A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, "The Sympathizer" is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties. 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.
Praise for "The Sympathizer" A "Publishers Weekly" Debut Fiction PickAn IndieNext Selection for AprilOne of "Newsday"'s "10 Books Not to Miss in April" "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 "Trapped in endless civil war, "the man who has two minds" tortures and is tortured as he tries to meld the halves of his country and of himself. Viet Thanh Nguyen accomplishes this integration in a magnificent feat of storytelling. "The Sympathizer" is a novel of literary, historical, and political importance."--Maxine Hong Kingston, author of "The Fifth Book of Peace" "It is a strong, strange and liberating joy to read this book, feeling with each page that a broken world is being knitted back together, once again whole and complete. As far as I am concerned, Viet Thanh Nguyen's "The Sympathizer"--both a great American novel and a great Vietnamese novel--will close the shelf on the literature of the Vietnam War."--Bob Shacochis, author of "The Woman Who Lost Her Soul" "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" "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" "In an antiheroic trajectory that takes him from Vietnam during the war to the U.S. and then back, Nguyen's cross-grained protagonist exposes the hidden costs in both countries of America's tragic Asian misadventure. Nguyen's probing literary art illuminates how Americans failed in their political and military attempt to remake Vietnam--but then succeeded spectacularly in shrouding their failure in Hollywood distortions. Compelling--and profoundly unsettling."--"Booklist" (starred review) "A closely written novel of after-the-war Vietnam, when all that was solid melted into air. As Graham Greene and Robert Stone have taught us, on the streets of Saigon, nothing is as it seems. . . . Think Alan Furst meets Elmore Leonard, and you'll capture Nguyen at his most surreal . . . Both chilling and funny, and a worthy addition to the library of first-rate novels about the Vietnam War."--"Kirkus Reviews" (starred review) "This astonishing first novel has at its core a lively, wry first person narrator called The Captain, and his two school friends Bon and Man, as they navigate the fall of Saigon and the establishment of the communist regime in Vietnam in 1975 . . . Nguyen's novel enlivens debate about history and human nature, and his narrator has a poignant often mindful voice."--"Publishers Weekly" (starred review) "Breathtakingly cynical, the novel has its hilarious moments; the reader will especially enjoy Nguyen's take on 1970s American life. . . . Ultimately a meditation on war, political movements, America's imperialist role, the CIA, torture, loyalty, and one's personal identity, this is a powerful, thought-provoking work. It's hard to believe this effort . . . is a debut. This is right up there with Denis Johnson's "Tree of Smoke.""--"Library Journal" (starred review)" ""The Sympathizer" reminds its readers that the Vietnam War had the dubious distinction of being the first to have its history written by the losers. . . . Nguyen's voice is sharp and acerbic and unforgiving and ungrateful. He's funny and bright and he goes farther than any author in pursuing his spy's one professed talent--one that war made undesirable for generations--trying to understand things from both sides."--"Than Nien Daily" ""The Sympathizer" is a remarkable and brilliant book. By turns harrowing, and cut through by shards of unexpected and telling humor, this novel gives us the conflict in Vietnam, and its aftermath, in a way that is deeply truthful, and vitally important."--Vincent Lam, author of "Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures" and "The Headmaster's Wager" "I think I'd have to go all the way back to Nabokov's Humbert Humbert to find the last narrative voice that so completely conked me over the head and took me prisoner. Nguyen and his unnamed protagonist certainly have made a name for themselves with one of the smartest, darkest, funniest books you'll read this year."--David Abrams, author of "Fobbit" "Audaciously and vividly imagined. A compelling read."--Andrew X. Pham, author of "Catfish and Mandala"
Viet Thanh Nguyen was born in Vietnam and raised in America. His stories have appeared in "Best New American Voices," "TriQuarterly," "Narrative," and the "Chicago Tribune" and he is the author of the academic book "Race and Resistance." He teaches English and American Studies at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles.