it wonderful that you always get what you pray for?”

“I believe you exist, so you do.”

That’s the real pleasure in Greene here: The language and logic play, with moral implications under all the cleverness. Oh! Right! Besides giving a nod to Hitchcock, I see it’s an ode to Shakespeare, as well! I really liked this and have ordered the movie with Alec Guinness as Wormold. Graham Greene is one of the most highly regarded British authors of the 20th century. The American novelist John Irving has paid tribute to him, calling him,

"the most accomplished living novelist in the English language."

Very popular as a thrillerwriter, writing "entertainments", as he called them, Graham Greene also wrote deeply serious Catholic novels, which received much literary acclaim, although he never actually won the Nobel prize for Literature. In these he examined contemporary moral and political issues through a Catholic perspective. Many of them are powerful Christian portrayals, concerning the struggles within the individual's soul. He argued vehemently against being characterised as a "Catholic novelist" however, saying that he was a novelist who happened to be a Catholic. Graham Greene had been an unhappy child, attempting suicide several times according to his autobiography, and as an adult he suffered from bipolar disorder. Of this, he said,

"Unfortunately, the disease is also one's material."

Our Man in Havana though is a product of the other side of Greene's imagination. It is a humorous suspense novel; a spoof spy story, incorporating two of his favourite themesespionage and politics. Greene had actually been recruited by MI6 during World War II, and had worked in counterespionage. Earlier, in 1922, he had been a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. His experience from such times provided much of the inspiration for the characters in Our Man in Havana. In it he pokes fun at the intelligence services, especially the British MI6. Yet the novel also has a darkly philosophic edge, and its conclusion is very bleak.

Our Man in Havana was written in 1958, and set in Cuba before the missile crisis of 1962. In some ways the book feels very reminiscent of spy stories dating from World War II, and in others, such as the parts of the plot about missile installations, it seems to anticipate coming events.

The tone of the novel is light and droll, occasionally lapsing into outright farce. There is little description; the language is simple and direct to the point of being spare. Graham Greene's realism and lean writinghis readabilityis considered to be one of his greatest strengths. One critic has said,

"nothing deflects Greene from the main business of holding the reader's attention."

The main character in the story is James Wormold, a mildmannered vacuum salesman who seems oddly isolated in Cuba. He is surrounded by other characters described in high relief, his manipulative Catholic daughter Millie, a political gangster Segura, and his closest friend who is also an isolated enigma, the World War I veteran, Dr. Hasselbache. When the bumbling Wormold, desperate for money to indulge his spendthrift daughter, is approached by Hawthorne, he is at first disbelieving. (view spoiler)

Sometimes he was scared at the way these people grew in the dark without his knowledge.

Beautifully said, Author Greene. Just beautiful. And so very true. I had come across two lists mentioning the top 100 mystery/crime novels some time back. Both the listsone by Britainbased Crime Writers' Association and the other by Mystery Writers of America, contained multiple books by Graham Greene. You can find both the lists here Link. The CWA list was published in 1990 and the MWA list in 1995. Pretty long time back but the books included are very fine specimens of crime writing.

I had read Greene's The Human Factor long time back and for some reason that book did not impress me much. But this one was simply brilliant!

The edition I got from my library contained an introduction by Christopher Hitchens. Reading this introduction I got some insights about the author and how his childhood and beliefs influenced his works. Hitchens also says that John Le Carre had been influenced by Greene.

Greene had a victim of bullying in his childhood and this exerted no little influence on his works. His proCommunist sympathies, dependence on alcohol, his rejection of the notion of patriotism, antiAmerican sentiments all are present in his books.

Hitchens also mentioned Greene's"..... spooky prescience when it came to the suppurating political slums on the periphery of America's Cold War empire."I would suggest that you check out this book and The Quiet American if you want to understand more.

Anyways, let us go to the story. The protagonist is Jim Wormold, a vacuumcleaner saleman whose business is not doing well and whose daughter Milly had a knack of spending his money with a skill that "amazed" Wormold. Our hero is not a forceful character, it seemed to me that he, like the author, had been a victim of bullying he is gratified when his daughter set a bully on fire and oh yeshis wife has left him for another man as well.

Wormold gets an offer to be recruited by a British agent to spy for the British Intelligence and after some initial reluctance he agrees because he needed the money for Milly's education. So he invents a false spy ring and starts feeding rubbish to British Secret Service.

There are some other interesting characters as well. Wormold's daughter Milly, Captain Segura and Dr. Hasselbacher.

Milly is a good/bad adolescent girl who is a staunch Catholic on one hand and can be a bit of a "tart" on the other.

