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“We must not complain too much of being comedians – it’s an honorable profession. If only we could be good ones the world might gain at least a sense of style. We have failed – that’s all. We are bad comedians, we aren’t bad men.”
No, ‘The Comedians’, by Graham Greene is not about the comic artists who make us laugh and roll with laughter’s. The Comedians here are people like you and me, the actors of real life, who acts in real life, who think in one way and act in altogether another way, and affect each other’s lives with their act. It’s about the Comedian aspect of people like you and I, in context of the book, Brown, Smiths, Jones, and Maria are the Comedians.
For last two years I have been starting my year with a read of Graham Greene’s work (‘The End of the Affair’ and ‘The Power and the Glory’), so I thought, why not do it this year as well and make a habit out of it, so I picked up Graham Greene’s ‘The Comedians’ to be the first read of 2013. ‘The Comedians’ proved out to be quite a different experience compared to ‘The End of the Affair’ and ‘The Power and the Glory’ though, its more adventurous, it has more action, and its somewhat of a light read. ‘The End of the Affair’ and ‘The Power and the Glory’ were soul stirring experiences covering the spiritual struggle of their protagonists. ‘The Comedians’ however, serves the mind with thrills and interesting characters. If you are not a reader of serious kind of literature, then this book is good option to start Graham Greene with.
That’s about the comparison, now coming to the book in question, ‘The Comedians’ is 1966’s novel by Graham Greene and is often called as his greatest adventure novel. It’s close to 300 pages long and is written in typical Greene’s style but tone is slightly relaxed. It is set in Haiti of 1960’s, during the terroristic rule of François "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his secret police, the Tonton Macoute. Though fictional work, such was the impact of this book on Papa Doc that out of anger and frustration he called Greene “"A liar, a cretin, a stool-pigeon... unbalanced, sadistic, perverted... a perfect ignoramus... lying to his heart's content... the shame of proud and noble England... a spy... a drug addict... a torturer." (Wiki) .
ABOUT THE PLOT: Mr. Brown, the narrator and the protagonist of the story, is coming back to Haiti after a failed attempt in New York to sell off his Hotel in Haiti. On board, he is accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Smith, who are running a campaign for Vegetarianism and coming to Haiti to build a vegetarian center there; then there is jovial and comic Mr. Jones, a mysterious and most interesting character, and authorities are after him for his dubious history.
In Haiti, under the tyrannical rule of Papa Doc, Brown finds the place got even more abased and his hotel working even worst with no customers at all, and to add to misery he finds the body of a minister lying dead in the pool of his hotel. Mr. Jones gets arrested and Smiths arrive at Brown’s hotel for stay. After some experience of the place, Smiths realize that Haiti is not a place for their venture and decides to move on, while Mr. Jones somehow make some mysteriously fake deal with Papa Doc’s men of supplying arms and becomes very important in the place and helps Brown in his difficulties. But soon Authorities realize the truth of Mr. Jones and local Police is after him.
Brown helps Jones to find shelter in the South American Embassy, with the help of his lover, Ambassador’s wife Maria. But Brown starts to hate the presence of Jones in the house of Ambassador, as he becomes favorite of all in the family including Maria, for his jovial nature and boasting tales of himself. Brown wants him out of the place, so when a friend of Brown ask him if he could convince Mr. Jones to help the rebels in the state and train them, Brown without giving a thought about Jones security, convinces him to join the rebels, but it’s a long and dangerous journey that they have to follow before they could reach the place of rebellions. Will they succeed, and will it be of any use in the movement, read ‘The Comedians’ to know.
ABOUT THE BOOK: Without making it a historical fiction, GG has brilliantly brought to light the time of tyrannical rule of Papa Doc in Haiti during 1960’s. Through the experiences of his characters, one can very well understand the state of affairs that Haiti was under, in those times. Unlivable and unsecure, reader finds the place crumbling, and all moving out; even the ever hopeful Smiths gets hopeless after a period of time; Brown is forcefully made to leave the place with his hotel still unsold; and citizens are forced to form rebellion groups to overcome the tyranny.
Then there is another aspect of ‘The Comedians’, its adventurous plot and intriguing characters that too in the masterly writing of Greene’s. It starts on a light mode with the chief characters spending some nice time on the board of the ship. But as they reach Haiti, things start to happen, there are always things happening around to keep the reader’s interest intact, a death in the hotel, Jones adventures, and Brown and Marias romantic ventures throughout the place even in the times of danger, keep up the interest . And as we reach the climax, it gets even more speedy and gripping, as Brown and Jones start their journey to the Rebellions.
Flashback of Brown's background story somehow disturbs the flow though, and should've been kept short. Other than that, no flaw.
Brown is a typical Greene’s character, a possessive and jealous lover, who visualize everyone in his own way and form his opinion, reminded me of the protagonist of ‘The End of the Affair’, brings in the passion with his love ventures with Maria; Smiths bring in lightness and hope, while Jones brings in the humor and a sense of mystery; and Ambassador and his family bring in the drama; and Papa Doc and his Secret Police of Tonton Macoute bring in the terror and fear (Papa Doc not Comedian, He represent fear and fear is always Real.). I guess that’s everything a reader expects in a good work of fiction.
P.S: Some quotes from the book are in comment Section.
PYAR HUMEIN PHIR MILAAEGA....
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