Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Viet Thanh Nguyen - The Sympathizer (Corsair, 2015) **½

In this Pulitzer Prize winning novel, the main character is a Vietnamese army captain living in America after the Vietnam war. The novel is a kind of diary he has to write with full details and with full honesty to report back to his Vietcong leaders. He loves America, but with a critical and satirical eye. He does not always understand Americans, yet at the same time, he remains loyal to his bosses in Asia, even if he does not always appreciate what's happening there. This double-faced, double-sided approach makes the narrator very human, hesitating between the choices he has, but also hesitating about the moral codes of communists and capitalists alike.

The novel is well written, fluent and rich in perspectives. The only downside in my personal opinion is that the satire doesn't mix well with the horror of what actually happened in Vietnam. Maybe the satire acts as a protective shield from the actual events, but it often sounds like jokes about the holocaust, totally misplaced and not done.

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