The Sympathizer & Nothing Ever Dies
Presented in partnership with the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Pulitzer Prize winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen will discuss his two latest books.
About The Sympathizer:
At once a gripping glimpse into the life of a spy, a moving love story, and a beautifully written, voice-driven piece of literary fiction, the novel explores the gulf between lofty idealism and unpleasant reality. 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. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel takes us inside the mind of this double agent, a man whose lofty ideals necessitate his betrayal of the people closest to him. As Library Journal noted in a starred review, The Sympathizer is “ultimately a mediation on war, political movements, America’s imperialist role, the CIA, torture, loyalty, and one’s personal identity, this is a powerful, thought-provoking work.” As he examines a life caught between two worlds,Nguyen lays bare the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.
Published to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, The Sympathizer engages the preceding narratives of the Vietnam War both in dialogue and in open conflict, helping to fill the gap of Vietnamese voices responding to the war and its aftermath. Nguyen has produced an astonishing portrait of a fractured man and a fractured time—one whose aftershocks are still being felt in the way America conducts itself in the world today.
About Nothing Ever Dies:
All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory. From the author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Sympathizer comes a searching exploration of the conflict Americans call the Vietnam War and Vietnamese call the American War—a conflict that lives on in the collective memory of both nations.
From a kaleidoscope of cultural forms—novels, memoirs, cemeteries, monuments, films, photography, museum exhibits, video games, souvenirs, and more—Nothing Ever Dies brings a comprehensive vision of the war into sharp focus. At stake are ethical questions about how the war should be remembered by participants that include not only Americans and Vietnamese but also Laotians, Cambodians, South Koreans, and Southeast Asian Americans. Too often, memorials valorize the experience of one’s own people above all else, honoring their sacrifices while demonizing the “enemy”—or, most often, ignoring combatants and civilians on the other side altogether. Visiting sites across the United States, Southeast Asia, and Korea, Viet Thanh Nguyen provides penetrating interpretations of the way memories of the war help to enable future wars or struggle to prevent them.
Drawing from this war, Nguyen offers a lesson for all wars by calling on us to recognize not only our shared humanity but our ever-present inhumanity. This is the only path to reconciliation with our foes, and with ourselves. Without reconciliation, war’s truth will be impossible to remember, and war’s trauma impossible to forget.