Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

The Irish Times: Crime Fiction Reviews

Declan Burke features The Sympathizer on their list of crime fiction reviews. Read the rest of the article on The Irish Times.The Sympathizer (Corsair, €28.50), Viet Thanh Nguyen’s debut novel and last year’s winner of the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, opens with the unnamed narrator informing us that “I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook.” This is not a typical spy novel; Saigon falls as our narrator – an intelligence officer with the South Vietnamese army – escapes to America.

We learn that he is a double agent working for the Viet Cong, with a perspective that allows this nameless man to give voice to the voiceless millions of Vietnamese who have been silenced and moulded by American cultural imperialism ever since the end of the Vietnam War (the section of the novel in which the narrator works as a consultant on a movie loosely modelled on Apocalypse Now is as funny as it is fatalistic).

The setting and scenario brings Graham Greene to mind, although the latter stages evolve into a nightmarish scenario that is both Orwellian and Kafkaesque. Written in a spare, precise style, The Sympathizer is an absorbing and ambitious novel that pits the wits of our unnamed Machiavelli against “the most dangerous creature in the history of the world, the white man in a suit”.


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