“The Sympathizer” is a Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel from Vietnamese-American professor and novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen. This vibrant and multilayered tragicomic novel is written as a confession of an Americanized Vietnamese double agent who fled Vietnam to start a new life in Los Angeles and found himself spying on his compatriots for a higher-up in the Viet Cong.
The novel offers a new and fresh take on the Vietnam war, till now mostly told from the U.S. perspective. As the narrator puts it, “this was the first war where the losers would write history instead of the victors”. It also ponders the role of revolutions and revolutionaries in war and peace, recognizing that a victory in any revolution - even when it’s fought for a just cause - may bring rotten fruit, trumping the values it was fought to protect.
The Sympathizer can be read as a war novel, immigrant novel or political and spy novel and will surely please those of you who like Conrad, Greene and le Carré.
It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.
Praise and awards
*** WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016***
WINNER OF THE EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL 2016
WINNER OF THE CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN FICTION 2016
‘A fierce novel written in a refreshingly high style and charged with intelligent rage’ Financial Times
‘A bold, artful and globally minded reimagining of the Vietnam war . . . The Sympathizer is an excellent literary novel, and one that ends, with unsettling present-day resonance, in a refugee boat where opposing ideas about intentions, actions and their consequences take stark and resilient human form’ the Guardian
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