Books

 

The Committed

The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen UK coverThe long-awaited new novel from one of America’s most highly regarded contemporary writers, The Committed follows the Sympathizer as he arrives in Paris as a refugee. There he and his blood brother Bon try to escape their pasts and prepare for their futures by turning their hands to capitalism in one of its purest forms: drug dealing. No longer in physical danger, but still inwardly tortured by his reeducation at the hands of his former best friend, and struggling to assimilate into a dominant culture, the Sympathizer is both charmed and disturbed by Paris. As he falls in with a group of left-wing intellectuals and politicians who frequent dinner parties given by his French Vietnamese “aunt,” he finds not just stimulation for his mind but also customers for his merchandise―but the new life he is making has dangers he has not foreseen, from the oppression of the state, to the self-torture of addiction, to the seemingly unresolvable paradox of how he can reunite his two closest friends, men whose worldviews put them in absolute opposition.

Both literary thriller and brilliant novel of ideas, The Committed is a blistering portrayal of commitment and betrayal that will cement Viet Thanh Nguyen’s position in the firmament of American letters.

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Praise for The Committed:

“The conflicted spy of Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Sympathizer returns, embroiled in Paris’s criminal underworld . . . The pages are rife with prostitutes, drugs, and, in the late pages, gunplay. But, as in The Sympathizer, Nguyen keeps the thriller-ish aspects at a low boil, emphasizing a mood of black comedy driven by the narrator’s intellectual crisis . . . Nguyen is deft at balancing his hero’s existential despair with the lurid glow of a crime saga. A quirky intellectual crime story that highlights the Vietnam War’s complex legacy.”

—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Call The Committed many things. A white hot literary thriller disguised as a searing novel of ideas. An unflinching look at redemption and damnation. An unblinking examination of the dangers of belief, and the need to believe. A sequel that goes toe to toe with the original then surpasses it. A masterwork.”

—Marlon James, Booker Prize-winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings

The Committed is nothing short of revelatory . . . This book is fierce, and unrelentingly good. Hilarious and subversive, philosophical and hallucinatory, it is much more than a sequel, more like a necessary appendage in a brilliant and expansive anti-colonial body of work. Bravo.”

—Tommy Orange, New York Times-bestselling author of There There

“This follow-up to his seminal The Sympathizer is Nguyen at his most ambitious and bold. Fierce in tone, capacious, witty, sharp, and deeply researched, The Committed marks, not just a sequel to its groundbreaking predecessor, but a sum total accumulation of a life devoted to Vietnamese American history and scholarship. This novel, like all daring novels, is a Trojan Horse, whose hidden power is a treatise of global futurity in the aftermath of colonial conquest. It asks questions central both to Vietnamese everywhere—and to our very species: How do we live in the wake of seismic loss and betrayal? And, perhaps even more critically, How do we laugh?”

Ocean Vuong, New York Times-bestselling author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

The Committed, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s furious and exhilarating sequel to The Sympathizer, is part gangster-thriller, part searing cultural analysis of the post-colonial predicament, seen through the eyes of a Vietnamese-French mixed race bastard double agent. Paris of forty years ago swirls to life around him, from intellectual salons to filthy toilets—with glimpses of everyone from Johnny Hallyday to Frantz Fanon to Julia Kristeva. Like Ellison’s Invisible Man, these novels will surely become classics.”

Claire Messud

“An elegy to idealism, Orientalism, and existentialism in all its tragic forms, Nguyen’s novel doesn’t so much inhabit early eighties Paris, as it pulls the plug on the City of Light. Think of The Committed as the declaration of the 20th ½ Arrondissement. A squatter’s paradise for those with one foot in the grave and the other shoved halfway up Western civilization’s ass.”

Paul Beatty

The Committed is a wonderful successor to The Sympathizer, a splendid tapestry of a novel, full of dubious but richly realized characters. It solidifies what we already know—Viet Thanh Nguyen is a gifted storyteller. It is difficult to know where to start with the praise. The characters have a sad and often tragic complexity, and the language offers a terrific ride for the reader. This is a grand novel full of breathtaking and luminous insights and a pure joy to read. Anticipation is why we come to a book, and joy is why we keep turning page after page. The Committed offers both, and so very much more.”

Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Known World

The Committed is a rich and exhilarating story of friendship, loyalty, and greed. Set in 1980s Paris, it follows the characters from The Sympathizer as they try to fashion new lives among all the wretched of the earth. Viet Thanh Nguyen gives us an unsparing look at the poisonous effects of ideology—whether colonialism, communism, or capitalism—even as he explores the deep-seated need we all have to believe in something. A deep, compelling and humorous portrait of how we are shaped by fictions others have for us.”

