The Tired Australian

You would be too . . .

An earlier film version of The Quiet American, written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz for release in 1958, shows how such historically charged material can fare in the wrong hands. (Mankiewicz radically altered Greene's ending, making Pyle an innocent businessman and the cynical Fowler the dupe of a communist plot to falsely incriminate the American.) I ask Noyce whether he believes that he, as an Australian, has brought a unique perspective to the novel's tug of war between old and new worlds. "I come from a culture," he admits, "that was a colony of Britain and is a cultural colony of America." Throughout the '50s and '60s, Noyce remembers, Australia swooned under "Yellow Peril paranoia. We were the final domino." That paranoia, which motivated Australia to send its own young men to die in Vietnam, connects—for Noyce—with A.O. Neville's dread of eugenic pollution, the fear (or projection) that "someone would come and take our country from us, based on the unspoken knowledge that we never belonged there anyway because we'd just stolen it from someone in the first place, that we didn't fit in because the land wasn't really suitable for fair-skinned Europeans." He laughs. "Talk about being an alien in your own land."

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