THE QUIET AMERICAN – GRAHAM GREENE

1. Opium makes you quick-witted – perhaps only because it calms the nerves and stills the emotions. Nothing, not even death, seems so important. (p.9)

2. (…) if I could bring the interview quickly and ambiguously to an end, so that I might tell her later, in private, away from a policeman’s eye and the hard office chairs and the bare globe where the moths circled. (p.11)

3. He looked more than ever out of place: he should have stayed at home. I saw him in a family snapshot album, riding on a dude ranch, bathing on Long Island, photographed with his colleagues in some apartment on the twenty-third floor. He belonged to the skyscraper and the express elevator, the ice-cream and the dry Martinis, milk at lunch, and chicken sandwhiches on the Merchant Limited. (p.12)

4. And yet that too was a part of home, like the dark passages on upper floors one avoided in childhood. (p.18)

5. I took no action – even an opinion is a kind of action. (p.20)

6. (…) : and internal brother who didn’t understand. (p.24)

7. Why should I want to die when Phuong slept beside me every night? But I knew the answer to that question. From childhood I had never believed in permanence, and yet I had longed for it. Always I was afriad of losing happiness. This month, next year, Phuong would leave me. If not next year, in three years. Death was the only absolute value in my world. Lose life and one would lose nothing again for ever. I envied those who could believe in a God and I distrusted them. I felt they were keeping their courage up with a fable of the changeless and the permanent. Death was far more certain than God, and with death there would be no longer the daily possibility of love dying. The nightmare of a future of love and indifference would lift. I could never have been a pacifist. To kill a man was surely to grant him an immeasurable benefit. Oh yes, people always, everywhere, loved their enemies. It was their friends they preserved for pain and vacuity. (p.36)

8. Sometimes she seemed invisible like peace. (p.36)

9. I too took my eyes away; we didn’t want to be reminded of how little we counted, how quickly, simply and anonymously death came. Even though my reason wanted the state of death, I was afraid like a virgin of the act. I would have liked death to come with due warning, so that I could prepare myself. For what? I didn’t know, nor how, except by taking a look around at the little I would be leaving. (p.44)

10. I awaited, with a sense of exhilaration, the permanent thing. (p.45)

11. Time has its revenges, but revenges seem so often sour. Wouldn’t we all do better not trying to understand, accepting the fact that no human being will ever understand another, not a wife a husband, a lover a mistress, nor a parent a child? Perhaps that’s why men have invented God – a being capable of understanding. Perhaps if I wanted to be understood or to understand I would bam-boozle myself into belief, but I am a reporter; God exists only for leader-writers. (p.52)

12. Is confidence based on a rate of exchange? We used to speak of sterling qualities. Have we got to talk now about a dollar love? A dollar love, of course, would include marriage and Junior and Mother’s Day, even though later it might include Reno or the Virgin Islands or wherever they go nowadays for their divorces. A dollar love had good intentions, a clear conscience, and to Hell with everybody. But my love had no intentions: it knew the future. All one could do was try to make the future less hard, to break the future gently when it came, and even opium had its value there. (p.54)

13. Then I tore up my last page of my letter to the editor. It was no use – the ‘private reasons’ would become only the subject of sly jokes. Every correspondent, it was assumed, had his local girl. The editor would joke to the night-editor, who would take the envious thought back to his semi-detached villa in Streatham and climb into bed with it beside the the faithful wife he had carried with him years back from Glasgow. I could see so well the kind of house that has no mercy – a broken tricycle stood in the hall and somebody had broken his favourite pipe; and there was a child’s shirt in the living-room waiting for a button to be sewn on. ‘Private reasons’: drinking in the Press Club, I wouldn’t want to be reminded by their jokes of Phuong. (p.64)

14. He had only to carry his bleeding heart for a few weeks as a decoration … (p.71)

15. The cars drove rapidly by, belonging to another world. (p.76)

16. (…) and they stood silently there, constrained by mutual politeness. (p.80)

17. (…) and he smiled brightly, neatly, efficiently, a military abbreviation of a smile. (p.81)