Laila Lalami, author of The Other Americans, finalist for the National Book Award

 


 

Chicken of the Sea

A band of intrepid chickens leave behind the boredom of farm life, joining the crew of the pirate ship Pitiless to seek fortune and glory on the high seas. Led by a grizzled captain into the territory of the Dog Knights, they soon learn what it means to be courageous, merciful, and not seasick quite so much of the time.

A whimsical and unexpected adventure tale, Chicken of the Sea originated in the five-year-old mind of Ellison Nguyen, son of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen; father and son committed the story to the page, then enlisted the artistic talents of Caldecott Honor winner Thi Bui and her thirteen-year-old son, Hien Bui-Stafford, to illustrate it. This unique collaboration between two generations of artists and storytellers invites you aboard for adventure, even if you’re chicken. Maybe especially if you’re chicken.

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The Displaced

Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sympathizer Viet Thanh Nguyen called on 17 fellow refugee writers from across the globe to shed light on their experiences, and the result is The Displaced, a powerful dispatch from the individual lives behind current headlines, with proceeds to support the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Today the world faces an enormous refugee crisis—22.5 million people fleeing persecution and conflict from Myanmar to Syria, closer to the flight of Jewish and other Europeans during World War II than anything the world has seen in this generation. Yet in the United States, United Kingdom, and other countries with the means to welcome refugees, anti-immigration politics and fear seem poised to shut the door. Even for readers seeking to help, the sheer scale of the problem renders the experience of refugees hard to comprehend.

Viet Nguyen, called “one of our great chroniclers of displacement” (Joyce Carol Oates, The New Yorker), brings together writers originally from Mexico, Bosnia, Iran, Afghanistan, Soviet Ukraine, Hungary, Chile, Ethiopia, and others to make their stories heard. They are formidable in their own right—MacArthur Genius grant recipients, National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalists, filmmakers, speakers, lawyers, professors, and New Yorker contributors—and they are all refugees, many as children arriving in London and Toronto, Oklahoma and Minnesota, South Africa and Germany. Their 17 contributions are as diverse as their own lives have been, and yet hold just as many themes in common.

Reyna Grande questions the line between “official” refugee and “illegal” immigrant, chronicling the disintegration of the family forced to leave her behind; Fatima Bhutto visits Alejandro Iñárritu’s virtual reality border crossing installation “Flesh and Sand”; Aleksandar Hemon recounts a gay Bosnian’s answer to his question, “How did you get here?”; Thi Bui offers two uniquely striking graphic panels; David Bezmozgis writes about uncovering new details about his past and attending a hearing for a new refugee; and Hmong writer Kao Kalia Yang recalls the courage of children in a camp in Thailand.

These essays reveal moments of uncertainty, resilience in the face of trauma, and a reimagining of identity, forming a compelling look at what it means to be forced to leave home and find a place of refuge. The Displaced is also a commitment: ABRAMS will donate 10 percent of the cover price of this book, a minimum of $25,000 annually, to the International Rescue Committee, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid, relief, and resettlement to refugees and other victims of oppression or violent conflict.

Abrams Press, 2018. Read more about the book here.

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The Refugees

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer was one of the most widely and highly praised novels of 2015, the winner not only of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction but also the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the California Book Award for First Fiction. Nguyen’s next fiction book, The Refugees, is a collection of perfectly formed stories written over a period of twenty years, exploring questions of immigration, identity, love, and family.

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With the coruscating gaze of The Sympathizer, in The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to lives led between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration.

The second piece of fiction by a major new voice in American letters, The Refugees is a beautifully written and sharply observed book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.

Grove Press, 2017. Read more about the book here.

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Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War

“Beautifully written, powerfully argued, thoughtful, provocative.”—Marilyn B. Young, author of The Vietnam Wars, 1945–1990

Thirteen years of fieldwork and research have gone into this book, published by Harvard University Press in April 2016 and a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award in General Nonfiction. From the descriptive copy of the book:

All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory. From the author of the bestselling novel The Sympathizer comes a searching exploration of the conflict Americans call the Vietnam War and Vietnamese call the American War—a conflict that lives on in the collective memory of both nations.

