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
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016
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.
[A] remarkable debut novel . . . [Nguyen] brings a distinctive perspective to the war and its aftermath. His book fills a void in the literature, giving voice to the previously voiceless while it compels the rest of us to look at the events of 40 years ago in a new light. But this tragicomic novel reaches beyond its historical context to illuminate more universal themes . . . The nameless protagonist-narrator, a memorable character despite his anonymity, is an Americanized Vietnamese with a divided heart and mind. Nguyen's skill in portraying this sort of ambivalent personality compares favorably with masters like Conrad, Greene, and le Carre. . . . Both thriller and social satire. . . . In its final chapters, The Sympathizer becomes an absurdist tour de force that might have been written by a Kafka or Genet. - Philip Caputo, New York Times Book Review
Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer brilliantly draws you in with the opening line: "I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces." It's thrilling, rhythmic, and astonishing, as is the rest of Nguyen's enthralling portrayal of the Vietnam War. The narrator is an undercover communist agent posing as a captain in the Southern Vietnamese Army. Set during the fall of Saigon and the years after in America, the captain spies on the general and the men he escaped with, sharing his information with his communist blood brothers in coded letters. But when his allegiance is called into question, he must act in a way that will haunt him forever. Political, historical, romantic and comic, The Sympathizer is a rich and hugely gratifying story that captures the complexity of the war and what it means to be of two minds. - Al Woodworth, Amazon Best Book of April 2015
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
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
Viet Thanh Nguyen is the author of the nonfiction book Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War. The Sympathizer has won numerous awards, including the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. He teaches English and American Studies at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles.