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Việt Thanh Nguyễn: The Sympathizer (Reread)

I first read this book three years ago, but I struggled to grab the story. Not just this book alone but I had a hard time following any work of fiction. My reading interests were mostly none-fiction until the pandemic hit. Being locked down, I wanted to read books I could escape; therefore, I turned to fiction. The more I read fiction, the more my imagination seemed to open up. As a result, I decided to reread this book and I am glad I did.

I read it at a slower pace. If I got lost few paragraphs in, I would reread the paragraphs to make sure I understood what went on. At times, the dialogs can be confusing because Nguyễn omitted quotation marks. It took me a while to get used to who was doing the talking. I also had a cantankerous quibble with the omission of diacritics in Vietnamese words. For example, du me lacks the expressiveness of đụ mẹ (fuck you). The underdots add tremendous weight to the foul language. In addition, I could not figure out the two characters’ name. Without diacritics, Man and Bon don’t sound like Vietnamese names to me. They might as well be M and B.

Nevertheless, Việt Thanh Nguyễn’s The Sympathizer is a well-written novel and a well-deserved winner of the Pulitzer Prize. It’s a lot unpack, but they story about the squid stuck in my mind. I am not sure if I can ever see a squid without seeing what it had described in the book. In any rate, it is definitely worth a reread if you couldn’t get into it the first time. I am definitely looking forward to reading the sequel, The Committed, which will release in March 2021.

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