The Sympathizer

by Viet Thanh Nguyen

It's a disorienting experience to emerge from a completed book, written as if it were a body of work composed by the fictional protagonist (there must be a special word for this flavor of novel - I've dispatched a question to my most literary friend, Sarah). Even after media the two interview excerpts with the author, included at the end of the novel, I have trouble separating the persona of the author and the persona of the protagonist.

The story was enthralling while also educating me to the plight of the Vietnamese people post-war, the complex identities grappled with by Southern refugees, and the painful, dehumanizing depiction of Vietnamese people by "occidental" media. Unlike some of the most immersive works of fiction I read that reveal to me more about the human condition, this book also educated me to a period of history I have only experienced through works penned or framed by Americans: The Things They Carried, Apocalpyse Now, Rescue Dawn, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, and the other cowboys-in-the-east movies.

The Sympathizer was brilliant.

Compiled 2024-04-21