Tag Archives: Viet Thanh Hguyen

“The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Hguyen

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Writing a review for this book was difficult. I found it so profound that could not believe it that it ended, when I read its last sentence. In spite of its 384 pages.

The main character – the Captain – is a very complex character. He was a child of a French priest and poor Vietnamese, born out of wedlock, to become an assistant to a Vietnamese general, a spy for Americans, a killer, a devoted friend, a follower, a master and slave of words, and finally – a survivor.

The plot develops on Vietnamese and USA soil in 70s. There are different interpretations of the historical events of those times. I did not perceive the book as an account of those precise events. I felt that the author wants us to reflect and to learn. He asks very tough questions, from the depth of the human vulnerability in birth, love, camradry and torture: “What is more precious than independence and freedom?”, “how a revolution fought for independence and freedom could make those things worth less than nothing” and many more.

The writing style impressed me – the power of words is striking, compeling, edifying. There is so much pain and hope combined that I could not read some pages, in particular those on what a human can do to another human. At the same time, I savoured the fine sarcasm of some lines: ” I had an abiding respect for the professionalism of career prostitutes, who wore their dishonesty more openly than lawyers, both of whom bill by the hour”. Or “Cognac made everything better, the equivalent of a mother’s kiss for a grown man”. Or “I liked my scotch undiluted, like I liked my truth.” And this last one, is to me the essence of this novel.