The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer

eBook - 2015
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Follows a Viet Cong agent as he spies on a South Vietnamese army general and his compatriots as they start a new life in 1975 Los Angeles.
Publisher: New York :, Grove Press,, [2015]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780802191694
080219169X
Branch Call Number: eBook
Characteristics: 1 online resource (371 pages)
text file, rda
Additional Contributors: Axis 360 (Firm)

Opinion

From Library Staff

A complex (and award-winning!) tale about a South Vietnamese refugee who flees after the fall of Saigon and tries to carve out a life in America - but is secretly serving as a double agent, feeding information to North Vietnam. This is a fascinating look at refugees, war, and American culture - a... Read More »

Follows a Viet Cong agent as he spies on a South Vietnamese army general and his compatriots as they start a new life on 1975 Los Angeles.


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t
toby65
Oct 24, 2017

Disappointing. After all the hype and a Pulitzer and a Macarthur genius grant for Viet Thanh
Nguyen. I gave up about 1/3 through, tired of trying to figure out who was speaking (no quotation marks) and the seemingly endless paragraphs. Obviously worth the effort for many,
but sadly, not for me.

x
xiaojunbpl12
Oct 18, 2017

Satire, dark humor, farce(regional/ethnic/sexual/religious)... or I mostly enjoyed as such even with the war torn reality and refugees condition, throughout narrator’s truthful confession, no single quotation mark, flourishing to 295 pages.

Then in the interrogation room, coerced (mind splitting/splitted) confession turned to repulsively grotesque ... deepened the universal theme of power, revolution, freedom and independence.

I’ve read few books on Vietnam War, seen a little in movies, the book’s mind-blowing effect on me may be partial. The book is not flawless (Man character is ambiguous, less believable), I relate protagonist and his folks(Viet Cong and Republic fighters) as if with kinship, besides having basked in Dialectic Materialism. I wouldn’t be surprised many American readers couldn’t take this book in.

His writing (skill, e.g. narrative style, character construction, unexpected turn of effect, flamboyant, can be a bit excessive) is comparable to masters long dead and still endure generations. Look forward to the sequel.

mko123 Oct 12, 2017

A scathing commentary on the superficiality of American culture and our reckless blunderings into other deeply complex lands. The narrator explores the shifting alliances and brings insight into the psyche of a nation embroiled in a proxy war by superpowers. A tough book to read but comes in perfect timing with the Ken Burns film. MKO

d
Dee46
Aug 27, 2017

An amazing novel! Read it.

m
mclarjh
Apr 13, 2017

Unlikeable protagonist, unbelievable premise, unconvincing story.

b
brangwinn
Mar 25, 2017

I know from the first sentence that this will not be like other books I’ve read. The narrator lets the reader know that he is a spook, a spy for both sides in the Vietnam conflict. Reading his story as he leaves Vietnam in the fall of Saigon to go to the US with the South Vietnamese general for whom he is an aide to his return to Vietnam as a Communist, he made it clear his sentiments were with the Communists. Gut wrenching in the honesty of his actions, he struggles with the murders he committed in America under the guise of helping the South Vietnamese cause, knowing that they were innocent. This was not an easy Pulitzer Prize winner to read, because of its starkness in dealing with actions and politics.

c
calvoer
Mar 11, 2017

A great book. Worth reading just for his similes and metaphors, which are stunning. I found the plot and characters totally real and engrossing, as was the historical setting; I learned a lot about the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam war period, which I lived through but had no idea about.

l
lukasevansherman
Mar 11, 2017

"We're revolutionaries, and revolutionaries can never be innocent. We know too much and have done too much."
Impressive and provocative debut novel by Vietnamese-born, American-based writer Viet Thahn Nguyen. There have been so many films and books about Vietnam, but as I was reading this, I realized almost all of those, even anti-war ones, were from the American perspective. So if readers find if "heavy-handed" or lacking in humor or hard to get past page 5 (really?), maybe they're the problem. The book, narrated by a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist agent, is about more than just the war, but about the conflicted relationship between the Vietnamese and the Americans, racial identity, and the effect of politics on the individual (I"m not sure how you write a novel about Vietnam that isn't political.). Nguyen is a vital new voice in fiction and I look forward to reading his latest book, "The Refugees." "Sometimes I dreamed of trying to pull a mask off my face, only to realize that the mask was my face."

b
blcwrites
Nov 30, 2016

If you want yet another interview with this author, check out KPFA (stream it) in Berkeley on Book Waves with Richard Wolinsky. You'll learn even more from this very outspoken and smart writer/ professor.

