Slate | The Best Books of 2021


Laura Miller reviews The Committed for SLATE’s Best Books of 2021

Collage of covers of best books of 2021

I could never get enough of the nameless narrator of Nguyen’s 2015 Pulitzer-winning novel, The Sympathizer. His self-deprecating, hopelessly morally compromised takes on his homeland of Vietnam and the two Western nations that toyed with its destiny and ravaged its people are irresistibly jaded. In this sequel to The Sympathizer, he returns, having survived a stint in a brutal reeducation camp at the mercy of the Communist regime he once spied for. He washes up in France, Vietnam’s former colonial master and a nation whose intellect and sophistication he finds far more seductive than the “shallow, boring, and sentimental” American dream. He’s no longer a Communist, but he insists he still believes in the “principle of revolution.” He goes to work for a Vietnamese gangster and starts selling drugs to the intellectuals who congregate around his chic, leftist “aunt,” while trying to protect his last real friend from the consequences of that friend’s too simplistic view of right and wrong. He sympathizes with everyone and therefore no one, commits to everything and therefore nothing. And his observations on the absurdities of postcolonial life are always razor-sharp.

Category: Reviews

 

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