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The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  

The Sympathizer

Action Adventure / Spy   Maxim Jakubowski's Selection   Literary Fiction   eBook Favourites   
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A Maxim Jakubowski selected title.

Following the fall of Saigon to the communists and the end of the Vietnam war, a Vietcong spy manages to smuggle his way to America and reflects wryly on his life of contradictions and betrayal, alongside ironic asides on the Hollywood community he now lives in and the foibles of US life. Both satirical and compassionate, this examination of a mole's life has echoes of both John Le Carre and Graham Greene in its sideways, disillusioned approach to the spy novel and the X-ray vision of a life of lies, torn between not just countries but systems of belief. Intrinsically pessimistic if not despairing, the novel is redeemed by its relentless storytelling ride which constantly comes up with wonderful images and scenes out of the blue and builds towards an impressive climax and pieces of the unnamed narrator's life finally fall into place. Pretty impressive. ~ Maxim Jakubowski

Synopsis

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

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.

Reviews

Driven by plot and intrigue in order to tell the story of a man's divided conscience and split loyalty * Country and Town House * A fierce novel written in a refreshingly high style and charged with intelligent rage. * Financial Times * Beautifully written and meaty * Claire Messud * 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 * Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain * [A] dark and exciting debut novel ... Black humour seeps through these pages * Wall Street Journal * 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 * T.C. Boyle, author of The Tortilla Curtain * 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 * Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn and What It Is Like to Go to War * Arresting . . . One of the best pieces of fiction about the Vietnam war-and by a Vietnamese. . . . Stunning . . . Could it be that Nguyen has captured the shape of the devolution of war itself, from grand ambition to human ruin? . . . One of the finest novels of the Vietnam War published in recent years * Daily Beast * I cannot remember the last time I read a novel whose protagonist I liked so much. Smart, funny, and self-critical, with a keen sense of when to let a story speak for itself ... [Nguyen] proves a gifted and bold satirist * Barnes & Noble Review * An early frontrunner for debut novel of the year * Flavorwire (10 Must-Read Books for April) * An important new perspective on the Vietnam War . . . The Sympathizer will both startle and grip you * BuzzFeed * At times brutal, other times laugh-out-loud funny . . . I'm considering reading it again, just to see what I might've missed the first time around * The Pool * This impressive debut contains a Whitman-like multiplicity ... 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. * Guardian, Randy Boyagoda * The Sympathizer reads as part literary historical fiction, part espionage thriller and part satire. Nguyen knows of what he writes * Los Angeles Times * The satire is delicious * New Yorker * This debut is a page-turner (read: everybody will finish) that makes you reconsider the Vietnam War ... Nguyen's darkly comic novel offers a point of view about American culture that we've rarely seen * Oprah.com (Oprah's Book Club Suggestions) * Extraordinary ... Surely a new classic of war fiction ... [Nguyen] has written a cerebral thriller around a desperate expat story that confronts the existential dilemmas of our age ... I haven't read anything since Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four that illustrates so palpably how a patient tyrant, unmoored from all human constraint, can reduce a man's mind to liquid * Washington Post * [A] remarkable debut novel ... His book fills a void in the literature, giving voice to the previously voiceless ... An absurdist tour de force that might have been written by a Kafka or Genet * New York Times Book Review *


About the Author

Viet Thanh Nguyen is the author of the nonfiction book Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War. The Sympathizer has won numerous awards, including the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. He teaches English and American Studies at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles.

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Book Info

Publication date

4th February 2016

Author

Viet Thanh Nguyen

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Author's Website

vietnguyen.info/home

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Publisher

Corsair an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group

Format

Hardback
384 pages

Categories

Action Adventure / Spy
Maxim Jakubowski's Selection
Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

ISBN

9781472151360

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