Friday, 22 April 2016

A novel I have to read

I rarely write about reading plans/ ideas because most of the time I fail (the Russian literature challenge was an exception) and prefer to let 1 book lead to another. Also, as you probably have noticed, I immerse myself in classics and basically ignore (almost) all important and acclaimed contemporary writers, the whole bunch of Philip Roth, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Zadie Smith, A. S. Byatt, Karl Ove Knausgård, Michel Houellebecq, Jonathan Franzen, Elena Ferrante, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Ha Jin, Mario Vargas Llosa, Orhan Pamuk, and so on and so forth. Another confession: I haven't read Matthew Selwyn's book either (poor guy). 
Anyway, to go to the main point, in spite of all that there's now a novel I have to read, and it's The Sympathiser by Viet Thanh Nguyen or Nguyễn Thanh Việt. 
Because it's widely praised and just won a Pulitzer prize, because the author is of Vietnamese descent (how many Vietnamese writers can you name? none? I knew it), and because the novel deals with the Vietnam war. 
The 1st and foremost concern will be the literary merit- is it as good as people say? is it worth all the fuss? Another, also important, problem will be the perspective, the political view. There have been too many books showing the perspective of Americans, and of the communists, nobody hears the Southerners. I have very strong feelings about the war, the 2 Vietnams, the Paris agreement of 1973, the communist party and especially the current authoritarian regime (so strong that I can't date a Vietnamese guy, for fear of a clash). From the look of it, The Sympathiser perhaps won't make me very happy, and the fact that Nhã Nam, a publishing house in Vietnam, have contacted Nguyễn Thanh Việt for translation causes me more concern. 
But I wouldn't know until I read it. 


  1. boy, i don't know about the "have to"... i dislike modern lit pretty much and it would take a substantial offer in coin of the realm to get me to read much of it. i admire your courage and hope you don't get too tired, depressed, irate... good luck....

  2. Di,

    I hope reading the book turns out to be a good experience for you.

  3. Thank you, Mudpuddle and Fred. If I read it, I'll write about it.
    @Mudpuddle: Why do you "dislike modern lit pretty much"?