Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel The Sympathizer (Corsair, 2016) is a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His other books include The Refugees (forthcoming from Grove Press, Feb. 2017); Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (Harvard University Press, 2016), a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction; and Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford University Press, 2002). His next book is a short story collection, The Refugees, forthcoming in February 2017 from Grove Press. Nguyen’s honors include the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction from the American Library Association, the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction, a Gold Medal in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, and the Asian/Pacific American Literature Award from the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association. He is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. (Photo credit: BeBe Jacobs)


From The Sympathizer

I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds. I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some have treated me as such. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides. Sometimes I flatter myself that this is a talent, and although it is admittedly one of a minor nature, it is perhaps also the sole talent I possess. At other times, when I reflect on how I cannot help but observe the world in such a fashion, I wonder if what I have should even be called talent. After all, a talent is something you use, not something that uses you. The talent you cannot not use, the talent that possesses you—that is a hazard, I must confess. But in the month when this confession begins, my way of seeing the world still seemed more of a virtue than a danger, which is how some dangers first appear.

The month in question was April, the cruelest month. It was the month in which a war that had run on for a very long time would lose its limbs, as is the way of wars. It was a month that meant everything to all the people in our small part of the world and nothing to most people in the rest of the world. It was a month that was both an end of a war and the beginning of . . . well, “peace” is not the right word, is it, my dear Commandant? It was a month when I awaited the end behind the walls of a villa where I had lived for the previous five years, the villa’s walls glittering with broken brown glass and crowned with rusted barbed wire. I had my own room at the villa, much like I have my own room in your camp, Commandant. Of course, the proper term for my room is an “isolation cell,” and instead of a housekeeper who comes to clean every day, you have provided me with a baby-faced guard who does not clean at all. But I am not complaining. Privacy, not cleanliness, is my only prerequisite for writing this confession.

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Going Global, Staying Local: How to be Cosmopolitan | March 28 

An Evening with Viet Thanh Nguyen | March 28