Viet Thanh Nguyen’s “The Committed”

Aminatta Forna in The Guardian:

We were the unwanted, the unneeded and the unseen, invisible to all but ourselves.” And with those words he is back, the “man of two faces and two minds” as well as many guises: Vietnamese, French, American, soldier, academic, Japanese tourist, waiter, hoodlum, killer, communist, capitalist, spy. In 2016 the unnamed protagonist of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s first novel The Sympathizer won his creator a Pulitzer prize for fiction. In a distinctive voice, one that mixed erudition with the vernacular, quiet reflection with emotional outburst and came threaded with a biting wit, he recounted his life as a Viet Cong spy. His journey led him from a shack in Saigon to life among wealthy Vietnamese exiles in Los Angeles, finally to confront his own past years later back in Vietnam. There he is held in a re-education camp where he is interrogated and tortured by “the faceless man”, forced to write and rewrite his “confession” in an attempt to correct his ideological position: the result is the book itself.

For decades the master narrative of the Vietnam war has been created by American books and movies. It is the story of the impact that fighting the war had on the bodies, minds and hearts of mainly white American males. It is, as Nguyen himself has observed in the past, the first time history has ever been written by the loser.

More here.