“This is an entirely new take on the Vietnam War and its aftermath. It shifts your perspective 180 degrees -- now you are not the American soldier sweltering through the dense jungle wondering why you are here -- now you are the native, whose country has been overrun by yet another cruel and condescending foreign invader. This is also a tale of divided loyalties (the union of opposites?): the protagonist is the son of a French catholic priest who seduced his 13-year-old Vietnamese maid; he is the trusted aid of a South Vietnamese general while he is also a spy for the Viet Cong. Through it all, he is mostly a witty, snarky observer of the world around him and his place in it: ‘Besides my conscience, my liver is the most abused part of my body’ and ‘A slogan is just an empty suit, anyone can wear— Conrad Silverberg
April 2015 Indie Next List
“The Sympathizer is a fascinating and highly original novel about the Vietnam War and its aftermath. The unnamed narrator, a South Vietnamese captain, works for the Americans while spying for the Viet Cong. After the evacuation of Saigon, he follows an American general to the U.S. and finds himself torn between two worlds: his new life in the West among his fellow political refugees and his sympathies for the Communists back home. Nguyen injects much dark humor into this tragic story, and the narrator's voice is both subversive and unforgettable. The Sympathizer will be one of the most talked-about novels of the year.”
— Pierre Camy, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI
Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2016
A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties.
It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong.
The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.