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The long-awaited new novel from one of America’s most highly regarded contemporary writers, The Committed follows the Sympathizer as he arrives in Paris as a refugee. There he and his blood brother Bon try to escape their pasts and prepare for their futures by turning their hands to capitalism in one of its purest forms: drug dealing. No longer in physical danger, but stil The long-awaited new novel from one of America’s most highly regarded contemporary writers, The Committed follows the Sympathizer as he arrives in Paris as a refugee. There he and his blood brother Bon try to escape their pasts and prepare for their futures by turning their hands to capitalism in one of its purest forms: drug dealing. No longer in physical danger, but still inwardly tortured by his reeducation at the hands of his former best friend, and struggling to assimilate into a dominant culture, the Sympathizer is both charmed and disturbed by Paris. As he falls in with a group of left-wing intellectuals and politicians who frequent dinner parties given by his French Vietnamese “aunt,” he finds not just stimulation for his mind but also customers for his merchandise―but the new life he is making has dangers he has not foreseen, from the oppression of the state, to the self-torture of addiction, to the seemingly unresolvable paradox of how he can reunite his two closest friends, men whose worldviews put them in absolute opposition. Both literary thriller and brilliant novel of ideas, The Committed is a blistering portrayal of commitment and betrayal that will cement Viet Thanh Nguyen’s position in the firmament of American letters


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The long-awaited new novel from one of America’s most highly regarded contemporary writers, The Committed follows the Sympathizer as he arrives in Paris as a refugee. There he and his blood brother Bon try to escape their pasts and prepare for their futures by turning their hands to capitalism in one of its purest forms: drug dealing. No longer in physical danger, but stil The long-awaited new novel from one of America’s most highly regarded contemporary writers, The Committed follows the Sympathizer as he arrives in Paris as a refugee. There he and his blood brother Bon try to escape their pasts and prepare for their futures by turning their hands to capitalism in one of its purest forms: drug dealing. No longer in physical danger, but still inwardly tortured by his reeducation at the hands of his former best friend, and struggling to assimilate into a dominant culture, the Sympathizer is both charmed and disturbed by Paris. As he falls in with a group of left-wing intellectuals and politicians who frequent dinner parties given by his French Vietnamese “aunt,” he finds not just stimulation for his mind but also customers for his merchandise―but the new life he is making has dangers he has not foreseen, from the oppression of the state, to the self-torture of addiction, to the seemingly unresolvable paradox of how he can reunite his two closest friends, men whose worldviews put them in absolute opposition. Both literary thriller and brilliant novel of ideas, The Committed is a blistering portrayal of commitment and betrayal that will cement Viet Thanh Nguyen’s position in the firmament of American letters

30 review for The Committed

  1. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    3 stars for a book that is overloaded with the tortured mind of a Vietnamese spy now in France. I decided to read this book because i had read and enjoyed 2 books previously by this author. The steam of consciousness writing, with an emphasis on the ideas of various philosophers is at times confusing and too much information. That, plus depictions of torture, detracted from the enjoyment of the book. On the plus side, there is some interesting commentary from the Vietnamese point of view on Ameri 3 stars for a book that is overloaded with the tortured mind of a Vietnamese spy now in France. I decided to read this book because i had read and enjoyed 2 books previously by this author. The steam of consciousness writing, with an emphasis on the ideas of various philosophers is at times confusing and too much information. That, plus depictions of torture, detracted from the enjoyment of the book. On the plus side, there is some interesting commentary from the Vietnamese point of view on American society, French colonizers and present French society. One quote, a self description: "Perhaps that was just another name for a man with two faces and two minds. If so, at least I knew who I was, and that was more than could be said for most. The dual images of myself floating in his lenses reminded me that I was not one, but two, not only me or moi but also, on occasion, we or us." Thanks to Grove Atlantic for sending me this book through NetGalley. #TheCommitted #NetGalley

