Sunday, August 9, 2015
Viet Thanh Nguyen's 'The Sympathizer': Compelling, Original Take On Vietnam War
Dan DeLuca offers a review of Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer in today's Philadelphia Inquirer.
From Michael Herr's Dispatches to Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke, from Oliver Stone's Platoon to Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," the American experience in Vietnam has been closely examined and obsessed over, its human cost and toll on the national psyche put under the microscope in fiction, film, and song for decades.
The Vietnamese experience, in particular the North Vietnamese experience, is less familiar. Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer is an ambitious, sparklingly executed first novel that redresses that imbalance in unexpected ways.
It's not a conventional war novel. The Sympathizer opens with the fall of Saigon in 1975, with its title character - identified only as The Captain - helping his South Vietnamese superior The General escape, headed first to a refugee camp in Guam, and then to Los Angeles.
But The Captain is not the loyal aide-de-camp The General thinks he is. In fact, he's a North Vietnamese spy. He's a mole skilled at role-playing because - as the U.S.-educated bastard son of a Vietnamese mother and a French Catholic priest - his identity is fluid, his otherness a constant, whether meeting with Viet Cong contacts or working in the Department of Oriental Studies at a California university.
You can read the rest of the review via the below link:
Note: I read The Sympathizer. I don't subscribe to the narrator's communist, anti-American views, but I thought this was an interesting novel with a unique voice.