The Sympathizer

Yesterday I finished The Sympathizer, the debut novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen, and winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Have you read it? From the first sentence—“I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces”—I found myself plunged into a strange world in the company of a narrator who was instantly compelling, like the I-character in Invisible Man, or Ismael in Moby Dick, and who made that unique place substantial and comprehensible by being so fully alive, so willing to dive into life’s contradictions with heart ablaze and eyes open. He is a divided man, a literary man, the bastard, the dialectically-driven one, always aware of contradiction. And his questions are my questions: how does a revolution not betray itself? How can you be committed and skeptical, passionate but not brainless? Where is the room for art and doubt and the leaky weirdness of real life? Can human relationships exist alongside discipline, and can thought survive ideology? How do we face our sins and betrayals and inadequacies and mistakes, and still live on?
I’m really breathless.
Dancing the dialectic.

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