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The Sympathizer

Cover of The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer

A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)
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The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as five 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.

The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as five 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.

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  • 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.

  • 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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The Sympathizer
The Sympathizer
A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)
Viet Thanh Nguyen
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