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The Sympathizer
Cover of The Sympathizer
The Sympathizer
A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)
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Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Winner of the 2016 Edgar Award for Best First Novel Winner of the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction "[A] remarkable debut novel."...
Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Winner of the 2016 Edgar Award for Best First Novel Winner of the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction "[A] remarkable debut novel."...
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Description-

  • Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
    Winner of the 2016 Edgar Award for Best First Novel
    Winner of the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction

    "[A] remarkable debut novel." —Philip Caputo, New York Times Book Review (cover review)

    Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize, a startling debut novel from a powerful new voice featuring one of the most remarkable narrators of recent fiction: a conflicted subversive and idealist working as a double agent in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.

    The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as seven other awards, The Sympathizer is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a "man of two minds," a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam.

    The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship.

 

Awards-

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds. I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some have treated me as such. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides. Sometimes I flatter myself that this is a talent, and although it is admittedly one of a minor nature, it is perhaps also the sole talent I possess. At other times, when I reflect on how I cannot help but observe the world in such a fashion, I wonder if what I have should even be called talent. After all, a talent is something you use, not something that uses you. The talent you cannot not use, the talent that possesses you—that is a hazard, I must confess. But in the month when this confession begins, my way of seeing the world still seemed more of a virtue than a danger, which is how some dangers first appear.

    The month in question was April, the cruelest month. It was the month in which a war that had run on for a very long time would lose its limbs, as is the way of wars. It was a month that meant everything to all the people in our small part of the world and nothing to most people in the rest of the world. It was a month that was both an end of a war and the beginning of . . . well, “peace" is not the right word, is it, my dear commandant?

About the Author-

  • Viet Thanh Nguyen was born in Vietnam and raised in America. His stories have appeared in Best New American Voices, TriQuarterly, Narrative, and the Chicago Tribune and he is the author of the academic book Race and Resistance. He teaches English and American Studies at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 12, 2015
    This astonishing first novel has at its core a lively, wry first-person narrator called the Captain, and his two school friends Bon and Man, as they navigate the fall of Saigon and the establishment of the Communist regime in Vietnam in 1975. The Captain is a half-Vietnamese double agent; he reports to his Communist minder Man who, unbeknownst to Bon, is a Republican assassin. The Captain and Bon make it on to one of the harrowing last flights out of Saigon as the city is overtaken by the Viet Cong. They travel with the Captain’s superior, the General, and his family, although Bon’s own wife and son are shot making their escape. The Vietnamese exiles settle uncomfortably in an America they believe has abandoned their country, as they are reduced to new roles as janitors, short-order cooks, and deliverymen. The General opens a liquor store, then a restaurant (in which his proud wife cooks the best pho outside Vietnam) as a front to raise money for a counter rebellion. In order to protect his identity as a spy, the Captain is forced to incriminate others, and as lines of loyalty and commitment blur, his values are compromised until they are worthless. Nguyen’s novel enlivens debate about history and human nature, and his narrator has a poignant, often mirthful voice. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber.

  • Library Journal

    February 15, 2015

    Written as a postwar confessional, this novel begins with its nameless protagonist, a highly placed young aide to a general in the South Vietnamese army, recalling how he finalized the details of escape before the fall of Saigon. But our hero is a double agent, a communist sympathizer who will continue to feed information to the North even after he makes the harrowing escape with his loyalist friend Bon and the general's family on the last plane out, and becomes part of the Vietnamese refugee community in Southern California. Breathtakingly cynical, the novel has its hilarious moments; the reader will especially enjoy Nguyen's take on 1970s American life. To maintain his cover, our hero must become entangled in the general's underground resistance group, which plots a return to Vietnam through Cambodia, and the tale turns seriously dark. VERDICT Ultimately a meditation on war, political movements, America's imperialist role, the CIA, torture, loyalty, and one's personal identity, this is a powerful, thought-provoking work. It's hard to believe this effort, one of the best recent novels to cover the Vietnamese conflict from an Asian perspective, is a debut. This is right up there with Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke. [See Prepub Alert, 10/27/14.]--Reba Leiding, emeritus, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from April 15, 2015
    Adept in the merciless art of interrogation, the nameless spy who narrates Nguyen's dark novel knows how to pry answers from the unwilling. Unexpectedly, however, this Vietnamese communist sympathizer finds himself being tortured by the very revolutionary zealots he has helped make victorious in Saigon. He responds to this torture by extending an intense self-interrogation already underway before his incarceration. The narrator thus plumbs his singular double-mindedness by reliving his turbulent life as the bastard son of a French priest and a devout Asian mother. Haunted by a faith he no longer accepts, insecure in the communist ideology he has embraced, the spy sweeps a vision sharpened by disillusionment across the tangled individual psyches of those close to hima friend, a lover, a comradeand into the warped motives of the imperialists and ideologues governing the world he must navigate. In an antiheroic trajectory that takes him from Vietnam during the war to the U.S. and then back, Nguyen's cross-grained protagonist exposes the hidden costs in both countries of America's tragic Asian misadventure. Nguyen's probing literary art illuminates how Americans failed in their political and military attempt to remake Vietnambut then succeeded spectacularly in shrouding their failure in Hollywood distortions. Compellingand profoundly unsettling.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