Captain Segura of the Cuban Police is a pretty intimidating character.

Dr. Hasselbacher is the person for whom one would feel sympathy.

Greene's contempt for the British spy agency has been brilliantly presented throughout the novelsome parts are actually funny if not hilarious.

Very soon the little fraud by Wormold escalates in to something dangerous and people start dying. Betrayal, deception, subterfuge, greed, confusion, manipulationthe elements have so nicely used by the author. There is a scene involving a certain man and his "lady" problems which was actually hilarious.

I liked the way how the character of Wormwold evolvedfrom a harmless man to one who would use subterfuge to outwit Segura and even plan for revenge. This reluctance to know intimate details about the man he is trying to kill so that his intended victima killer himself, does not turn into a human being showed his moral scruples even when he was trying to avenge a friend. The scene where Wormwold would try to outwit Segura was wonderful.

The book is full of brilliant dialogues and statements. Initially I thought of including some of them, but later I felt I should not spoil your pleasure if you plan to read it someday. In my humble opinion, the writing is excellent.

I simply have to recommend this book to fans of John Le Carre's style of thrillers. There are no fancy gadgets, car chases, femme fatales but you get a good story and some fine writing.

While reading the blurb of the book I was reminded of The Tailor of Panama by John Le Carre. Later I found articles which stated that Le Carre was indeed influenced by this book. You can refer to the articles by NY Times (Link) and The Guardian (Link) if you are interested. This is a fun read, the story of an accidental spy. Mr Wormold (love that name) sells vacuum cleaners in Havana, not very successfully, until one day he is recruited by a British agent to work for his country while living in that no longer romantic foreign outpost. To be a secret agent! Wellthe story takes off from there with a cast of slightly crazy characters: Wormold's religiously manipulative daughter Milly, Captain Segura the head of the local police who has mastered torture, locals of varying nationalities, and multiple members of the spy community. (It is with considered purpose I do not use the term intelligence to describe that community.)

This is a great read that is timeless in it's message and story. Enjoy.

Edited this morning to reflect my decision that this is a 5 star book. When I was a youngster I read a lot of Graham Greene. This one feels to me to be less typical, Catholicism isn't such a feature and guilt isn't quite such an overwhelming presence as in some of his other novels. By contrast this is fairly light.

It's an enjoyable read and there's a value that still seems fairly relevant in it's message of being mindful of the potential sources of intelligence information.

Greene seems to have suffered a fall in Grace as according to the county library catalogue he is not even on the shelves any more, perhaps other writers meet the public need for neoCatholic guilt and religious strivings today? James May Our Man In Japan TV SeriesWith James May, Yujiro Taniyama, Masayo Fujii, Makiko Kobayashi James May Has Always Been Intrigued And Seduced By The Idea Of Japan, Yet This Nation And Its Culture Remains A Complete Mystery To Him Now He S On A One Man Mission To Immerse Himself In Its Society, Places, And People In A Bid To Unlock Its Extraordinary Secrets By Taking On An Epic Journey Across All Of Japan From North ToRegarder Les Pisodes De James May Our Man In Japan EnJames May Our Man In Japan Membressaisonpisodes James May Embarque Dans Un Voyage Remarquable Travers Le Japon, Du Nord Glac La Douceur Du Sud Il Va Voir Des Paysages, Rencontrer Des Locaux, Et Manger Des Nouilles Dans L Espoir De V Our Man In Jazz Wikipdia Our Man In Jazz Est Un Album Live Du Saxophoniste Tnor Sonny Rollins Enregistr Au Club De Jazz The Village Gate New York Et Paru Ensur Le Label RCA Victor James May Our Man In Japan Official Trailervideos Play All James May Our Man In Japan Prime VideoPrime Video UK James May Explains The Time He Nearly Killed Jeremy Clarkson Duration DRIVETRIBE ,, Views Our Man In UK Limited Sales Representaion, Our Man In UK Helps Technology Companies Deliver Their International Business Plans From Market Entry To Business As Usual International Software, International Trade And Representation Home Ourmanineurope Our Man In Europe Ltd Is Registered In England And Wales Registration Numbertrading FromDunns Cottages, Butterton Lane, Oakhanger, Cheshire CW UU, UKOur Man In Europe Our Man In Europe Provides A Free Venue Sourcing Service To Clients Anywhere In The World Looking To Hold Conferences, Meetings, Events And Incentives In Europe Get In Touch And We Ll StartOur Man In Jazz Wikipedia Our Man In Jazz Is An Album By Jazz Saxophonist Sonny Rollins, Released By RCA Victor Featuring Julyperformances By Rollins With Don Cherry, Bob Cranshaw, And Billy Higgins These Performances Have Been Described As Contrasting From Rollins Previous Style By Moving To Very Long Free Form Fancies, Swaggering And Impetuous This is the first of Graham Greene’s novels I’ve read that is classed as one of his “entertainments” – so I wasn’t at all sure what to expect. The style, tone and nature of ‘Our Man in Havana’ clearly has a very different feel to his more serious novels (‘Heart of the Matter’, ‘End of the Affair’ et al) and as such is quite distinct from that oeuvre.

