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Graham Greene’s 1955 novel The Quiet American fuses a murder mystery with a scathing critique of U.S. involvement in 1950s Vietnamese politics in the midst of French occupation. The story is told from the perspective of Thomas Fowler, a British foreign correspondent reporting in Saigon. It touches on his friendship with CIA agent Alden Pyle, a young idealist sent by Washington to promote democracy. Things take a turn when Pyle falls for Fowler’s local mistress Phuong—a love triangle that can be read as a political parable of the struggle for power in Vietnam. When a bomb kills and injures locals at a cafe, Fowler is sure that Pyle was involved and becomes determined to stop him—and soon a detective is investigating Pyle’s murder.

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Upon publication, the novel was controversial for its depiction of the U.S., with some readers viewing it as anti-American. But the book was dubbed one of the BBC’s 100 Novels That Shaped Our World in 2022, and it was twice adapted for screen, in 1958 and 2002. The latter adaptation, by director Phillip Noyce, starred Brendan Fraser and Michael Caine as the American and the Brit, respectively, with the latter earning an Academy Award nomination.—Armani Syed

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