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The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
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The Sympathizer (original 2015; edition 2016)

by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Author)

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1,137587,196 (3.94)100
Member:eojaldon
Title:The Sympathizer
Authors:Viet Thanh Nguyen (Author)
Info:Corsair (2016), 384 pages
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The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2015)

Recently added bymklong, e-zReader, trinhjt, DanielleVoit, cknick, akrnr, private library, booklove2, mishahall, andersonden
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English (54)  Piratical (1)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  All (58)
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
With a French priest dad and a Vietnamese girl for a mom, it's no wonder that naturally the main character here (mentioned at times as the prisoner, the pupil, or the patient) can sympathize with many sides while fighting in the Vietnam war. I do appreciate seeing things from the perspective of a Vietnamese man but I can also appreciate that Nguyen doesn't choose sides. At all.

To me, I feel like there are shades of many amazing classic books within this one, primarily Adam Johnson's stunning 'The Orphan Master's Son'. Oddly enough, though Jun Do in The Orphan Master's Son is an every man who does many terrible things yet still maintains so much sympathy from me, the reader. The main character in 'The Sympathizer', I am mostly indifferent with possibly due to his many-sidedness, which made it tough for me to delve into the book like I would have wished. Another character this one reminds me of is Paul Beatty's 'Sellout' where the main character in each book can see from many sides. (To be fair 'The Sellout' did arrive on the scene around the same time as 'The Sympathizer'.) (But I should love a character called the sympathizer like I loved the Sellout -- the main character is even called a sellout!) Other books I was reminded of: 'Catch 22', 'Someone Knows My Name' by Lawrence Hill for its 'others say we don't belong here or there' element, 'Invisible Man' by Ralph Ellison, 'Heart of Darkness' by Conrad, '1984' by Orwell. All of these books I feel I loved more (except Catch 22). Though on a sentence level, there are some stunners, possibly the book went over my head. Possibly the book wasn't tying together for me as it was for other readers. Maybe I thought it was pulling from too many other books. And how Kafkaesque is my reading life when almost all of the books seem to take Kafka for inspiration? It's interesting that an author of something called 'The Sympathizer' takes no sides of anyone participating in this war: not the Americans or the North Vietnamese or the South Vietnamese. If anything, the book is necessary from the point of view of a Vietnamese man from a Vietnamese American author. The world needs all the voices from all the people in all the places. ( )
  booklove2 | Sep 17, 2017 |
Brilliant writing. Difficult subject. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book, to tell the truth. (I have complex feelings regarding the Vietnamese War, in which I'm sure I'n not alone.) It will take some time to digest. I might not have picked it up were it not one of the books for the Stanford Book Salon. I am unable to separate my feelings from the book, right now and cannot rate it at this point in time.
  bookczuk | Sep 16, 2017 |
From the cover” ..The Sympathizer examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film and the wars we fight today”

From the author:” The tendency to separate war stories from immigrant stories means that most Americans don't understand how many of the immigrants and refugees in the United States have fled from wars – many of which this country has had a hand in.”

This novel is a flashback, as we see the narrator write his confession while being held in a Communist prison camp. He was a South Vietnamese officer and the son of a French priest and a Vietnamese woman. He was also a sleeper agent for the communist North.

Having arranged to have himself on one of the last flights to the US, he continued as a both a member of the South Vietnamese refugee community and as a Communist agent. We see the difficulties the Vietnamese refugees encounter as well as his own unique difficulties with those he counts as friends; both those who know and do not know that he is an agent.

No one is all good; no one is all evil. Everyone's role can become ambiguous at times as masks are worn and discarded.

It was a tough novel for me to read; descriptions of war and torture are not in my wheelhouse. Still, this Pulitzer Prize winning novel was a very worthwhile read. Seeing the Vietnamese viewpoint of the war and the Vietnamese refugee communities was unique and eye-opening for me. ( )
  streamsong | Sep 13, 2017 |
More of a 4.5. This is very interesting. A bit puzzling and then deep thinking at the end, so just be prepared to wait for it. I need to talk about it with someone, there is more to this than meets the eye. Or ear, lol. ( )
  sydsavvy | Sep 5, 2017 |
Davvero tanta roba in questo romanzo premio Pulitzer.
Il tema è quello della guerra in Vietnam, ma qui non si parla di battaglie o strategie.
E' la vicenda di un vietnamita comunista che lavora, in incognito, nel controspionaggio per conto dei sudvietnamiti, alleati agli americani. La storia parte dalla fuga da Saigon, con il protagonista che si rifugia negli Stati Uniti. Da lì continua poi, sempre in incognito, a collaborare con i comunisti.
Le vicende personali del protagonista, volutamente senza nome, sono in realtà un pretesto per mostrarci i tanti aspetti della questione vietnamita, da punti di osservazione decisamente diversi da quelli canonici a cui siamo abituati.
Abbiamo sempre visto, specie nei film, il punto di vista degli americani. Ma come i vietnamiti, siano essi pro o contro, hanno visto gli americani? come hanno vissuto la guerra? come ne sono usciti loro dal dopoguerra? e quale accoglienza e considerazione ha riservato loro l'America dopo la guerra?
Il libro ci mostra infine un giudizio durissimo su tutti, su vincitori e vinti, sugli americani, sui comunisti, sugli uomini e sulle ideologie.
Sembra dominare alla fine del libro un certo nichilismo, ma forse è più da interpretare come realismo. L'uomo è una brutta bestia, si sa. Ma c'è qualcosa che lo redime e gli fa volgere lo sguardo su un positivo. E questo positivo non è certo il male della guerra e delle ideologie, qualunque esse siano. ( )
  SirJo | Sep 4, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
...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.
added by thorold | editThe Guardian, Randy Boyagoda (Mar 12, 2016)
 
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Epigraph
Let us not become gloomy as soon as we hear the word 'torture': in this particular case there is plenty to offset and mitigate that word-even something to laugh at.

-Friedrich Nietzsche, 'On the genealogy of morals'
Dedication
For Alan and Ellison
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I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces.
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Amazon: The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, compared by critics to the works of Graham Greene, Denis Johnson, and George Orwell, The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity, politics, and America, wrought in electric prose. The narrator, a Vietnamese army captain, is a man of divided loyalties, a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist sleeper agent in America after the end of the Vietnam War. A powerful story of love and friendship, and a gripping espionage novel, The Sympathizer examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.
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