“Our Man in Havana”

Amazingly and I don’t know why it’s taken so long but I’ve just finished reading “Our Man in Havana” by Graham Greene that he wrote in 1958.

Apart from being a great satirical story I couldn’t help – as I’m sure people of my age when reading it – thinking about how in many ways it was a foretelling of events that happened in 1962.

For those who weren’t around at the time – 1962 was the year when it really looked as if the world was about to go to war.

A war between the two power blocks the USSR and the USA over the construction of missile installations in Cuba.

I was thirteen at the time and fully aware through the news and the fact that our father who was a professional soldier had been put on immediate standby as a member of the Parachute Regiment.

The seriousness reverberated throughout the world because there was a serious prospect of the first conflict – and quite probably the last – between two atomic/nuclear powers.
“Our Man in Havana” is about the recruitment of a vacuum cleaner salesman in pre – revolutionary Cuba by the British MI6″

His role was to spy for them and perhaps essentially is about how the security services were only to willing to believe everything he told them.

As a satirical comedy it had a realistic element due to the fact that Graham Greene himself worked for MI6 during the war working in counter -espionage where he had learned that agents actually received expenses and bonuses on top of their salary which made it a ripe environment for fraud and false reporting.

Jim Wormwold is basically a man out of his depth who develops a network of informants in the Batista controlled Cuba who are exceptional – except for one minor flaw that they all shared – namely they were all fictitious.

As the network and demand for information increases he invents a tale of secret military installations being built in the mountain region.

The whole premise of the story is that after a series of events reality and fiction become intertwined with Wormwold at the centre of the action.

I suppose if there is one criticism it is that the book doesn’t really delve too deeply into or elaborate on just how cruel, brutal and tyrannical the Batista regime was or how the west propped it up in order to prevent communism arriving on the doorstep of the Unites States.

But then again it was aimed at showing the ridiculous nature of the secret services in a light hearted satirical way and not an explanation of how one dictator was removed and replaced by another by way of a revolution.

Hence the foretelling of the events in 1962 that sparked off the Cuba crisis and the following decades of animosity between Cuba and the USA.

An enjoyable read and a classic of the time.