War and The Quiet American

War mixes everything up. Or maybe everything is already mixed up and war just jumbles it around. Love and lust and vulnerability; ambition and power and youth. Ideologies and instincts, all shaken together and served upon a platter before a backdrop of steamy jungles or quiet dehydrated mountains in the third world.

War is a third world affair; it has been now for generations. Theaters collapsed in upon themselves; fire-bombed towns; grand old cities occupied by crisply dressed soldiers drinking Champagne and dancing with elegant ladies dressed in white – concentration camps filled with the college educated, those were the wars of our grandfathers. Our wars, the wars that our fathers started are the wars of villagers against peasants – the under-trained against the poorly armed. Child soldiers with bloodshot eyes pointing an AK-47 at a passing car; an explosion planted in a market to kill vendors sitting cross-legged in front of a pile of dried fish. With an occasional drone strike to accent the difference, making it somehow absurd.

The Quiet American is about this kind of war – war in third world Asia, Vietnam specifically. Rice farmers fighting street thugs. It is the story of a journalist and his love for a local girl which brings him into competition with a naïve young American. It’s a simple book – a simple story. Perhaps too simple, but well-enough written to elicit emotion.

I made common cause, because we all know the types – those of us who know modern wars. Four of them, I think, for me – the wars I have known. The camps full of fly-covered children, bodies heaped in a pile as their blood drains into a small river seeking an exit. The jaded journalist, the ambitious diplomat, grandiose plans of nations built upon a foundation of the imperfect; like an oil painter swiping away reality with each pass of the brush, making her painting plain; cellophane wrapped like the west sees its wars.

The book did take a surprising ending, especially for those who have seen the movie. I won’t spoil it; but I will say that sometimes a sad ending can also be happy, and vice versa too.

About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
This entry was posted in America, Book Review, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s