The Ugly American is a 1958 political novel by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer. The book depicts the failures of the U.S. diplomatic corps, whose insensitivity to local language and customs was in marked contrast to the polished abilities of East bloc (primarily Soviet) diplomacy and led to Communist diplomatic success overseas. The book caused a sensation in diplomatic circles. John F. Kennedy was so impressed with the book that he sent a copy to each of his colleagues in the United States Senate. The book was one of the biggest bestsellers in the country, has been in print continuously since it appeared and is one of the most politically influential novels in all of American literature.
The book is a quasi-roman à clef which presents the experience of American diplomats and others in the fictional nation of Sarkkan as a stand-in for Southeast Asia and allegedly portrays several real people using pseudonyms.