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    In 2015, a professor at the University of Southern California published his first novel called “The Sympathizer.” The story was a cerebral work of historical fiction and political satire cleverly infiltrated with cultural criticism. Although cloaked as a thriller, it didn’t fit neatly into that popular genre and could have slipped by as unnoticed as a good spy. Except that the author, Viet Thanh Nguyen, was too startlingly brilliant to ignore. “The Sympathizer” flushed color back into those iconi In 2015, a professor at the University of Southern California published his first novel called “The Sympathizer.” The story was a cerebral work of historical fiction and political satire cleverly infiltrated with cultural criticism. Although cloaked as a thriller, it didn’t fit neatly into that popular genre and could have slipped by as unnoticed as a good spy. Except that the author, Viet Thanh Nguyen, was too startlingly brilliant to ignore. “The Sympathizer” flushed color back into those iconic photos of the fall of Saigon and recast the worn lessons of the Vietnam War through the eyes of a communist agent hiding in the United States. An instant classic, the novel aggressively engaged with the nation’s mythology and demonstrated Nguyen’s extraordinary intellectual dramatic range. “The Sympathizer” swept through the year’s literary awards, winning a Pulitzer Prize, a Carnegie Medal, the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the Asian/Pacific American Award, an Edgar Award and more. Now, Nguyen returns to the scene of that triumph with an even brainier sequel called “The Committed.” “I may no longer be a spy or a sleeper, but I am most definitely a spook,” the unnamed narrator begins. “I am also still a man of two faces and two minds, one of which might perhaps yet still be. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    “We were the unwanted, the unneeded, and the unseen, invisible to all but ourselves. Less than nothing, we also saw nothing as we crouched blindly in the unlit belly of our ark… Even among the unwanted there were unwanted, and at that, some of us could only laugh. The prostitutes scowled at us and said, What do you want? We, the unwanted, wanted so much. We wanted food, water, and parasols, although umbrellas could be fine. We wanted clean clothes, baths, and toilets, the squatting kind … “ I am “We were the unwanted, the unneeded, and the unseen, invisible to all but ourselves. Less than nothing, we also saw nothing as we crouched blindly in the unlit belly of our ark… Even among the unwanted there were unwanted, and at that, some of us could only laugh. The prostitutes scowled at us and said, What do you want? We, the unwanted, wanted so much. We wanted food, water, and parasols, although umbrellas could be fine. We wanted clean clothes, baths, and toilets, the squatting kind … “ I am generally not a fan of sequels, tie-ins, but since this was written by Viet Thanh Nguyen, I jumped at the opportunity to read this eARCs, in which we encounter the Sympathizer, from the Pulitzer winner book with the same name. In the Sympathizer he spent some years in the United States, following the end of the Vietnam war. In this novel, he’s a refugee in Paris, France, in the early 1980s. What a brilliant idea to have this most charismatic, intelligent, tormented, ambiguous character spend time in the country that colonised Vietnam, his father's country, a father who had never recognised him. The Committed is a masterclass in writing, with one of the most exquisite unreliable narrators I’ve ever come across. He’s intelligent and well-read, philosophical, self-aware, self-deprecating and immensely funny. I’ve highlighted quite a few paragraphs. Our character epitomizes complexity. His views on colonialism, racism, ideology, Vietnamese people and culture, French people and culture and so many other things blew me away, yet again. Occasionally, I found myself giggling, delighting in the narrator’s observations and cheekiness. While my enjoyment of this novel did dip here and there, the peaks were so many and so high, I have to rate this 5 stars, as it's on another level. The Committed will definitely make it on my list of 2021 favourite reads. I've received this eARC via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest opinion. My gratitude to Grove Atlantic for the opportunity to read and review this novel.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    Published in the UK today 4/3/21 As with any war, the origins could be disputed. Was it their fault, whoever they were, because they had killed Sleepy? Was it my fault because I had nearly killed Beatles and Rolling Stones, who presumably belonged to the same gang as Sleepy’s killers? Was it their fault because they had attempted to rob me? Was it my fault because I had strayed out of my assigned place among the invisible Indochinese who never needed a visit from the Repressive State Apparatus Published in the UK today 4/3/21 As with any war, the origins could be disputed. Was it their fault, whoever they were, because they had killed Sleepy? Was it my fault because I had nearly killed Beatles and Rolling Stones, who presumably belonged to the same gang as Sleepy’s killers? Was it their fault because they had attempted to rob me? Was it my fault because I had strayed out of my assigned place among the invisible Indochinese who never needed a visit from the Repressive State Apparatus, since we had learned to repress ourselves? Was it their fault because they had not sought an alliance or even just a chat with their colonized comrades? Who were they, anyway, the people with whom we were now at war? …. . I went up to the waiting room [in the Brothel] and found that the eschatological muscle, knowing it to be my last day, had prepared a loan for me: his densely underlined copies of Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth, as well as Césaire’s A Tempest. Viet Thang Nyugen is a Vietnamese born American academic and Marxist whose 2015 debut novel – “The Sympathizer” won the Pulitzer prize as well as a host of other prizes and nominations. I came to it late (in 2017) – when it was Dublin Literary Prize shortlisted and at the same time as the publication of his short story collection “The Refugees”. I have to say I preferred “The Refugees” – which was very surprising to me, as generally I much prefer novels to short story collections, but I found “The Refugees” more nuanced, revealing and intriguing, whereas whereas in "The Sympathizer" the interesting themes were swamped by the (to me) implausibly wide range of different and rather bizarre scenarios experienced by the single narrator (dramatic evacuation from Saigon just before its fall, undercover spying, assassinations of communist sympathizers in America, post-war mission into the Vietnamese borders, detailed torture scenes both as perpetrator, accomplice and victim and above all a rather bizarre intermission as a type of cultural advisor to an apocalyptic Hollywood Vietnamese war movie). I also reflected that I am perhaps of a generation (born very late 1960s) and nationality (UK) where the Vietnam war simply does not have the same cultural resonance as it seems to have for other readers. This book is an almost direct sequel to “The Sympathizer”. After a brief (and I have to say very strong) section on the refugee boat where our narrator was left in the first novel, the remainder of the book is set in Paris. There he (and his blood brother) Bon (still fiercly anti-communist and entirely unaware of the narrator being a double-agent) join a group of Vietnamese gang members and start dealing drugs on their behalf among a group of French Marxist intellectuals. I think it is pretty well essential to have read the first book to appreciate the second – although you do