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The Sympathizer (2015)

by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,6011463,320 (3.92)243
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.
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    The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson (novelcommentary)
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    The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud (thorold)
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» See also 243 mentions

English (140)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (145)
Showing 1-5 of 140 (next | show all)
The Short of It:

Thrilling, at times funny, but relentlessly fast-paced.

The Rest of It:

Many books have been written about the Vietnam war. We’ve all seen our share of movies too about the subject. The Sympathizer is different in that it’s narrated by a double agent. Building a life with refugees in Los Angeles, he also reports back to his communist superiors in Vietnam.

The story is told in jarring episodic bursts of storytelling. At one point, I had to go back to make sure my Kindle did not jump to another book because all of a sudden the characters are engaged in making a movie about the Vietnam experience. This was a very weird, surreal part of the novel. The portrayal of the events and how the the Vietnamese were represented was at once front and center, and also an afterthought.

The entire book is push/pull. Some events are highly detailed and graphic and then the author lures you back in through a comical interchange. It’s hard from me to describe the story because the frenetic energy of the storytelling keeps you moving forward even though you’re not sure what you just read! But, even though it seemed like work to keep things straight, I did enjoy the reading experience.

It should be mentioned that it’s won a ton of awards. Have you read it? There is a sequel out if you enjoyed this one.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | Sep 25, 2023 |
This won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction as a debut novel. It is overlong, overwritten, and overdone in general. It's a real pity, too, because it has it had the potential to be a very moving book. The author is talented but, as a debut novel, he wanted to show off that talent; a good editor would have curbed his tendencies to do so. Way, way overwritten and self-indulgent. Also far too long at nearly 4 pages. Should have been cut by at least 30%, probably more. But for all that, an author to watch; I need to read others of his books. The author was born in Vietnam but raised in the US. The book tells the story of the anonymous narrator, a North Vietnamese/ Communist mole in the South Vietnamese army, who stays embedded in a South Vietnamese community in exile in the United States, eventually returning to Vietnam as part of a guerrilla raid against the communists. The book is supposed to be his confession, written to satisfy his captors. The narrator's identity is what the book is really about and Nguyen has a lot to say, a fair amount of it, worth reading. ( )
  Gypsy_Boy | Aug 26, 2023 |
This is an extraordinary, remarkable novel, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize. The protagonist is a man of two parts, near the end of, and for a short time after, the Vietnam War. The crafting of this book is superb, as is the writing and the richness of the characters. ( )
  RickGeissal | Aug 16, 2023 |
Very good book with flashes of brilliance. Lost me in the reeducation camp-absurdity of 1984 and Heller perhaps too prominent in my mind. ( )
  Mcdede | Jul 19, 2023 |
The tragic story of the fall of Saigon and the life of Vietnamese refugees in the US. Sometimes satirical, but never funny. ( )
  markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 140 (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)
The more powerful a country is, the more disposed its people will be to see it as the lead actor in the sometimes farcical, often tragic pageant of history. So it is that we, citizens of a superpower, have viewed the Vietnam War as a solely American drama in which the febrile land of tigers and elephants was mere backdrop and the Vietnamese mere extras.
Très beau roman qui raconte le parcours d’un agent secret Viêt-Cong infiltré côté américain pendant la guerre du Vietnam. L’action débute au moment de l’évacuation des troupes américaines et des Vietnamiens collaborateurs.
added by Marc-Narcisse | editLe sympathisant

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Viet Thanh Nguyenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baude, ClémentTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed



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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
For Lan and Ellison
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I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces.
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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.

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