Cameron Woodhead of the Sydney Morning Herald reviews The Sympathizer.
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer is a brilliant tragicomedy on the Vietnam War and its aftermath. The unnamed protagonist is a captain with the South Vietnamese army who is secretly spying for the Communists as the fall of Saigon begins. The son of a Vietnamese teenage girl and a French Catholic priest, he was educated in America and possesses a Graham Greene-like moral ambiguity, the ability to see every side of a problem as he weaves an intricate web of divided treachery. Still caught between ideological conviction and personal loyalty after the war ends, he winds up in the US, keeping tabs on would-be counter-revolutionary elements. Nguyen’s masterly book is too vast in scope, its tonal shifts too genre-bending and sinuous (it encompasses espionage thriller and dark farce, cross-cultural satire and disturbing absurdist fiction, among other things) to do it justice in a short review, but he’s a writer of huge talent.