Vietnam, Graham Greene and "The Quiet American"

Graham Green’s Vietnam novel The Quiet American remains one of the most engaging and fascinating depictions of Vietnam in English literature. In this course we will follow the brief history of how Vietnam has been depicted in English literature (with an occasional sidetrip into Vietnamese and French literature) before we look at the interesting ways that Graham Greene processed his endless travels in his writing. In the final week we draw the two together when we look at the great writer’s masterpiece, The Quiet American (1955), and what it says about Vietnam, Greene’s emotional life and that specific moment in history. We will also explore how Greene’s Vietnam can still be found in the vibrant modern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City.


  • Face-to-Face


  • Nguyen Du, The Song of Kieu (Penguin: 2019)
  • Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter (Vintage: 2005)
  • Graham Greene, The Quiet American (Vintage: 2004)
  • Graham Greene, Travels with My Aunt (Vintage: 2019)
  • Thich Nhat Hanh & Daniel Berrigan, The Raft is Not the Shore: Conversations Toward a Buddhist-Christian Awareness (Orbis Books: 2001)
  • Sister Chan Khong, Learning True Love: Practicing Buddhism in a Time of War (Parallax Press: 2016)
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer (Corsair: 2019)


  • Vietnam in English Literature: Vietnam has popped up relatively rarely in English literature be-fore the 21st century. We look at some of the interesting and important books about Vietnam, including a classic of Vietnamese literature, some Buddhist writings and some notable new books by Vietnamese-Americans
  • Graham Greene’s Travels: We will see how Greene chose to depict his travels in his books, normally through the lens of fiction. In particular we will look at how he fictionalised his experiences in British Sierra Leone in The Heart of the Matter and how he light-heartedly plays with the idea of travel in Travels with My Aunt
  • Greene and Vietnam in The Quiet American: Finally, we will examine Greene’s relationship with Vietnam in The Quiet American, looking at what it says about religion, colonialism and autobiography in fiction.

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