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The Sympathizer

por Viet Thanh Nguyen

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Séries: Sympathizer (1)

MembrosCríticasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaMenções
3,8721513,164 (3.93)250
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.
  1. 40
    The Orphan Master's Son por Adam Johnson (novelcommentary)
    novelcommentary: Similar insights and brilliant writing
  2. 10
    The Meursault Investigation por Kamel Daoud (thorold)
    thorold: Literary accounts of wars of decolonisation as seen from the side of the colonised.
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I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds.
p1

So begins the confession of an unnamed Captain, aide to a General who escaped Vietnam at the end of the war on the last plane to America as the communists rolled into Saigon. Was it the Vietnam war or the American war? It depends which country you come from. This duality plays a significant role in the book, someone who was a communist but played the part of the other side. A man who had a French father and a Vietnamese mother so never really fitted in and was constantly reminded that he was a bastard. As the story is told, duality is shown at every step of the way with 'passions running hot and food getting cold', innocence and guilt, the yin and yang of American politics - Black and White. White as a symbol of purity and innocence but also death and mourning.

. . . most of our fellow exiles had been shrunken by their experience, either absolutely through the aforementioned maladies of migration, or relatively, surrounded by Americans so tall they neither looked through or looked down on the newcomers. They simply looked over them.
p91

Imagine how tiring it must be to see both sides of everything but overall to hate your time in America and how you are treated, never able to let go of the old and completely embrace the new. The book was a searing inditement of Hollywood with Nguyen referring to it as the propaganda arm of the USA. Films about the war in Vietnam make the Americans look like the victors and seem to rewrite the history of that era when in fact America lost at great expense to the country.

Movies were America's way of softening up the rest of the world, Hollywood relentlessly assaulting the mental defenses of audiences with the hit, the smash, the spectacle, the blockbuster, and, yes, even the box office bomb.
p166

There is a section in the book where the Captain is called to be the adviser to a film that is being produced by someone known as the Auteur. I wondered if that was also what the narrator of the book was as well. In the film, the Vietnamese were overlooked, underpaid, given no speaking parts and generally unwanted. There is a rape scene in the film which the Captain knew was included but didn't see until he watched the whole film and it was as this point, if he didn't know it already, that his work with the film crew had been for nothing.

Not to own the means of production can lead to premature death, but not to own the means of representation is also a kind of death
p218

There then appears later in the book the rape of an agent that the Captain was forced to watch and which he had 'forgotten' about and not included in his confession. He did nothing to intervene and prevent it or stop it and this I think is meant to be symbolic of himself, the war and his country. You might be a double agent but what have you achieved?

In yoga we are constantly striving for the moment when 'duality ceases'. The moment when the pull of gravity can be experienced alongside the upward thrust of energy and you are at 'one' with it. And in the book, duality ceases after torture and torment when the Captain accepts himself and what he has done and at this point 'I' is used as a pronoun. Duality ceases.

At the end of the book they become 'boat people' but swear that they will live.

This is a challenging book that has to be read slowly to fully understand it. It attacks and defends identity, betrayal and loyalty in the context of war. And it is messy. ( )
  allthegoodbooks | Mar 4, 2024 |
Stunning book. The story is remarkable, the writing so visual and textural. I will read more by Viet Thanh Nguyen. ( )
  bschweiger | Feb 4, 2024 |
By far the best new fiction I have read this year (2018) - for it's commentary on American culture, for it's complex view of the US war in Vietnam, which defined my youth ( )
  GigiB50 | Dec 18, 2023 |
I’m giving this one 3 stars . I cannot, in good conscience, give it less. Because if nothing else, it is exquisitely written.

That said:

Never mind that any male who ever reads this will have walked away having learned how to masturbate with a live squid, how to gang rape a women as a form of torture – and how to conduct countless other sorts of torture which said male readers probably never considered before reading this book.

I get that it was supposed to be disorienting to me – the educated, female, WESTERN reader. I get that it is a detailed fictional accounting for the Boat People and for an experience that we can never otherwise imagine (why would we want to?). I get that the narrator remains nameless because his story is really the story of all refugees.

But because I was expected to read from the outside perspective – I never managed to like this book the way I should – beautifully written as it is.

Would I recommend you read it? Maybe – if you want a detailed account of what exactly it’s like to masturbate with a live squid – or what it’s like to gang rape someone – or what it’s like to have your face burned off or what it’s like to be invisible.

Sound good? Give it a go. It's a bit difficult to read, but you might learn something.

Sound terrible? Just take my review and run far far away from here...
( )
  BreePye | Oct 6, 2023 |
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 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 148 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
...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.
adicionada por thorold | editarThe 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.
adicionada por krazy4katz | editarNew York Times, Philip Caputo (Apr 2, 2015)
 
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.
adicionada por Marc-Narcisse | editarLe sympathisant
 

» Adicionar outros autores (15 possíveis)

Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Viet Thanh Nguyenautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Baude, ClémentTraductionautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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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
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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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