Especially after the election and the future for the U.S., this book was a warning, a primer, and an amazing account of war that we wage in foreign countries (we are doing even more now) from every possible perspective. Amazing and can't wait for the sequel.

patcumming Oct 26, 2016

A bit heavy handed for my liking. I just could not get into it.

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Quotes

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j
jimg2000
Aug 22, 2016

The Sympathizer:
-I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds.
-Claude said to us in parting. Even God and Noah couldn’t save everyone. Or wouldn’t, anyway.
-What was it like to live in a time when one’s fate was not war, when one was not led by the craven and the corrupt, when one’s country was not a basket case kept alive only through the intravenous drip of American aid?
-I can only testify that he was a sincere man who believed in everything he said, even if it was a lie, which makes him not so different from most.
-Even if they found themselves in Heaven, our countrymen would find occasion to remark that it was not as warm as Hell.
-we were atheists who had chosen communism over God.
-I had an abiding respect for the professionalism of career prostitutes, who wore their dishonesty more openly than lawyers, both of whom bill by the hour.

j
jimg2000
Aug 22, 2016

Quotes:
-We let the hippies steal the meaning of the words “love” and “freedom,” and we’ve only just begun to fight back. That fight begins and ends in the home.
-A slogan is just an empty suit, she said. Anyone can wear it.
-. “They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented.” Isn't that what’s happening here? Marx refers to peasants but he may as well refer to us. We cannot represent ourselves. Hollywood represents us.
-The citizenry can’t sift out what is useful and good if there’s too much opinion circulating.
-I wrote onomatopoeically across the cover page of the screenplay in big black letters: AIEYAAHHH!!!
-It boils down to is who pays for the tickets and goes to the movies. Frankly, Vietnamese audiences aren’t going to watch this movie, are they?

j
jimg2000
Aug 22, 2016

more quotes:
-One could choose between innocence and experience, but one could not have both.
-… what dream do you think compelled these refugees to escape, taking to the sea in leaky little boats that would have terrified Christopher Columbus? If our revolution served the people, why were some of these people voting by fleeing?
-… a disgruntled Green Beret scrawling, I believe in God, but God believes in napalm, on his helmet …
-Movies were America’s way of softening up the rest of the world, Hollywood relentlessly assaulting the mental defenses of audiences with the hit, the smash, the spectacle, the blockbuster, and, yes, even the box office bomb. It mattered not what story there audiences watched. The point was that it was the American story they watched and loved …
-He had a Minnesotan’s admiration for resourcefulness in the face of hardship. Bred by generations of people one very bad winter away from starvation and cannibalism.

j
jimg2000
Aug 22, 2016

Random thoughts:
-Country music was the most segregated kind of music in America, where even whites played jazz and even blacks sang in the opera. … Beethoven’s Ninth was the opus for Nazis, concentration camp commanders, and possibly Presidents. ... Americans are a confused people because they can’t admit this contradiction. They believe in a universe of divine justice where the human race is guilty of sin, but they also believe in a secular justice where human beings are prA spy’s task is not to hide himself where no one can see him, since he will not be able to see anything himself. A spy’s task is to hide where everyone can see him and where he can see everything.
-Shamus: You hear that? Bellamy: I don’t hear anything. Shamus: Exactly, It’s the sound of peace.
-They believe in a universe of divine justice where the human race is guilty of sin, but they also believe in a secular justice where human beings are presumed innocent. You can’t have both.

j
jimg2000
Aug 22, 2016

More random thoughts:
-What I learned, against my will, is that it’s impossible to live among a foreign people and not become changed by them.
-Disarming an idealist was easy. One only needed to ask why the idealist was not on the front line of the particular battle he had chosen.
-The vodka, when served, was as pungent and wonderful as I had imagined it would be, the paint thinner I needed to strop down the stained, flaking walls of my interior.
-… we Vietnamese men never even bothered to ask what woman wanted. I had not even a germ of an idea what Ms. Mori wanted.
-Like us, Americans were suspicious of unfamiliar food, which they identified with the strangers who brought them.
-The restaurant was redolent with the fragrance of home and resonant with its sounds, the chatter of our native tongue competing with heartfelt slurping.
-The open secrets of the clock, naked for all to see, was that we were only going in circles.

