25 August 2010
Late Summer Graham Greene
"The rollers came in from the Atlantic and smashed over the sea-wall. The spray drove across the road, over the four traffic lanes, and beat like rain under the pock-marked pillars where they walked. The clouds came racing from the east, and he felt himself to be part of the slow erosion of Havana." --Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana
I'm in love with all romantic descriptions of places I've never been and the above is just one Greene dispenses effortlessly in Our Man in Havana. I'm pleased to have picked such an appropriate title for the end of summer (it sure seemed well over in Seattle today). The characters, from Wormold the reluctant agent turned fabulist spy to Capt. Segura the wooer of Milly (Wormold's daughter) and unapologetic torturer, are so humorously drawn together that one can believe that the nuclear threat is really no more than a few sketches of vacuum cleaner attachments. Huzzahs also for Dr. Hasselbacher, an old timer who spends a great evening out, certain that he's won the lottery before the numbers are drawn: "Tonight I have won....Tomorrow I may have lost, but nothing can rob me of my victory tonight."
Throughout, I was reminded of Robert Polidori's photographs of Cuba, a wide book of which I would often flip through in my salad days as a part time independent bookseller. In his Havana, we see how the revolution has frozen Cuba, at least spatially, in the colonial era that Greene captures so well.
Now that all the painful reading is over I get to watch the film version. With Alec Guinness starring and Greene BFF Carol Reed directing, my hopes are high.