Graham Greene’s The Quiet American is an “epochal novel.” It announces the inception of a new epoch at a decisive historical moment: on March 15, 1954, US National Security Council Directive 5412 came into force. NSC 5412 more or less coincided with the onset of the Cold War and made a political imperative of the absolute deniability of covert actions. It thereby ushered in a specifically modern form of innocence. Greene’s novel is about an early version of that innocence. Modern innocence conceals the “principle of implosion” according to which ferocious opposites reverse into one another. Greene gives us his own version of implosion, the collapse of any private moral space putatively valorizable apart from global antagonisms. Modern innocence might seem principally identifiable with the Cold War era. However, Orwell’s analysis of doublethink gives the concept larger scope, as do Le Carré’s masterful analyses of its persistence in post-1997 British culture.


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pp. 289-308
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