Our Man In Havanna

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Book Report 1.The Author Henry Graham Green was born 1904 in Berkhamsted (Hertfordshire) in GB.

His father had a poor academic record but became the headmaster of Berkhamsted School.

With his father being headmaster it was always difficult for Graham Greene to join his classmates. For this reason Graham Greene got an early experience of solitude and isolation , which became one of his permanent motives in his literary work.

After his Graduation Greene studied modern history in Oxford. During his studies he published more than 60 poems , stories , articles and reviews, in order to escape from the horrors of human existence.

In 1926 he converted to Roman Catholicism as he hoped to find replies to pain and misery of life. Later he explained that " I had to find a religion … to measure my evil against ". From 1926 to 1930 he worked as a sub editor for The Times.

In 1927 he married Vivian Dayrell - Browning. Nevertheless between the 1920s and 1930s he had several relationships, among those no less than 47 prostitutes.

During WW 2 , from 1941 to 1944 Greene worked for the Foreign Office and it was his sister Elisabeth, who recruited her brother to become an operative for the secret service SIS . He was sent on various secret missions , often on a flight from himself , repeatedly confessing : "I'm a stranger to myself ". After the war he travelled widely as a free - lance journalist and lived long periods at the French Riviera.With his Anti - American comments Greene gained access to main communist leaders like Fidel Castro or Ho Chi Minh .

Greene died in Vevey Switzerland on April the third in 1991.Greene is one of the most widely read novelist of the 20th century , a suburb storyteller. His novels treat moral issues in the context of political settings. In addition adventure and suspense are constant elements in his novels and of many of his books successful films have been made. Greene was a candidate for the Nobel prize for Literature several times , but never won an award.

Maybe my description of Greens life was a bit long - however I thought that it helps to understand the background and the idea behind the story the content of which I will tell right now …… The Plot The story takes place in Cuba in about 1958 as the title suggests mainly in Havana.

The main character of Graham Greene's novel "Our Man In Havana" is the British citizen James Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman, who runs a store in Havana in Cuba. So far the most important thing in his life is his daughter Milly, who he brings up alone, as his wife left him years ago. Wormold has just one real friend in Havana: Dr. Hasselbacher, a German doctor who's been living there for a long time and regularly meets Wormold for talking, playing or drinking whiskey at a bar together.

Wormold´s income is pretty low. Electric vacuum cleaners aren't sold very frequently because electric power isn't guaranteed all the time in Havana , as only few people of the upper class can afford one.

Now his daughter has celebrated her 17th birthday and thus reached "the expensive age" as Wormold says. For her birthday present Milly desires a horse she could buy for a very low price from Captain Segura, a head police officer. Milly has already organized the stabling at the "Country Club", a meeting point for the famous and influential people.

Wormold has decided to take a credit to pay for the horse, when suddenly a stranger makes him a lucrative offer. The stranger turns out to be a man called Hawthrone, an agent of the British Secret Service, who wants to recruit Wormold as a subagent. Hawthrone explains that Wormold has been chosen as he is British and as he has access to the houses of many important people when he looks after their vacuum cleaners for service inspection.

Under the excellent cover of his vacuum cleaner store he accepts the offer of a $300- plus a month and so Wormold becomes Agent 59200/5.

Wormold does this only as he is short of money and as he wants to satisfy the wishes of his daughter.

When he receives the first encoded messages which remind him to supply his headquarters with information, he realizes that for the first time in his life he has taken money and given nothing in return. This fact troubles him. Till now it seems to him that he's been the recipient of a gift that enables his daughter to ride at the Country Club. So he thinks that it's time that he gives them (the Secret Service) some names to trace and recruit an agent to keep them happy. He thinks: "All you need is a little imagination" and thus he sends fake stories and pretends to recruit subagents.

In order to deliver ramified information he chooses two influential persons he pretends to recruit. Their names he finds on the Country Club membershiplist. The one is the engineer Dr. Cifuentes who could provide technical information, the other one is Professor Luis Sanchez who could support him with economic information. So now Wormold regularly reports made-up stories to his contact man at the headquarters. He introduces more and more new fake subagents and really gains fun in making up these imaginary stories. One day he reports to his headquarters that his new agent Raul, a cuban pilot, has discovered military installations. In this report Wormold even encludes drawings of the new military weapons, but in reality these drawings show parts from the interior of a vacuum cleaner Wormold has just copied.