‘Our Man in Havana’ is very well written as you would expect from Graham Greene and is certainly very entertaining, very funny throughout. The plot is ostensibly based on the farcical premise of an English vacuum cleaner salesman stationed in a prerevolutionary Havana, being recruited by the British Secret Service, leading to the subsequent ‘reports’ and ‘actions’ that he takes in fulfilling his new espionage role. As such, the story often has very much the feel of a traditional farce to it – albeit an intelligent and very funny one and one contains many elements in it that feel to the reader almost feasible, almost believable!

So whilst ‘Our Man in Havana’ is essentially lighthearted and loads of fun, perhaps there are elements in and amongst which do convey a more serious message(s) and allude to more serious themes for our consideration?

Whilst maybe not considered as great, as profound, as meaningful nor of the same import as Graham Greene’s ‘serious’ novels – it is clearly not intended to be so. There is however equally a place for the intelligent, witty and well written ‘entertainment’ such as this one, just as much as for the serious novel.

This is compelling written and very evocative of a prerevolutionary Havana. I was lucky enough to visit Havana around 15 years ago now and although faded and in some cases crumbling, the grandeur and uniqueness of Havana, frozen as it is in time since 1959, make it a special, exciting and fascinating place. The Havana described by Greene is still there very much to see albeit, in its 21st Century version.

‘Our Man in Havana’ is a very well, very compellingly written novel (Wormold is a great creation) – very funny and in a strange kind of way…almost believable.

Wikipedia)

[PDF / Epub] ☉ Our Man in Havana Author Graham Greene – Ultimatetrout.info

    If there was an award for most unlikely to succeed as a spy, Englishman James Wormold would definitely be in the running! You see, he is a vacuum salesman, whose latest machine, the ‘Atomic Pile Cleaner’, is not selling well due to its unfortunate name. After all, this novel takes place in Cuba during the Cold War but prior to the Cuban missile crisis. With sales down and a beautiful and manipulative teenage daughter to maintain, Wormold is in need of some easy cash. When he is approached by British Intelligence agent Hawthorne to serve as an undercover agent within Cuba, he initially thinks there must be some mistake! What on earth could they want with an ordinary, humble man like himself to serve his home country?

    "It always seemed strange to Wormold that he continued to exist for others when he was not there."

    It seems Wormold has been given no choice in the matter, however. Hawthorne won’t take no for an answer. As well, his daughter Milly has just purchased a horse and along with a number of other expenses he is compelled to ‘accept’ the position. What follows is a hilarious story of a man who has bitten off more than he can chew! He has no idea what a spy should be doing, and so invents both subagents and reports of covert activities. A number of interesting characters share the stage with Wormold and offer up some entertaining dialogue as well. Before long, much to his dismay, his fiction is becoming alarmingly all too real!

    "It astonished Wormold how quickly he could reply to any questions about his characters; they seemed to live on the threshold of consciousness—he had only to turn a light on and there they were, frozen in some characteristic action."

    This little novel is highly entertaining. There is humor, adventure, and a little splash of romance. When Wormold’s life and the lives of those he cares about most are in danger, he must act and step up to the plate and play the role of unlikely hero. Does he succeed? Well, read this one and find out! This is my first Graham Greene book, and from what I understand a bit different from his more serious work. It’s a quick read that ought to please just about any reader.

    "You should dream more, Mr. Wormold. Reality in our century is not something to be faced." Comedy Thriller Daquiri, With a Dash of Shakespeare?

    “I don't care a damn about men who are loyal to the people who pay them, to organizations. . . I don't think even my country means all that much. Would the world be in the mess it is if we were loyal to love and not to countries?”—Beatrice, to Wormold

    Okay, this may not be one of the very best of Graham Greene novels, but in rereading it after all these years I appreciated so much what a great writer can do with a lesser/lighter story. Greene made distinctions between his books that some of us might contend with; he divides his fiction writing between novels (serious stuff) and “entertainments,” and this book he puts in the latter category, but I’d say it was better written than most novels anywhere. Why be a snob about your own spy thrillers and mysteries?! This is really good!

