Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Briefly Noted: The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer is reviewed in The New Yorker‘s ‘Briefly Noted’ section.

This comic picaresque set in nineteen-seventies California is narrated by a Vietcong mole who has allowed himself to be groomed by the C.I.A.—to the point where the Vietnamese Communists no longer recognize this Beatles-loving person as one of their own. The novel’s best parts are painful, hilarious exposures of white tone-deafness, from an Oriental-studies professor who calls his Japanese-American secretary “Miss Butterfly” to a buffoonish Hollywood director—inspired, Nguyen’s acknowledgments note, by Francis Ford Coppola—who hires the narrator as a consultant for a cumbersome melodrama. The ending, which involves scenes of torture and a dystopian epiphany, feels out of keeping with the rest of the book, but the preceding satire is delicious.


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