not have to re-read it as the book contains plenty of references back to the first book and the key plot elements. The author has commented that he felt there were two key reasons for writing a sequel. The first was that he had deliberately chosen to write the first novel in a spy/adventure genre – where series/sequels are very common – and he had genre justification for simply continuing the adventure. The second was that “I wanted to write a dialectical novel with The Sympathizer and to write a novel deeply influenced by Marxism and Marxist theory.” and to explore ideas such as “what does [a] disillusioned former revolutionary do with himself?” and to have his narrator confront both: of the legacies of both: French colonialism (something not really examined in the first novel – which concentrated more on American imperialism); sexism – the blatant sexism and sexual abuse which accompanies wars and revolutions and in which the narrator was increasingly complicit in the first novel (his torture by his own side and own friend being largely down to his not preventing the rape of a communist spy so as to protect his undercover alibi). The narrator indeed in this novel at one point exclaiming: Self-criticism? I cried. I am nothing if not self-critical! My entire life is a self-criticism session between me, myself, and I! No need to raise your voice, said BFD. If you are so self-critical, said the Maoist PhD, do you see where you deviate from the masses? Why should I worry about deviating from the masses when I am also me and myself? Am I not a mass? Am I not already a collective? Do I not contain multitudes? Am I not a universe unto myself? Am I not always infinitely dialectical as I synthesize the thesis of me and the antithesis of myself? And I think that the two motivations for the book serve as almost a perfect introduction to this novel – which is effectively a blend of violent, sex-obsessed action thriller and Marxist/colonial theory Pretty well the entire book consists of to interspersed types of narrative: - Gangster action (mainly drug dealing, silly nicknames, “medieval” torture, tit-for-tat killings between an Asian and Arabic gang – both of course importantly victims of French Imperialistic state-exported violence in Vietnam and Algeria, visits to spectacular brothels, and multiple profanities – many in capital letters, different type sizes or both) - Discussions or consideration of colonial/post-colonial/Marxist/literary/philosophical theory (at least a a nodding familiarity with Adorno, Althusser, Cesaire, Fanon, Gramsci. Ho Chi Minh, Rosseau, Voltaire and so on is fairly crucial to the novel) With just as you think this is a schlock-novel, you are suddenly thrown into some philosophical discussion on say the brutalising effect of colonisation on the colonised; and just as a discussion of Marxist dialectics might make you think the book is a lecture, a torture scene cut short by a fire-fight or ended with a visit to a spectacular brothel livens things up The effect is I have to say 100% Pulp Fiction – a film I once enjoyed, but when I was a lot less mature – and which is no longer my taste in films and certainly not literature. So overall not really for me – despite a strong finishing section where our narrator – now in an asylum for his sanity and protection discusses two key themes to the book – the different meanings of the title and the concept of the importance of nothing and non-action in someone jaded by their opposites. But then perhaps I should not have read the sequel to a book I appreciated much less than many others. I will be intrigued to see what fans of the first book (and there are many) make of this. A couple of side comments: Firstly I did enjoy the frequent references to the inexplicable French love of the music (if it can be called such of Johnny Halladay) – as well as a reference to “Je t’aime” (as my own experience of oriental/French cultural overlap – a key part of the novel – was a rather odd evening out watching Jane Birkin at the French cultural institute in Istanbel several years back) Secondly I expect this book to be in strong Booker contention- but wonder how the Chair of the 2021 judges Maya Jasanoff, famous for her book Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World will react to this taunt thrown by some rather pompous French Marxist Academics at the narrator when he questions the success of the Communist revolution in Vietnam You have to take the long view. Look at America. No one remembers now what happened to the Americans who chose to side with the British king. Should the American Revolution not have happened, or should we condemn it because all those people were exiled? My thanks to Grove Atlantic for an ARC via NetGalley. And here you are, safe in your asylum, one of the committed. The question is: Committed to what? You have had two years …. , to confess to the crimes you have committed, to acknowledge that after everything you have been through, everything you have done, you are still committed to revolution, which must mean you’re crazy, but no crazier than the first idealistic cavewoman who dreamed of conjuring fire from nothing, whose fate, after she discovered fire, was most likely being burned at the stake by the more cynical cavemen who knew that fire was really something, was power itself, so that even back then at the earliest moments of human civilization, the dialectic was moving back and forth between aspiration and exploitation, a movement that will never stop, for you agree with Mao that the dialectic is infinite, with one important exception, for unlike Mao and Stalin and Winston Churchill and King Leopold and a lot of American presidents and English kings and French emperors and Catholic popes and Oriental despots and countless millions of fathers, husbands, boyfriends, lovers, and playboys, you do not believe that such a dialectic requires the sacrifice of millions in the name of communism or capitalism or Christianity or nationalism or fascism or racism or, indeed, sexism, of which you are guilty, guilty, abjectly guilty, and this conviction in an infinite dialectic that does not require enforcement by a Repressive State Apparatus, this article of faith that history’s wheels need not be oiled by blood, this skepticism about Fanon’s belief in the positive benefits of violence, justifiable given the brutality of French violence in Algeria, but nonetheless blind to the possibility that violence could make us feel like men yet behave like devils, whereas nonviolence could detoxify us and free us from our inferiority complexes, lifts us from despair and fear, and restores the self-respect we need for action, and instead of making us mirror images of our colonizers, nonviolence could break the mirror altogether and liberate us from the need to see ourselves in the eyes of our oppressors, forcing us into the disturbing space of the negative, the nothing, the blank, the void, where we must create ourselves anew, each of us unique, each of us in solidarity with others in their uniqueness, a sincere but maybe stupid belief that makes you a man of either vision or hallucination, but one who insists that humanity already knows everything it needs to know to save itself without resorting to murder, beginning with what the most sympathetic Federico García Lorca, assassinated by the Spanish fascists, once said, “I will always be on the side of those who have nothing and who are not even allowed to enjoy the nothing they have in peace,” an empathetic principle that, if followed with action, whether it is doing something or doing nothing, depending on the dialectical need of the situation, will never lead you in the wrong direction, even if that direction is death, since so many people are committed to the exact opposite principle, to side with those who already have something and want everything

