Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

The Globe and Mail Reviews The Sympathizer

Jade Colbert reviews Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer along with other debut novels for The Globe and Mail.

The adage goes, “History is written by the victors,” but America controls the story of the Vietnam War. (No wonder, then, the widespread ignorance marking the recent controversy around Calgary band Viet Cong.) In Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel of the war’s aftermath, our double-agent narrator, an adviser on an American movie about Vietnam, attempts to subvert the film’s message – revolution is not only in the means of production, but of representation. The Sympathizer takes the form of a confession after the flight to America and subsequent capture of our unnamed narrator, South Vietnamese Army captain and Communist informant. It’s a novel much concerned with doubleness (double-agent, doubly minded, doubly raced), the simultaneously cynical and ardent narration so hypnotic it makes up for its own excesses. Nguyen’s Vietnam is also of two minds, a country battling itself. With one side the victor, nuance becomes dangerous, the possibility of ever truly returning home uncertain.


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