In London Wormold's chiefs are very satisfied with his work and in order to receive even more information they decide to send two more agents for Wormold's support to Havana. Now the situation becomes really uncomfortable for Wormold. For several months he has drawn money and in return reported imaginary stories. Wormold gets really in trouble when his new agents Beatrice and the radio operator Rudy want to get acquainted with Wormold's subagents he never personally got to know and of course never recruited. First he manages to defer a meeting with the subagents but after a while they urge him to get to know his recruited agents. A sad coincidence preserves Wormold from the uncoverage of his made-up stories. Before the required meeting with Raul can be arranged, the Cuban pilot dies in a car accident. But the story becomes extremely serious as in reality someone shot at Dr. Cifunentes, the engineer , who's also one of Wormold´s pretended subagents.

Beatrice and Rudy who are trained and experienced agents are sure that this is no coincidence and they dread that they all might be killed by a foreign secret service. Somehow a foreign power must have received copies of Wormold's fake reports; that means that on the way into the headquarters a double agent must have acted.

By this way innocent people who casually have been selected by Wormold, who has pretended to recruit them, are exposed to danger for their life. And this is what really turns out to be. Wormold and his subagents in fact have to fear for their lives. At a convention of the "European Traders" someone tries to poison Wormold; but Wormold happens to drop his glass of whiskey. The whiskey is licked by a dog and that dog immediately dies. The first victim on Wormold's side is Dr. Hasselbacher who is killed by one of the foreign agents.

Now Wormold feels guilty for Hasselbacher's death and he confesses to Beatrice that he and his agents never have operated and that all reports have been made-up stories.

But before he resigns he would try to kill the murderer of his friend Dr. Hasselbacher. He's sure that he would never kill someone for his country, for capitalism or patriotism but in this case, in a family-feud he will kill Hasselbacher´s murderer as he later really does.

In the end of the story Wormold is commanded to see the British Ambassador who tells him that he has caused lots of trouble in Havana and that under the prevailing circumstances he'll do better if he leaves Cuba for good.

Back in Britain he is requested to call on his headquarters where his chiefs have decided what should happen to him. Wormold dreads a severe verdict and even fears to be shot immediately. But he gets away with impunity and his superiors offer him a job on their training staff. He should do lecturing on how to run a station abroad. In addition to that he's recommended for a decoration (that is always done when a man retires from a post abroad). In his case his chief can hardly suggest anything higher than an O.B.E. (Officer of the British Empire). There is also a happy end concerning his private life. In Havana he has fallen in love with his female agent Beatrice; now back in Britain they both intend to get married and to raise Milly together.

Ok now as promised in the beginning I will now briefly explain what the cover means.

Therefore I have prepared a transparency which shows the cover. It is a micro photography showing a typical Cuban lottery game for the middle and lower class.

Even more important in my view and maybe also a key to the character of Graham Greene are the key messages of both , the novel and the author himself.

Comment / Message In his early days G.G was highly influenced by Mari Joe Browns novel:"The viper of Milan ".

This novel taught him that " the world is ruled by the absolutely wicked and that the absolutely good would never reign." In the beginning of his writer career G. had therefore distinguished between problem novels and entertaining novels. Because entertainment was one of the best way to get out of monotony and the routine of life. Later he ceased from this separation as also his serious novels , which tried to represent the real world , couldn't exist without entertainment.

Regarding the message of the novel the priority is more set on the suspense than on the message. Greene uses the device of a thriller to show the struggle between good and evil in his characters , also the conflict in his characters between secular love and love of god ,also moral doubt and psychological conflict.

The main conflict of course is Wormold´s conflict. It is the conflict of a loyal father and a greedy money grubber. In other words basically he is a very dedicated father , who wants to do the utmost for his daughter. However with a certain naivety he accepts the offer of the Secret Service , not realizing in the beginning that this is a serious and dangerous job, which is going to change his life completely.

Although Wormold has the best moral intentions he is getting more and more dependent on the money from the SIS. He is no longer able to control the development of his own life and that of others.

The final message of G.G in my view is that money rules the world and destroys even the best characters.

(Ok and now) Before I will come to my favourite area in the novel I would like to show you what Greene himself thought about his novel "Our man in Havana " Therefore I have prepared another transparency which shows a letter Greene wrote to a publisher.

Now please do me a favour and listen carefully to my favourite area in the novel.

Last but not least I will give you my own opinion about this novel.

First of all Graham Greene's novel "Our man in Havana" is a comical and satirical entertainment novel with a touch of tragedy.

Sometimes one is getting confused, in particular when Graham Greene is concentrating on a very detailed description of characters and actions. However it is only a certain delay of the action and Greene never loses the red line.

If you are in favour of British Humour I can only recommend to buy and read this novel !!!