18. They looked like schoolboys, but with the Vietnamese age drops suddenly like the sun- they are boys and then they are old men. I was glad that the colour of my skin and the shape of my eyes were a passport – they wouldn’t shoot now even from fear. (p.84)

19. – for voices have a colour too, yellow voices sing and black voices gargle, while ours just speak – (p.88)

20. I didn’t relish being the only noise in what must have been a night full of people. (p.90)

21. There’s an awful lot of self-hypnosis around. (p.94)

22. ‘I thought I saw her changing – I don’t know if she really was, but I couldn’t bear the uncertainty any longer. I ran towards the finish just like a coward runs towards the enemy and wins a medal. I wanted to get death over.’ (p.95)

23. ‘I was afraid of losing love. Now I’m only afraid of losing Phuong.’ (p.95)

24. His conversation never took the corners. (p.96)

25. ‘You can have a hundred women and still be a virgin, Pyle. Most of your G.I.s who were hanged for rape in the war were virgins. We don’t have so many in Europe. I’m glad. They do a lot of harm.’ (p.96)

26. ‘It’s not easy to live with someone you’ve injured.’ (p.96)

27. (…) with the caution of a hero in a boy’s adventure-story, proud of his caution like a Scout’s badge and quite unaware of the absurdity and the improbability of his adventure. (p.104)

28. (…) for there was no honesty in asking for the kind of promise no one can keep. (p.108)

29. My pen stuck on that word, and then, like an ant meeting an obstacle, went round it by another route. (p.112)

30. Ordinary life goes on – that has saved many a man’s reason. Just as in an air-raid it proved impossible to be frightened all the time, (…) (p.112)

31. What distant ancestors had given me this stupid conscience? (p.121)

32. (…) : her back was turned to me and I had moved my leg against her – the first move in the formula of intercourse. (p.123)

33. ‘She’s no child. She’s tougher than you’ll ever be. Do you know the kind of polish that doesn’t take scratches? That’s Phuong. She can survive a dozen of us. She’ll get old, that’s all. She’ll suffer from childbirth and hunger and cold and rheumatism, but she’ll never suffer like we do from thoughts, obsessions – she won’t scratch, she’ll only decay.’ But even while I made my speech and watched her turn the page (a family group with Princess Anne), I knew I was inventing a character just as much as Pyle was. One never knows another human being; for all I could tell, she was as scared as the rest of us: she didn’t have the gift of expression. (p.124)

34. Lonliness lay in my bed and I took lonliness into my arms at night. (p.132)

35. My conversation was full of the poverty of American literature, the scandals of American politics, the beastliness of American children. (p.132)

36. Happy memories are the worst, and I tried to remember the unhappy. I was practised. I had lived this before. I knew I could do what was neceassary, but I was so much older – I felt I had little energy left to reconstruct. (p.137)

37. (…) but it had been free from the discomfort of personal thought. (p.142)

38. A man’s body is limited in the acts which it can perform and mine was frozen by memory. (p.145)

39. So it always is: when you escape to a desert the silence shouts in your ear. (p.150)

40. I watched them idly as they went out side by side into the sun-splintered street. It was impossible to conceive either of them a prey to untidy passion: they did not belong to rumpled sheets and the sweat of sex. Did they take deodorants to bed with them? I found myself for a moment envying them their sterilized world, so different from this world that I inhabited – which suddenly inexplicably broke in pieces. (p.152)

41. (…) for one can own the dead as one owns a chair. (p.154)

42. ‘What’s the good? he’ll always be innocent, you can’t blame the innocent, they are always guiltless. All you can do is control them or eliminate them. Innocence is a kind of insanity.’ (p.155)

43. (…) ‘one has to take sides. If one is to remain human.’ (p.166)

44. (…) and rode bareback into technicolour dawns. (p.174)

45. A French soldier sat beside me with his hand in a girl’s lap, and I envied the simplicity of his happiness of his misery, whichever it might be. (p.174)

46. Suffering is not increased by numbers: one body can contain all the suffering the world can feel. (p.175)

47. He was like an emblematic statue of all I thought I hated in America – as ill-designed as the Statue of Liberty and as meaningless. (p.176)

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