Sunday, May 20, 2012

Five best books on the misadventures of expatriates

Born in London and educated there and in Glasgow, Paul French has lived and worked in Shanghai for many years. He is a widely published analyst and commentator on China and has written a number of books dealing with China’s pre-1949 history.

His new book is Midnight in Peking.

One of French's five best books about the misadventures of expatriates, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
The Comedians
by Graham Greene (1966)

Graham Greene's novels and stories depicted shenanigans in many exotic locales—Havana, Sierra Leone, Saigon—but "The Comedians," set in Haiti, is his most mischievous book. With the corrupt, lethal regime of François "Papa Doc" Duvalier as its backdrop, the novel tells the first-person story of a bankrupt hotelier, Mr. Brown, as he copes with predatory politics, a dead body in his swimming pool, incompetent British arms dealers and naïve American do-gooders. He also just can't keep his hands off the lovely wife of a South American diplomat. Amid curfews as the government's Tontons Macoute soldiers rampage against a nascent rebellion, the affair becomes ever riskier. The ambassador, who may or may not know that he is being cuckolded, takes the floor at a social gathering to discuss how everyone there is a "comedian" pretending to be someone he's not. "Perhaps even Papa Doc is a comedian," he says. "Oh no," someone else replies, "he is real. Horror is always real."
Read about another book on the list.

The Comedians is one of Amy Wilentz's ten best books on Haiti.

--Marshal Zeringue