The Quiet American

A man becomes trustworthy when you trust him.

Death was far more certain than God.

Even though my reason wanted the state of death, I was afraid like a virgin of the act.

For a moment I had felt elation as on the instant of waking before one remembers.

From childhood I had never believed in permanence, and yet I had longed for it. Always I was afraid of losing happiness. This month, next year...death was the only absolute value in my world. Lose life and one would lose nothing again forever.

God save us always,' I said 'from the innocent and the good.

He was impregnably armored by his good intentions and his ignorance.

I can’t say what made me fall in love with Vietnam - that a woman’s voice can drug you; that everything is so intense. The colors, the taste, even the rain. Nothing like the filthy rain in London. They say whatever you’re looking for, you will find here. They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes, but the rest has got to be lived. The smell: that’s the first thing that hits you, promising everything in exchange for your soul. And the heat. Your shirt is straightaway a rag. You can hardly remember your name, or what you came to escape from. But at night, there’s a breeze. The river is beautiful. You could be forgiven for thinking there was no war; that the gunshots were fireworks; that only pleasure matters. A pipe of opium, or the touch of a girl who might tell you she loves you. And then, something happens, as you knew it would. And nothing can ever be the same again.

I could never have been a pacifist. To kill a man was surely to grant him an immeasurable benefit. Oh yes, people always, everywhere, loved their enemies. It was their friends they preserved for pain and vacuity.

I envied those who could believe in a God and I distrusted them. I felt they were keeping their courage up with a fable of the changeless and the permanent. Death was far more certain than God, and with death there would be no longer the possibility of love dying.

If you live in a place for long you cease to read about it.

I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.

Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.

Innocence is a kind of insanity

Innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.

I was an only child. It's a great disadvantage being an only child.

I wish sometimes you had a few bad motives, you might understand a little more about human beings.

One forgets so quickly one’s own youth…

Ordinary life goes on--that has saved many a man's reason.

Pyle could see pain when it was in front of his eyes. (I don’t write that as a sneer; there are so many of us who can’t)

So it always is: when you escape to a desert the silence shouts in your ear.

Sooner or has to take sides. If one is to remain human.

Suffering is not increased by numbers. One body can contain all the suffering the world can feel.

That was my first instinct -- to protect him. It never occurred to me that there was a greater need to protect myself. Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.

They don't believe in anything either. You and your like are trying to make a war with the help of people who just aren't interested."
"They don't want communism."
"They want enough rice," I said. "They don't want to be shot at. They want one day to be much the same as another. They don't want our white skins around telling them what they want."
"If Indochina goes--"
"I know that record. Siam goes. Malaya goes. Indonesia goes. What does 'go' mean? If I believed in your God and another life, I'd bet my future harp against your golden crown that in five hundred years there may be no New York or London, but they'll be growing paddy in these fields, they'll be carrying their produce to market on long poles, wearing their pointed hats. The small boys will be sitting on the buffaloes. I like the buffaloes, they don't like our smell, the smell of Europeans.

They killed him because he was too innocent to live. He was young and ignorant and silly and he got involved. He had no more of a notion than any of you what the whole affair's about . . .

Thought's a luxury. Do you think the peasant sits and thinks of God and Democracy when he gets inside his mud hut at night?

Time has its revenges, but revenge seems so often sour. Wouldn’t we all do better not trying to understand, accepting the fact that no human being will ever understand another, not a wife with a husband, nor a parent a child? Perhaps that’s why men have invented God – a being capable of understanding.

To be in love is to see yourself as someone else sees you, it is to be in love with the falsified and exalted image of yourself. In love we are incapable of honour - the courageous act is no more than playing a part to an audience of two.

You cannot love without intuition.