j
jimg2000
Aug 22, 2016

One liners:
-Nothing was so true, and yet nothing was so mysterious, for the questions of who the people were and what they might want remained unanswered.
-Revolutions begin this way, with men willing to fight no matter what the odds, volunteering to give everything because they had nothing.
-… eating a midday meal of army surplus C rations, which looked almost exactly the same entering the human body as they did exiting it.
-These men are not to be underestimated. Napoleon said men will die for bits of ribbon pinned to their chests, but the General understands that even more men will die for a man who remembered their names, as he does theirs.
-If they fail, call them fools. But if they do not fail, they are heroes and visionaries whether alive or dead.
-After all, nothing was more American than wielding a gun and committing oneself to die for freedom and independence, unless it was wielding that gun to take away someone else’s freedom and independence.

j
jimg2000
Aug 22, 2016

More one liners:
-Life’s a suicide mission.
-All of us --- we’re all in jail cells without bars. We’re not men anymore.
You are a soldier, so think like one. Is it better to go on this suicide mission and not come back, or is it better to go with the next wave that’s actually got a chance?
-Wars never die, I said. They just go to sleep.
-… she cursed me at such length and with such inventiveness I had to check both my watch and my dictionary.
-Did you read this? Not wanting to deprive the General of the opportunity to fulminate, I said I had not.
-We can keep mistresses but we can’t keep secrets.
-How could one disagree with something needing to be done? Something always needed doing by somebody.
-… the three of us had wasted the weekends of our youth in Saigon’s bars and nightclubs, exactly as one was supposed to do. If youth was not wasted, how could it be youth.
-Cognac made everything better, the equivalent of a mother’s kiss for a grown man …

j
jimg2000
Aug 22, 2016

Those American Dream:
Some of you may have heard that the Americans are a people who like to dream. It’s true, and although some say that America is a welfare state, in actuality it is a dream state. Here, we can dream of anything, can’t we, ladies and gentlemen?

My American Dream is to see once more before I die, the land where I was born, to taste once more the ripe persimmons from the tree of my family’s garden in Tay Ninh. My American Dream is to return home so I can light incense at the tomb of my grandparents, to roam that beautiful country of ours when it is at last peaceful and the sound of guns cannot be heard over the shouts of joy. My American Dream is to walk from city to village to farm and to see boys and girls laughing and playing who have never heard of war, from Da Nang to Da Lat, from CA Mau to Chau Doc, from Sa Dec to Song Cau, from Bieu Hoa to Ban Me Thuot – ...

j
jimg2000
Aug 22, 2016

-Would you rather I be respectable and rich? You’d be much less interesting if you were.
-Bang bang was the sound of memory’s pistol firing into our heads, for we could not forget love, we could not forget war, we could not forget lovers, we could not forget enemies, we could not forget home, and we could not forget Saigon. We could not forget the caramel flavor of iced coffee with coarse sugar; the bowls of noodle soup eaten while squatting on the sidewalk; ... the whisper of a dewy lover saying the most seductive words in our language, anh oi; ... the frantic squealing of pigs running for their lives as villagers gave chase; the hills afire with sunset; the crowned head of dawn rising from the sheets of the sea; the hot grasp of our mother’s hand; and while the list could go on and on and on, the point was simply this: the most important thing we could never forget was that we could never forget.

j
jimg2000
Aug 22, 2016

-I was in close quarters with some representative specimens of the most dangerous creature in the history of the world, the white man in a suit.
-But you see, gentlemen, while life is only valuable to us — I paused again, and my audience inclined toward me by a millimeter or two — life is invaluable to the Westerner.
-The young Vietnamese who are enamored of America hold the key to South Vietnam’s freedom. They have tasted the Coca-Cola, as it were, and discovered it to be sweet.
-Our teachers were firm believers in the corporal punishment that Americans had given up, which was probably one reason they could no longer win wars. For us, violence began at home and continued in school, parents and teachers beating children and students like Persian rugs to shake the dust of complacency and stupidity out of them, and in that way make them more beautiful.

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j
jimg2000
Aug 22, 2016

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Anger in the Asian American Novel review by Paul Tran: The author of the bestselling novel The Sympathizer talks about reshaping histories of the Vietnam War and finding humanity in the inhuman.
http://aaww.org/viet-thanh-nguyen-anger-asian-american-novel/

and NY Times SundayReview "Our Vietnam War Never Ended By VIET THANH NGUYENAPRIL 24, 2015:"

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/26/opinion/sunday/our-vietnam-war-never-ended.html?_r=0

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