A Literary A-Z: Q

Ah, the always awkward ‘Q’. Feel free to add your own choices. Any book title, or the surname of an author, as long as it starts with this troublesome letter. I had to do some research for ‘Q’. Although I discovered a surprising number of titles, I also realised that I had read hardly any of them. I have already used what would have been my top choice, ‘And Quiet Flows The Don’, so I am limited to just one book title in this letter. As a consequence, this is a very short post!

‘The Quiet American’ was written by Graham Greene, and published in 1956. It is about an inexperienced young American arriving in Vietnam during the years of upheaval against French Colonial rule, sent by the US government with a secret mission to carry out. He meets a world-weary reporter, Englishman Thomas Fowler, who has settled in Saigon with an attractive local girlfriend, running the field office of The Times newspaper. Fowler’s cynicism contrasts well with the commitment and enthusiasm of Pyle, the American, a young man who believes he has the answer to the problems of that war-torn country.

Greene based this novel on his own experiences in Vietnam, where he worked as a war correspondent for western newspapers. He could see the growing influence of America there, and the involvement of the CIA seeking to establish a puppet government, under the influence of the US. He foretells the Vietnam War that followed the defeat of the French, and highlights the cultural differences that Pyle cannot understand. This was an important novel, and attracted criticism at the time, being labelled ‘Anti-American’. It has been filmed twice, most recently in 2002, starring Michael Caine as Fowler. But the book is much better than either film.

That’s it. Just the one. Good luck with ‘Q’.

58 thoughts on “A Literary A-Z: Q

  1. Well, I can’t use “Queen Margot” because it’s really “La Reine Margot,” a great book by Alexandre Dumas which I’ve read. I also have the film.

    I can think of at least three French writers whose name starts with Q: Raymond Queneau (“Zazie dans le Métro”), Pascal Quignard (“Les escaliers de Chambord” and “Tous les matins du monde”), and Yann Queffélec.(“Les Noces barbares”). Each of these authors has had a book adapted to film.

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  2. Finally come up with a Q. It was thinking of what I used to read to my daughters that did it: ‘A Quiet Night In’ by Jill Murphy. It’s one in her series about the family of elephants. As you might have gathered by now, I’m a great lover of children’s books!

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  3. Thanks, Pete. A difficult one indeed. I only remembered one when I read another entry about Quicksand. There is a story by Nella Larsen (a well-know and excellent writer from the Harlem Renaissance) called Quicksand that is usually published together with Passing. Excellent stories about the plight of African-American women in America at the time. Take care and thanks.

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  4. Ellery Queen. Not “great literature” but I read several of these detective novels on a vacation, and enjoyed them a lot, although I couldn’t tell you one plot line. But they were fun to read, pretty intricate, and if you see one at a library sale, or gathering dust at a B&B, I’d definitely snag it for a rainy night.

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    1. I’ve heard of him of course, but can’t think of any title of his I might have read. I do remember they used to have really lurid ‘pulp fiction’ covers, so I will look out for them.
      Thanks, Robert.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm, it could have been lurid covers that attracted my attention in high school, but I’m sure it was the redeeming literary content. There’s been a magazine for years under this name, that has pretty good detective short stories, it’s still in print. And a TV series in the ’70’s, which I’ve never seen.

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  5. I think Q has pretty much defeated me. If I have read any such books, they were sufficiently unremarkable for me not to have remembered them. We do have ’50 quantum physics ideas you really need to know’ on our bookshelf, but it belongs to my husband and I’ve never read any of it. Clearly, my education is sadly lacking 😉

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  6. Excellent choice. I’d give you Quarantine by Jim Crace but I couldn’t read it all the way through so it’s in my abandoned pile! I love the books of Jane Gardam though it’s a while since I’ve read one – quintessentially British with touches of black humour. One of hers is The Queen of the Tambourine. You might remember a TV dramatisation of another of her books a decade or so ago – God on the Rocks. x

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  7. The Quiet American sounds really interesting – I’ll be adding it to my to-read list! I could only think of one ‘Q’ book – Quicksand by Junichiro Tanizaki. It’s a book about a young Japanese well-to-do woman in the 1920s, in a loveless but decent arranged marriage, who seeks affection from an art student in a similar position to her. There are so many twists and turns, and the main character’s lesbian lover is the single most brilliant villain I have ever read. It’s so good! 🙂

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  8. Ho! Ho! I have a “Q” title to add that has long been a favourite book of mine, since I was a sales rep for the publishing company in 1990 … “Querencia” is a beautifully written, bitter-sweet memoir by Stephen J. Bodio that I’m proud to say is still on my Bequia bookshelf. Here’s the Goodreads listing for it: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1232866.Querencia Fabulous cover, as was the case with all the books published by Clark City Press, and I have reread the book a number of times … because the writing is that good! I doubt it’s available as an eBook, and it’s probably no longer available in print, but well worth searching out a used copy. You won’t ever get mine though – I’ll be keeping that!

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