Posts Tagged ‘The Comedians’

‘The Comedians’ play against a backdrop of Haitian poverty and corruption

June 11, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 11, 2013

Some readers might say that there’s very little humor to be found in The Comedians. The opening line of this 1966 novel by prolific and accomplished British author Graham Greene conjures images of dreary monuments to forgotten personages, including “the modest stone that commemorates” a key character in the novel. The narrator, a hotelier named Brown, is ambivalent, impotent (literally, on occasion) and also cynical.

As the novel’s action begins, Brown has failed to sell his hotel in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and is sailing back to “the future of my empty hotel and of a love-affair which was almost as empty.” His hotel is without guests because of the oppressive rule of (the democratically elected) Papa Doc Duvalier and his violent paramilitary loyalists, the Tontons Macoute, who have driven away the foreign tourists that once powered the economy of the impoverished Caribbean island-nation.

Brown’s shipmates include an obscure American third-party presidential candidate named Mr. Smith and a con artist named Mr. Jones. Jones, Smith and his outspoken wife want to establish a center to promote vegetarianism in a city and country of striking poverty. Jones is determined to enrich himself in Haiti’s climate of corruption. But Brown — all but unable to draw guests other than the Smiths to the hotel that he genuinely loves — is more or less adrift. For most of the book, the hotelier mainly strives to serve the Smiths, to intervene on Jones’ behalf with the authorities, and to rendezvous with his lover, the wife of an ambassador. Read the rest of this entry »

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