Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Sympathizer : Complex Duality..

Vietnam war is a much repeated plot point in American movies and novels. The plight of soldiers has been repeated so often that it has been turned to a clichéd plot device. Making a lead character a Vietnam veteran automatically injects him with a new level of maturity, outlook and weariness and makes any further exposition needless.

The Sympathizer is the first work of fiction that I encountered which tells the Vietnamese perspective of  the war. In American books and movies, even the ones that are sympathetic, Vietnamese are either faceless victims or perpetrators of violence.


The Sympathizer is the Pulitzer prize winning novel of 2016 written by debutant novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen. The book has its protagonist a half Vietnamese- half French unnamed man. He fights with Southern Vietnamese army along with US army, but is actually a sympathizer, an undercover Communist spy.

The novel portrays his dual nature that accepts both perspectives. It proves to be a handicap for him because both sides actually wants from him unflinching loyalty to their individual causes and unlimited hatred against other side.

The book is written in first person singular narrative and when the protagonist becomes aware of his dual nature, turns to first person plural 'we' in the final chapter. The narration, which is matter-of-fact in the beginning, slowly turns more complex as the story progress. The mechanical recounting of events give way to personal narrative which, as time progress even involves fantastical elements.

The Sympathizer is an intense and profound novel that is primarily about Vietnam war, but deals with contemporary issues like migration, alienation and futility of blind idealism. It is a worrying portrayal of how the society tends to keep apart the individual who are broad minded in outlook.

Read the blogpost on the 2016 Man Booker award winning novel The Sellout by Paul Beatty.

Buy the book:

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