    Our Man in Havana takes place during the Batista regime, 1958, one year before the Castro Revolution, some years before the Cuban Missile Crisis, but presaging all this in some ways. Greene had been a journalist in Havana. What did he know?! Well, what we know he knows is Catholicism and guilt and anguish, in masterpieces such as The Power and the Glory and The End of the Affair, but in Havana (and some other books) Greene here also reveals he knows his thrillers, opening surprisingly with clever humor, turning (deadly) serious in the end. Is this Greene’s ode to Hitchcock?

    Wormold is a British expat selling vacuum cleaners—and not very well—in Havana, with his daughter Millie who may want to be a nun but seems like an unlikely candidate, spending most of Dad’s money. So when the British Secret Service comes to conscript him to play a role in the antiCommie cause, he reluctantly agrees, and as with vacuum cleaners, he doesn’t know how to do it, really. Desperate to get paid, he fabricates “reports” he conveys to MI6 in code using Charles Lamb’s Tale of Shakespeare. He takes photographs of vacuum cleaner parts and sends them with the cryptic Lamb quotes back to London. This seems to work out pretty well, until it doesn’t, and some serious things happen to put the stop to the laughs, veering the tale in the direction of dark farce.

    And then, there's this kind of prophetic aspect to the farce that emerges: Just a couple of years after the publication of this silly book Greene would appear to have known something, in that the Russians may have actually been building missile sites aimed at the US. Goofy Wormold "madeup" stories that ended up becoming actually true, in the end!

    So: Wormold is a bad vacuumcleaner salesman as spy. But he’s not quite a spy. And Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare is not really quite Shakespeare. The lust that Chief of Police Segura has for Millie is not quite love. The truths in Havana emerge out of shadows. We or they can’t always tell the real from the artificial. These twists and turns make their way into turns of phrase, told in the form of oxymoronic ironies and contradictions:

    “As long as nothing happens anything is possible. . . ”

    “You should dream more. Reality in our century is not something to be faced.”

    “As long as you lie, you do no harm.”

    “Don’t learn from experience, Millie.”

    “Isn’t it wonderful that you always get what you pray for?”

    “I believe you exist, so you do.”

    That’s the real pleasure in Greene here: The language and logic play, with moral implications under all the cleverness. Oh! Right! Besides giving a nod to Hitchcock, I see it’s an ode to Shakespeare, as well! I really liked this and have ordered the movie with Alec Guinness as Wormold. Graham Greene is one of the most highly regarded British authors of the 20th century. The American novelist John Irving has paid tribute to him, calling him,

    "the most accomplished living novelist in the English language."

    Very popular as a thrillerwriter, writing "entertainments", as he called them, Graham Greene also wrote deeply serious Catholic novels, which received much literary acclaim, although he never actually won the Nobel prize for Literature. In these he examined contemporary moral and political issues through a Catholic perspective. Many of them are powerful Christian portrayals, concerning the struggles within the individual's soul. He argued vehemently against being characterised as a "Catholic novelist" however, saying that he was a novelist who happened to be a Catholic. Graham Greene had been an unhappy child, attempting suicide several times according to his autobiography, and as an adult he suffered from bipolar disorder. Of this, he said,

    "Unfortunately, the disease is also one's material."

    Our Man in Havana though is a product of the other side of Greene's imagination. It is a humorous suspense novel; a spoof spy story, incorporating two of his favourite themesespionage and politics. Greene had actually been recruited by MI6 during World War II, and had worked in counterespionage. Earlier, in 1922, he had been a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. His experience from such times provided much of the inspiration for the characters in Our Man in Havana. In it he pokes fun at the intelligence services, especially the British MI6. Yet the novel also has a darkly philosophic edge, and its conclusion is very bleak.

    Our Man in Havana was written in 1958, and set in Cuba before the missile crisis of 1962. In some ways the book feels very reminiscent of spy stories dating from World War II, and in others, such as the parts of the plot about missile installations, it seems to anticipate coming events.

    The tone of the novel is light and droll, occasionally lapsing into outright farce. There is little description; the language is simple and direct to the point of being spare. Graham Greene's realism and lean writinghis readabilityis considered to be one of his greatest strengths. One critic has said,

    "nothing deflects Greene from the main business of holding the reader's attention."

    The main character in the story is James Wormold, a mildmannered vacuum salesman who seems oddly isolated in Cuba. He is surrounded by other characters described in high relief, his manipulative Catholic daughter Millie, a political gangster Segura, and his closest friend who is also an isolated enigma, the World War I veteran, Dr. Hasselbache. When the bumbling Wormold, desperate for money to indulge his spendthrift daughter, is approached by Hawthorne, he is at first disbelieving. (view spoiler)

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