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ari Levine

    3.5, rounded up. A sequel to Nguyen's Pulitzer-prize-winning The Sympathizer, with which it shares some of the same strengths and weaknesses. Instead of scathingly satirizing American exceptionalism and the unintended blowback from the Vietnam War, he pulls apart the scars of French colonialism in Vietnam and Algeria. In The Committed, the Sympathizer, aka Crazy Bastard, aka Vo Danh, has survived a Viet Cong reeducation camp, a harrowing experience as a Boat Person, and an Indonesian refugee camp 3.5, rounded up. A sequel to Nguyen's Pulitzer-prize-winning The Sympathizer, with which it shares some of the same strengths and weaknesses. Instead of scathingly satirizing American exceptionalism and the unintended blowback from the Vietnam War, he pulls apart the scars of French colonialism in Vietnam and Algeria. In The Committed, the Sympathizer, aka Crazy Bastard, aka Vo Danh, has survived a Viet Cong reeducation camp, a harrowing experience as a Boat Person, and an Indonesian refugee camp to wash up in Paris in the early 1980s. There he adopts the disguise of a Japanese tourist to sell hashish and heroin to haut-bourgeois Left Bank Marxists as an accomplice of a Vietnamese exile organized crime and prostitution syndicate, based in "the worst Asian restaurant in Paris," in the midst of an escalating turf war with an Algerian drug-trafficking network. (Lots of half-clever in-jokes along the way that overstay their welcome: a thinly-veiled version of the insufferable French TV intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy (or is it the equally heinous Dominique Strauss-Kahn?) appears as a character named BFD, and one of the main clients is an aging soixante-huitard at the Sorbonne known as "The Maoist PhD.") But the promotional copy is overselling this as a postmodern "intellectual thriller," with shades of Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, John Woo two-gun shoot-em-ups, and Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Cercle Rouge. Really, this is a work of postcolonial theory scaffolded with allusions to classic action movies, but you really have had to have taken a graduate seminar to closely engage with these ideas, let alone enjoy the windy diatribes and soliloquies in which they appear. Like The Sympathizer, The Committed needed an editor to prune away 100 pages or so. But I assume that winning a Pulitzer means having final cut, an editorial decision that always ends badly. Rather than baroque plotting with a predictable Fight Club - level final twist (which was The Sympathizer's major shortcoming), The Committed is overstuffed, far past the bursting point, with exhaustive (and exhausting) ruminations on the ideological impact of French colonialism in Indochina, Algeria, and Africa, as characters (and the narrator) stop the action for lengthy disquisitions on Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, Althusser's Repressive State Apparatus, Adorno, Derrida, Gramsci, and Julia Kristeva, which drag on like undisciplined M. A. theses. I don't want to overlook that The Committed is a master class in narrative voice and unreliable narrativity, as Nguyen channels the inner monologue of a divided and fracturing consciousness. The Crazy Bastard is a passive and reactive protagonist, with few ideological commitments of his own, stuck spinning recursive looping thought-spirals in which he relives past traumas from the previous novel (which I should probably have reread first), haunted by the ghosts of the men he's betrayed and killed before, and facing the dilemmas of communism vs. capitalism, the ridiculousness of French racism (legally impossible but pervasively corrosive), and the futility of postcolonial liberation, with a nihilistic shrug. And as our narrator's consciousness fragments and downshifts from the first into the second person, the whole impossible machine derails in the denouement, set in a strange limbo between life and death. Thanks to Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for providing an ARC, in return for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    A new book from the award-winning author of the The Sympathizer. Nguyen continues the story of the former Vietnamese soldier with no name who is now living in Paris with his blood brother Bon. As refugees, they hope France will be better to them than America was. After all France proclaims they believe in "liberty, equality, and fraternity...(but just not yet, at least for you.)" He is known to most in the immigrant community as 'the crazy bastard.' He IS crazy and he IS a bastard after all. He A new book from the award-winning author of the The Sympathizer. Nguyen continues the story of the former Vietnamese soldier with no name who is now living in Paris with his blood brother Bon. As refugees, they hope France will be better to them than America was. After all France proclaims they believe in "liberty, equality, and fraternity...(but just not yet, at least for you.)" He is known to most in the immigrant community as 'the crazy bastard.' He IS crazy and he IS a bastard after all. He has been a communist and a spy, but now he turns his interests to capitalism, mainly because he needs money to live. What is he committed to, you might ask? He is committed to nothing, and that has great meaning for him. The book is largely a discussion of ideology, politics, religion, racism, sexism and basically how he and so many others have been unfairly treated by all of these. If you enjoyed the writing style and characters of The Sympathizer, you are likely to enjoy this sequel as well. I did and give it 4 stars. I received an arc from the author and publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Many thanks.