  • T.C. Boyle “Magisterial. A disturbing, fascinating and darkly comic take on the fall of Saigon and its aftermath, and a powerful examination of guilt and betrayal. The Sympathizer is destined to become a classic and redefine the way we think about the Vietnam War and what it means to win and to lose."
  • Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Fifth Book of Peace “Trapped in endless civil war, 'the man who has two minds' tortures and is tortured as he tries to meld the halves of his country and of himself. Viet Thanh Nguyen accomplishes this integration in a magnificent feat of storytelling. The Sympathizer is a novel of literary, historical, and political importance."
  • Bob Shacochis, author of The Woman Who Lost Her Soul “It is a strong, strange and liberating joy to read this book, feeling with each page that a broken world is being knitted back together, once again whole and complete. As far as I am concerned, Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer--both a great American novel and a great Vietnamese novel--will close the shelf on the literature of the Vietnam War."
  • Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn and What It Is Like to Go to War “Read this novel with care; it is easy to read, wry, ironic, wise, and captivating, but it could change not only your outlook on the Vietnam War, but your outlook on what you believe about politics and ideology in general. It does what the best of literature does, expands your consciousness beyond the limitations of your body and individual circumstances."
  • Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain “Not only does Viet Thanh Nguyen bring a rare and authentic voice to the body of American literature generated by the Vietnam War, he has created a book that transcends history and politics and nationality and speaks to the enduring theme of literature: the universal quest for self, for identity. The Sympathizer is a stellar debut by a writer of depth and skill."
  • Vincent Lam, author of Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures and The Headmaster's WagerThe Sympathizer is a remarkable and brilliant book. By turns harrowing, and cut through by shards of unexpected and telling humor, this novel gives us the conflict in Vietnam, and its aftermath, in a way that is deeply truthful, and vitally important."
  • David Abrams, author of Fobbit “I think I'd have to go all the way back to Nabokov's Humbert Humbert to find the last narrative voice that so completely conked me over the head and took me prisoner. Nguyen and his unnamed protagonist certainly have made a name for themselves with one of the smartest, darkest, funniest books you'll read this year."
  • Andrew X. Pham, author of Catfish and Mandala “Audaciously and vividly imagined. A compelling read."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “A closely written novel of after-the-war Vietnam, when all that was solid melted into air. As Graham Greene and Robert Stone have taught us, on the streets of Saigon, nothing is as it seems. . . . Think Alan Furst meets Elmore Leonard, and you'll capture Nguyen at his most surreal . . . Both chilling and funny, and a worthy addition to the library of first-rate novels about the Vietnam War."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review) “[An] astonishing first novel . . . Nguyen's novel enlivens debate about history and human nature, and his narrator has a poignant often mindful voice."
  • Library Journal (starred review) “Breathtakingly cynical, the novel has its hilarious moments . . . Ultimately a meditation on war, political movements, America's imperialist role, the CIA, torture, loyalty, and one's personal identity, this is a powerful, thought-provoking work. It's hard to believe this effort . . . is a debut. This is right up there with Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke."

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Viet Thanh Nguyen
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