Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Sympathizer - Viet Thanh Nguyen

The main character is the epitome of subversion; a man born of an American priest and a Vietnamese peasant girl. Educated in Vietnam and the US, Communist sleeper agent inLos Angeles. Complex only begins to describe him. The issue of identity, obviously, is at the core of the novel.

And it's crowded at its core, for there are many questions examined : War and peace and their consequences. History and its rewriting. Friendship. 
For all intents and purposes it's a spy-novel updated, yet the historic context adds another layer. Despite the numerous 'Full Metal Jacket', 'Platoon' and their likes, the Vietnam war legacy remains pretty much uncharted, so this novel has a crucial feel to it. 

Sadly, the style of writing does not quite match the content. It's ambitious and not without talent - no small trifle in itself! - but it's not the Nobel prize-material it would have to be to rival with the content. 
In that, this novel is quite similar to Elena Ferrante's 'My Brilliant Friend'. 
Still - I've read worse!


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