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer was simply a stunning book, focusing on the absurdity of Saigon in the mid-70s from the perspective of an unnamed Vietnamese national. Our Sympathizer is blessed with the curse of sympathizing with conflicting perspectives, often uncovering the preening and pretentiousness of those involved. I read it with awe and couldn’t wait to be a first reader of its sequel. The Committed follows the dual agent, half-French Sympathizer as he arrives in Paris in the early 8 Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer was simply a stunning book, focusing on the absurdity of Saigon in the mid-70s from the perspective of an unnamed Vietnamese national. Our Sympathizer is blessed with the curse of sympathizing with conflicting perspectives, often uncovering the preening and pretentiousness of those involved. I read it with awe and couldn’t wait to be a first reader of its sequel. The Committed follows the dual agent, half-French Sympathizer as he arrives in Paris in the early 80s as a refugee, where he becomes a hashish dealer (and capitalist). The focus is on his survival as a Vietnamese outsider in post-war France, trying to understand his shady past and fuzzy future. The writing is still stellar and the observations—that range from capitalism vs. communism, political commitment, cultural assimilation, French colonization, sullied loyalties, and cognizant dissonance—are thought-provoking. But the irony and absurdity is replaced, to a large part, by philosophical musings. While these musings fully display the author’s brilliance in understanding the issues that define the exile of his multi-faceted original character, it does not thoroughly immerse this reader. Right from the first few lines, which echo its predecessor, it becomes obvious that this book shouldbest be read as a follow-up rather than a standalone. Since I read The Sympathizer a few years back, there were times I needed to search my memory about, say, the narrator’s re-education experiences or certain meaningful connections he had (such as Man). I think it could be challenging for a reader who came into this cold, without familiarity with the back story. Read it for the lyricism, the intellect, the brilliance of the prose, the historical insights, the unsparing observations. But do not expect the same kind of reading experience as The Sympathizer. I am grateful to Grove Atlantic for the advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review and thank them for their many incredible titles.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    ”We were the unwanted, the unneeded, and the unseen, invisible to all but ourselves. Less than nothing, we also saw nothing as we crouched blindly in the unlit belly of our ark. . . Even among the unwanted there were unwanted, and at that some of us could only laugh.”. Reading Viet Thank Nguyen’s The Committed brings to mind multi-layered Matryoshka dolls and the iconic scene in Orson Welles 1947 noir, Lady from Shanghai, with Rita Hayworth and Everett Sloane shooting at each other in a hall of ”We were the unwanted, the unneeded, and the unseen, invisible to all but ourselves. Less than nothing, we also saw nothing as we crouched blindly in the unlit belly of our ark. . . Even among the unwanted there were unwanted, and at that some of us could only laugh.”. Reading Viet Thank Nguyen’s The Committed brings to mind multi-layered Matryoshka dolls and the iconic scene in Orson Welles 1947 noir, Lady from Shanghai, with Rita Hayworth and Everett Sloane shooting at each other in a hall of funhouse mirrors. The Committed contains textual layers upon layers: read now, it’s a shoot-em-up bang-bang noir gangster potboiler; read again, it’s an intellectual treatise on race, identity, colonization, and the dialectics of revolution; read some more, it’s a bro-romance and a dirge for broken lives lost loves, and shattered homelands. Fully understanding and appreciating the complexity of The Committed requires more intellectual flexibility than I can summon. It’s 1981, and the thirty-six year old Crazy Bastard (AKA Le Chinois, AKA Vo Danh, AKA Joseph Nguyen) and his blood brother, Bon, arrive in Paris from a Vietnamese re-education camp via a two year stay at the Galang refugee camp in Indonesia, and ultimately on a flight from Jakarta. Paris, the birthplace of the Crazy Bastard’s father. Paris, the home to a sizable and politically divided Vietnamese community. The Crazy Bastard and Bon carry with them ”bags packed with dreams and fantasies, trauma and pain, sorrow and loss, and, of course, ghosts. Since ghosts were weightless, [they] could carry an infinite number of them.” The Crazy Bastard —proud graduate of Occidental College — and Bon earn their way by cleaning toilets in a Chinese restaurant owned by the Boss, managed by his field marshal, Le Cao Boi, and staffed by the Seven Dwarfs. The Crazy Bastard expands his domain beyond cleaning restaurant toilets by peddling hashish to leftist Parisian intellectuals, disguising himself as a Japanese tourist. And of course, the Crazy Bastard being the Crazy Bastard, he doesn’t know whether he’s communist or capitalist, friend or foe, faithful or faithless, or all simultaneously or serially. The Committed is a sequel to Viet Thanh Nguyen’s splendid The Sympathizer: it stands alone as a novel, and can be appreciated by those who haven’t read The Sympathizer or those, like me, who read it only upon its publication in 2015. This reader sometimes found himself lost between and among the many layers and mirrors in The Committed. The Committed is a Fantasia of a novel, although a Fantasia co-directed by Quentin Tarantino and Guillermo Del Toro. After all, how often do you find Louis Althusser, Walter Benjamin, Andre Malraux, Max Horkheimer, Che Guevara, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Ho Chi Minh mentioned in novel alongside characters named Sleepy, Shorty, Biggie, Angry, Smelly, and Lousy? I would like to thank NetGalley and Grove Press for providing me with an ARC of The Committed. 3.5 stars

