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Exploring the backstory that led to the writing of Graham Greene's beloved satirical spy novel, Our Man Down in Havana evokes this pivotal time and place in the author's life.
When US immigration authorities deported Graham Greene from Puerto Rico in 1954, the British author made an unplanned visit to Havana and discovered that "every vice was permissible and every trade possible" in a Caribbean fleshpot of Mafia-run casinos and nude revues. The former MI6 officer had stumbled upon the ideal setting for a comic espionage story. Three years later, he returned in the midst of Fidel Castro's guerrilla insurgency against a US-backed dictator to begin writing his iconic novel Our Man in Havana. Twelve weeks after its publication, the Cuban Revolution triumphed in January 1959, soon transforming a capitalist playground into a communist stronghold.
Combining biography, history, and politics, Our Man Down in Havana investigates the real story behind Greene's fictional one. This includes his many visits to a pleasure island that became a revolutionary island, turning his chance involvement into a political commitment. His Cuban novel describes an amateur agent who dupes his intelligence chiefs with invented reports about "concrete platforms and unidentifiable pieces of giant machinery". With eerie prescience, Greene's satirical tale had foretold the Cold War's most perilous episode, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Exploiting a wealth of archival material and interviews with key protagonists, Our Man Down in Havana delves into the story behind and beyond the author's prophetic Cuban tale, focusing on one slice of Greene's manic life: a single novel and its complex history.
A number one Amazon.com best seller in Latin American History.
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Manages to make Cuba boring
It came as no surprise that a story of Graham Greene's life would fail to excite. For a man with all the complexities and contradictions of his contemporaries, he's always seemed dull in comparison to the likes of superior characters (and talents) like Hemingway and Garcia Márquez. But the author manages to turn the Cuban revolution into a tedious exercise, and desperately keeping a tenuous hold on the original premise of the book. If the author had spent as much time researching the revolution and its primarily players, as he did calculating the inflation on 1958 prices, he might have approached an interesting read.
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Entertaining and informative
This is a wonderful combination of biography, history and political analysis from the 1930s to the second Iraq war, each genre connected in some way to Greene and his environment. The reader Jackson did a superb, lively job.