Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 02/29/24 12:51 PM

Book Look: Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene

OUR MAN IN HAVANA by Graham Greene. Penguin Books.

So. How does this black comedy, this satirical send-up of the world of espionage measure up many many years after it was written by the Master in 1958?

Very well, I would say. The story of how a hapless British  vacuum cleaner salesman in Havana was recruited by Britain`s intelligence agency to spy for them (this was the Cold War period, remember), given the vaguest of training in codes (hilariously involving a Charles Lamb edition of Shakespeare) and how he proceeds along the most unexpected ways, is so sardonic, the reader`s mouth drops open at times, they chuckle out aloud at other times.

Character development is king here, and we get such a clear picture of Jim Wormold, his beauteous daughter Milly nee Seraphina, his best friend Dr Hasselbacher, the local strongman  sinister Captain Segura, the comely `secretary` Beatrice MI5 sends Wormold. Added to that are  truly madcap situations like Wormold sending pictures of the magnified innards of a vacuum cleaner back to HQ declaring they were secret installations on a remote mountainside, how when things turn a bit macabre Beatrice and he go to warn people that their lives may be in danger (for the most bizarre of reasons) and gets caught up in their affairs. We get a clear picture of vibrant,  colourful Havana too, where the people continue to survive and flourish during the notorious Batista regime.

Basically, the book is a hoot. Read it. Or read it again.

Batista regimeGraham GreeneMI5Our Man in Havanasatiresend up of espionage

Sheila Kumar • February 29, 2024

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