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    The Committed is the sequel to The Sympathizer and follows our nameless antihero who is no longer a spy as he stumbles into Paris and a life of drugs, crime, gangs, and politics. "We were the unwelcome, the unwanted, the ignored, invisible to anyone but ourselves": this is how this work begins. The protagonist of the new novel is still the young Captain of the South Vietnamese army who, in the "Sympathizer", after the fall of Saigon in 1975, flees to the United States and, unbeknownst to his fri The Committed is the sequel to The Sympathizer and follows our nameless antihero who is no longer a spy as he stumbles into Paris and a life of drugs, crime, gangs, and politics. "We were the unwelcome, the unwanted, the ignored, invisible to anyone but ourselves": this is how this work begins. The protagonist of the new novel is still the young Captain of the South Vietnamese army who, in the "Sympathizer", after the fall of Saigon in 1975, flees to the United States and, unbeknownst to his friend and blood brother Bon and the chief general of the South Vietnamese National Police, sends his reports to Man, his trainer in the Vietcong ranks. After spending his American years in the condition of alienation and invisibility typical of a refugee and a communist spy, in the early 1980s, with the passport of a certain Vo Danh in his pocket, the sympathizer lands in Paris in the company of the inseparable Bon. France, the country of long colonial domination in Indochina, granted the two blood brothers the coveted right of asylum. It is an opportunity for both of us to leave behind the painful wounds of the past. An opportunity to be cultivated through the purest of capitalist activities, offered by the Vietnamese Boss who moved from the Palau Galang camp to Paris: drug dealing and trading. For Bon it represents the possibility of ceasing to be an unwelcome guest. For the sympathizer, who has spent a good part of his life believing in something in whose heart there was nothing but nothing, simply another possibility given to nothing. A nothing, this time, which makes Paris a city with a murky charm and which makes the intellectuals engagés of the French left frequented at the home of the Vietnamese "aunt", to whom Man addressed him, nothing more than a loyal clientele of the Boss's substances . Finally, nothing that makes it difficult to carry out the task that has always harbored in the soul of the sympathizer: the reconciliation between the blood brothers of the past, Bon and Man, that history, with its cruelties and its blind passions and hopes, he placed on opposite sides. This is a richly-detailed, acutely perceptive and truly captivating read and a masterclass in how to pen a literary thriller that has depth and intelligence in abundance. It's exhilarating, refreshingly original and I loved the exploration of existentialism and prominent French philosophers such as Sartre and de Beauvoir and what words of wisdom they shared. The narrator is as unreliable as they come and is intelligent, charismatic, charming, modest, bookish and often immensely funny. Just the sheer complexity and multilayered nature of his character makes him ambiguous, fascinating and thoroughly engaging and his opinions on racism, colonialism, ideology and the vastly different culture and traditions in France and Vietnam were always intriguing. His musings on whether the colonised can ever really be free were also thought-provoking. This is an eccentric crime tale that highlights the complex legacy of the Vietnam War. Highly recommended.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sofia

    I read this right after reading The Sympathizer so I was still riding that high and I wanted to continue on with the Captain who is now a Crazy Bastard or just simply rather crazy. This one is a mix of crazy action and long philosophical asides. I must admit that I got rather lost in the 'asides' as Nguyen was in a dialogue with philosophies, ideologies, which I am not on point with so I could not really join into that dialogue. If I had a wish for this book it would be that I wished for a better I read this right after reading The Sympathizer so I was still riding that high and I wanted to continue on with the Captain who is now a Crazy Bastard or just simply rather crazy. This one is a mix of crazy action and long philosophical asides. I must admit that I got rather lost in the 'asides' as Nguyen was in a dialogue with philosophies, ideologies, which I am not on point with so I could not really join into that dialogue. If I had a wish for this book it would be that I wished for a better balance between action and philosophy, after all the proof of words is when they're made out into flesh, that is action. I wish this particular baby had not been lost in the philosophical bath water. But for all this I was fully on board with the Captain and his struggles with nothing and contradictions which seem to be a universal condition, and life in general. It's a pity that he has for the moment abdicated from joining us in this world and has decided to fall down the rabbit hole that his thoughts have dug up. An ARC gently provided by author/publisher via Netgalley.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amy | shelf-explanatory

