The Sympathizer

PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION * EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL * ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR LITERARY EXCELLENCE * FIRST NOVEL PRIZE, CENTER FOR FICTION * GOLD MEDAL, FIRST FICTION, CALIFORNIA BOOK AWARD * ASIAN/PACIFIC AMERICAN LITERATURE AWARD

“A magnificent feat of storytelling. A novel of literary, political and historical importance.” — Maxine Hong Kingston, author of Fifth Book of Peace

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“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, author of T.C. Boyle Stories I and II

The novel, The Sympathizer, begins in April 1975, as Saigon is about to fall to communist invasion. Soon enough it does, and the war is over. Or is it?

cover frontBlack comedy,  historical novel, and literary thriller, The Sympathizer follows a nameless spy who has infiltrated the South Vietnamese army and flees with its remnants to America. His mission: report on their efforts to continue their lost war. As the aide to a general who refuses to admit defeat, he observes the struggles of the Vietnamese refugees to survive in a melancholic Los Angeles. Among them, the general believes, are communist agents. So our spy’s double life continues, hunting communists while helping the general organize a covert army. Their mission: to invade Vietnam and take it back.

Neither America nor a double life is new to our narrator. He is Eurasian, his father a French priest, his mother Vietnamese. He has been a double agent since his teenage years, and in his college years, he studied in California, the better to learn American culture. His war is a psychological one, but as he slowly realizes, much of that war is fought within himself, a man in between races and countries. As he tells us from the beginning: I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds.

The Sympathizer will be published by Grove/Atlantic in spring 2015, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.

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“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

First public reading of The Sympathizer, in San Francisco, December 2014. Photo by Susie Willemsz-Geeroms

First public reading of The Sympathizer, in San Francisco, December 2014. Photo by Susie Willemsz-Geeroms

“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 Nguyen is a writer with a capacious imagination, a finely honed craft, an elegance with language and a voice both fluid and fiercely honest. Weaving genres, entertainment and a nuanced political sensibility, Viet transports the reader into a world at once familiar and new, at once unsettling and yet intriguing. A gorgeous book that carries the weight of history and the intervention of fiction effortlessly.” —Chris Abani, The Secret History of Las Vegas andGraceLand  

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 & Miraculous Cures and The Headmaster’s Wager

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