Just to live, “I had turned my anger down to a pilot light,” Nguyen said. “I turned it up for ‘The Sympathizer.’” AFP / Martin BUREAU
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When Americans debate the Vietnam War, what the Vietnamese thought rarely gets a mention."The Sympathizer," by Vietnamese-American academic Viet Thanh Nguyen, has ended that silence.An excoriating tragicomic novel, a best-seller in the U.S., it not only dismantles the Hollywood myth of the conflict but turns it inside out.Nguyen, who grew up between a refugee camp and the shop that his parents slaved to set up in California, is an equal-opportunities satirist.While he eviscerates a barely disguised Francis Ford Coppola on the Philippine set of his iconic film, the Vietnamese do not emerge smelling of roses either.Nguyen said he was "anxious" about how the Vietnamese translation would be received.In coming up with an ambivalent Communist mole in the South Vietnamese army, the unwanted son of a French colonial Catholic priest and his maid, Nguyen found his man."The Movie," the character observes at one point in the book, "was just a sequel to our war and a prequel to the next one that America was destined to wage.
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