    I am once again in awe of Viet Thanh Nguyen's writing, wordplay, and his ability to pack so much into his prose. The writing and narration style changes somewhat in this book, and there's several places where second person narration and page long run-on sentences are used. These devices are used to illustrate the altered mental state of the Captain following the events in THE SYMPATHIZER. I can see how these could be a turn off for other readers, but I felt that they did a good job at depicting I am once again in awe of Viet Thanh Nguyen's writing, wordplay, and his ability to pack so much into his prose. The writing and narration style changes somewhat in this book, and there's several places where second person narration and page long run-on sentences are used. These devices are used to illustrate the altered mental state of the Captain following the events in THE SYMPATHIZER. I can see how these could be a turn off for other readers, but I felt that they did a good job at depicting the character's instability. THE COMMITTED expounds on many of the same themes as THE SYMPATHIZER, but with a greater emphasis on colonialism with France as the backdrop. In a way, THE SYMPATHIZER is like a 101 level university course, in that it lays down the foundational themes. In contrast, THE COMMITTED is an upper division course that digs deeper into the theory, while looking more closely at the nuances and contradictions. If you loved THE SYMPATHIZER, THE COMMITTED is an excellent follow-up that is even more irreverent than the first. Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for providing me an advanced readers copy of this book! I can't wait to get my hands on my pre-order when it comes out (March 2, 2021)! Stay tuned for my full review (at which time this post will be edited and I will provide a star rating). cw: drug and alcohol use, gang violence/murder, prostitution, suicide

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    It's hard to follow a first act like the Sympathizer, which won a Pulitzer Prize, but this story continues the story, following the narrator to Paris after the Vietnam war and after time in a "reeducation center" in Indonesia. At times brutal but at times florid, it works only fitfully. It's hard to follow a first act like the Sympathizer, which won a Pulitzer Prize, but this story continues the story, following the narrator to Paris after the Vietnam war and after time in a "reeducation center" in Indonesia. At times brutal but at times florid, it works only fitfully.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nadine

    This book would make a great Tarantino film, horrifyingly humorous, with an intellectual edge. It's every bit as terrific as The Sympathizer, which should be read first. I read TS six years ago and my book memory isn’t great, but it all came back as I read this one. The protagonist/narrator is an existentially shattered Vietnamese double agent, released from a re-education camp in Vietnam and now a low-level, drug-dealing gangster in Paris. He’s a man of ill-fitting parts - a reluctant killer, a This book would make a great Tarantino film, horrifyingly humorous, with an intellectual edge. It's every bit as terrific as The Sympathizer, which should be read first. I read TS six years ago and my book memory isn’t great, but it all came back as I read this one. The protagonist/narrator is an existentially shattered Vietnamese double agent, released from a re-education camp in Vietnam and now a low-level, drug-dealing gangster in Paris. He’s a man of ill-fitting parts - a reluctant killer, an unenthusiastic torturer, and a reader of post-colonial theorists. In his mental monologues he not only takes himself and his life apart, but also artfully skewers Western and Eastern imperialism and their agents - capitalists, communists, socialists, colonizers, colonized, christians. Example: ”Being tortured was, in that sense, like going to church. After a while, neither taught anything new. The ritual and repetition simply reinforced knowledge already known but in danger of being forgotten, which was why torturers plied their trade not just with pliers but with the conviction of priests…” The book is a confessional, written in a slippery second person, with a rotating cast of 'you's that can include the reader, either of the protagonist’s two minds (which he describes as held together with a wobbly screw), or assorted theoretical enemies. We never learn his name, as befits a spy, although the name on his passport is Vo Danh, (‘Anonymous’ in English) and most people call him Crazy Bastard. I can’t say this book wears its philosophizing lightly, but it’s not a chore to read - ideas come out of the most surprising characters in the most cleverly crafted ways. I never felt out of my depth, even though my knowledge of anti-colonialist thought doesn’t go very deep. There are no quotations marks for dialogue and this worked really well for me, keeping the writing fluid.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    In the sequel to Nguyen's Pulitzer winning The Sympathizer, our nameless narrator finds himself in early 1980s France, in the shadow of Mitterrand's victory, floating between the city's many milieus, whether the French Left, Vietnamese emigres, or Parisian drug gangs. Our narrator remains torn by his multiple identities, haunted by his past crimes (the ghosts are back!), disillusioned with his ideological cause (after enduring and surviving his reeducation), and repeatedly angered at the patroni In the sequel to Nguyen's Pulitzer winning The Sympathizer, our nameless narrator finds himself in early 1980s France, in the shadow of Mitterrand's victory, floating between the city's many milieus, whether the French Left, Vietnamese emigres, or Parisian drug gangs. Our narrator remains torn by his multiple identities, haunted by his past crimes (the ghosts are back!), disillusioned with his ideological cause (after enduring and surviving his reeducation), and repeatedly angered at the patronizing French intellectuals whose opposition to the War doesn't stop them from romanticizing their colonial pasts. Nguyen gives us a frenetic novel that thrusts us from violent action to ridiculous sex orgies filled with colonial symbolism, to long introspective passages about intellectual thoughts informing the post-1960s left in France. Nguyen's writing can come off as too much at times, too showy, not hiding his academic prowess through the long-winded thoughts of his narrator. But he still manages to keep the reader engaged, not only with the novel's captivating plot but also with an awesomely dry and hilarious wit that often left me chuckling. Not as strong as The Sympathizer (tough act to follow) but still impressive, with Nguyen's growing confidence as a writer willing to try new things and explore new ideas on full display.

