This year’s winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is:
- The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The other finalists are:
- Get in Trouble: Stories, by Kelly Link
- Maud’s Line, by Margaret Verble
I don’t know much about The Sympathizer, and I’m not sure it’s a book I’m going to rush out and buy now that it’s won the Pulitzer. It’s been years since I rushed out to buy the Pulitzer winner on announcement day. That said, I’m pleased to see this tweet from Jeffrey Zuckerman:
@john_self @readandbreathe The Sympathizer!!!! Hurrah for quality, non-middlebrow fiction!
— Jeffrey Zuckerman (@J_Zuckerman) April 18, 2016
Here is the book’s blurb:
One of 2015’s most highly acclaimed debuts, The Sympathizer is a Vietnam War novel unlike any other. The narrator, one of the most arresting of recent fiction, is a man of two minds and divided loyalties, a half-French half-Vietnamese communist sleeper agent living in America after the end of the war.
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. But, unbeknownst to the general, this captain is an undercover operative for the communists, who instruct him to add his own name to the list and accompany the general to America. As the general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, the captain continues to observe the group, sending coded letters to an old friend who is now a higher-up within the communist administration. Under suspicion, the captain is forced to contemplate terrible acts in order to remain undetected. And when he falls in love, he finds that his lofty ideals clash violently with his loyalties to the people close to him, a contradiction that may prove unresolvable.
A gripping spy novel, a moving story of love and friendship, and a layered portrayal of a young man drawn into extreme politics, The Sympathizer examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.
Has anyone read this one? If so, what did you think?
I’ve not read this but it does sound appealing. One to add to the list for the future possibly.
Hi Trevor – I am curious as to why you aren’t excited to read the winner…..is it because the Vietnam War has been covered so well by literature in the past?….for example, Denis Johnson’s National Book Award winning “Tree of Smoke”?
I guess that might be it, Greg. I’m not sure. It’s not fair of me to judge the book without much knowledge of it, but I do sometimes get tired of award winners about major historical events. I always wonder how much of the book’s quality or importance is association by reference.
Though it is really a personal problem I have, and not one that I even apply equally all over the place. I can do better!
Great book. The first person narrative is fascinating and it explores the moral life of a spy and the immediate aftermath of Vietnam in a way that I found to be original. I thought it was one of the best American novels of the year along with Paul Beatty’s Sellout.