Nothing Ever Dies coverFrom a kaleidoscope of cultural forms—novels, memoirs, cemeteries, monuments, films, photography, museum exhibits, video games, souvenirs, and more—Nothing Ever Dies brings a comprehensive vision of the war into sharp focus. At stake are ethical questions about how the war should be remembered by participants that include not only Americans and Vietnamese but also Laotians, Cambodians, South Koreans, and Southeast Asian Americans. Too often, memorials valorize the experience of one’s own people above all else, honoring their sacrifices while demonizing the “enemy” —or, most often, ignoring combatants and civilians on the other side altogether. Visiting sites across the United States, Southeast Asia, and Korea, Viet Thanh Nguyen offers penetrating interpretations of the way memories of the war help to enable future wars or struggle to prevent them.

Drawing from this war, Nguyen offers a lesson for all wars by calling on us to recognize not only our shared humanity but our ever-present inhumanity. This is the only path to reconciliation with our foes, and with ourselves. Without reconciliation, war’s truth will be impossible to remember, and war’s trauma impossible to forget.

Advance reading copies will be available for reviews in early December. Please contact Michael Giarratano for a copy at michael_giarratano@harvard.edu.

ISBN 9780674660342, 310 pages, 43 halftones, $27.95 • £20.95 • €25.00

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The Sympathizer

“A magnificent feat of storytelling. A novel of literary, political and historical importance.” — Maxine Hong Kingston, author of Fifth Book of Peace

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The novel, The Sympathizer, begins in April 1975, as Saigon is about to fall to communist invasion. Soon enough it does, and the war is over. Or is it?

cover frontBlack comedy,  historical novel, and literary thriller, The Sympathizer follows a nameless spy who has infiltrated the South Vietnamese army and flees with its remnants to America. His mission: report on their efforts to continue their lost war. As the aide to a general who refuses to admit defeat, he observes the struggles of the Vietnamese refugees to survive in a melancholic Los Angeles. Among them, the general believes, are communist agents. So our spy’s double life continues, hunting communists while helping the general organize a covert army. Their mission: to invade Vietnam and take it back.

Neither America nor a double life is new to our narrator. He is Eurasian, his father a French priest, his mother Vietnamese. He has been a double agent since his teenage years, and in his college years, he studied in California, the better to learn American culture. His war is a psychological one, but as he slowly realizes, much of that war is fought within himself, a man in between races and countries. As he tells us from the beginning: I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds.

The Sympathizer was published by Grove/Atlantic in spring 2015, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. The UK edition from Corsair will come out in February 2016.

“Magisterial. A disturbing, fascinating and darkly comic take on the fall of Saigon and its aftermath and a powerful examination of guilt and betrayal. The Sympathizer is destined to become a classic and redefine the way we think about the Vietnam War and what it means to win and to lose.” —T. C. Boyle, author of T.C. Boyle Stories I and II

Read more about the book here.

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Race and Resistance:

Literature and Politics in Asian America

9780195147001Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America is Viet’s first book (Oxford University Press, 2002). Beginning with Onoto Watanna in 1896 and ending with Lois-Ann Yamanaka in 1996, Race and Resistance looks at how Asian American literature has played an important role in the politics of Asian Americans. Through their literature, Asian American writers have recorded the struggles for survival, equity, justice, memory, and representation that Asian American populations were so often denied. Not surprisingly, Asian American literary critics have tended to use Asian American literature as a lens through which to examine Asian American politics, both in terms of what Asian Americans experienced and what those experiences have to say about American culture, history, and politics.

Race and Resistance raises questions about the current project of Asian American Studies that are essential considerations for the future development of the field.” — American Literature

Race and Resistance is available in hardcover, paperback, and Ebook from Oxford University Press. Read more about the book here.


 

Transpacific Studies:

Framing an Emerging Field

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Recognizing the increasing importance of the transpacific as a word and concept, this anthology proposes a framework for transpacific studies that examines the flows of culture, capital, ideas, and labor across the Pacific. These flows involve Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific Islands. The introduction to the anthology by its editors, Janet Hoskins and Viet Thanh Nguyen, consider the advantages and limitations of models found in Asian studies, American studies, and Asian American studies for dealing with these flows. The editors argue that transpacific studies can draw from all three in order to provide a critical model for considering the geopolitical struggle over the Pacific, with its attendant possibilities for inequality and exploitation. Transpacific studies also sheds light on the cultural and political movements, artistic works, and ideas that have arisen to contest state, corporate, and military ambitions. In sum, the transpacific as a concept illuminates how flows across the Pacific can be harnessed for purposes of both domination and resistance.

Transpacific Studies is available from the University of Hawaii Press. Read more about the book here.