  15. 5 out of 5

    phngtrnreads

    eARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. And the truth is: I don't like this book. I was so confused half of the time and exhausted in the other half. I'm not saying what I typed below was lying. It was just an extreme effort to utter out what positive things could be said about this book without spoiling anything since I saw so many people praising it and I'm scared to be offensive to those who have read it. This comes from a Vietnamese btw. It's good to see a Vietnamese auth eARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. And the truth is: I don't like this book. I was so confused half of the time and exhausted in the other half. I'm not saying what I typed below was lying. It was just an extreme effort to utter out what positive things could be said about this book without spoiling anything since I saw so many people praising it and I'm scared to be offensive to those who have read it. This comes from a Vietnamese btw. It's good to see a Vietnamese author with such writing, but also sad bc it felt so foreign to me - After the ending of The Sympathizer, we get to see the main character escape from the re-education camp of the Vietnamese communist government to refuge in Paris with his blood brother, Bon. Here, the two get caught up in a local Asian gang, where they sell hashish to sustain themselves in the City of Light. The story is entwined with the protagonist's conscientious struggle, all while trying to come up with a plan that could save his friends and himself. The harsh social and political condemnations are still the heart of the book in this sequel, but if in "the Sympathizer", our nameless narrator was living among the refugee ex-soldiers and trying to integrate into American society, here in France, he meets intellectuals, politicians from the same homeland, but equally hypocritical as the foreign ones. The details are even more unhinged and chilling than the previous one. Crazy, for me, is probably the best word to describe this novel. Many social issues (from racism, sexism, feminism, to criminal crimes and of course humanity), continue to be actively discussed by the author throughout the book, in a way that most readers would have been familiar - with enthusiasm and criticism, a lot of them carrying rich historical, political, and literate points of view, following almost every turn of events. It's clear that the impacts from the events in "The Sympathizer" has significantly affected our main character, both mentally and physically, hence the notable changes in the writing of Viet Thanh Nguyen. Personally, I find most of the narrative quite... messy, sometimes meaningless, but reaching the end, the reason for this writing style is pretty much clarified, one of them happens to be that it would match the narrator's mentality. If you like the author's writing in the previous book, then you will probably love this one too.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vartika

    Ah, contradiction! The perpetual body odour of humanity! In this electrifying sequel to his Pulitzer-winning spy thriller The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen pursues his unnamed protagonist out of a Vietnamese re-education camp and into Paris, where he confronts the duality of his being anew: whereas he was torn before by his ideological diplopia—his cursed ability to sympathise with both sides of a conflict—he is now tortured by the fact that the "screw" separating his two personalities Ah, contradiction! The perpetual body odour of humanity! In this electrifying sequel to his Pulitzer-winning spy thriller The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen pursues his unnamed protagonist out of a Vietnamese re-education camp and into Paris, where he confronts the duality of his being anew: whereas he was torn before by his ideological diplopia—his cursed ability to sympathise with both sides of a conflict—he is now tortured by the fact that the "screw" separating his two personalities has come loose to a point where he can no longer separate them. While the first book covered the panoramic confessions of a racial bastard and communist double-agent in the Vietnam war and beyond; The Committed is all about a "crazy bastard" on a quest to understand what he really believes in. From the very outset, The Committed establishes itself as more of a novel of ideas than a thriller: the intensely lyrical and horrible opening conjures the image of slave ships, of refugee boats, and—yes—of Noah's ark. Disembarking in the capital of France, our narrator makes overtures to the land of his former colonisers by becoming a drug dealer for a newly established crime ring, but what sticks more than the plot is the incisive commentary on colonisation, la mission civilisatrice, "colour-blindness" and racial ill-treatment, ideological repression, the nature of revolution, and, surprisingly, even feminism and the subjection of women. The philosophical shift between the books, from American duality to France and "nothingness," is palpable—the narrator often refers to Fanon, Cesaire, Sartre, Camus, and even Julia Kristeva—and delivered with characteristic punch and dry wit, making Nguyen's exploration of western chauvinism here rather enjoyable. There is much looking inwards too—Nguyen is as unsparing towards the divided Vietnamese and other subjects of coloniality as he is towards their oppressors. There are, too, other ways of looking inward: The Committed is also a tale of friendship and selfhood and how the two are intersected and bloodied by the forces of the world. As with The Sympathizer, Nguyen writes here in a way that seems almost deliberately to avoid being immersive. Instead, the reader is forced to think and reflect at nearly every stage: on facts of history and how it is told to us; on identity, belongingness, and how ugly life is beneath all its charming veneers. The prose lilts and meanders often, but is complex in a way that works vigorously in its favour. I would recommend this especially for people who enjoy history and good writing, and while I may not read this again, I will certainly not forget it. [Many thanks to Grove Atlantic and Netgalley for providing me with an advanced review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.]

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cherrie

    (I read an advanced copy via NetGalley.) If you want to know my thoughts on how much respect I have for Nguyen, read my long-okay-it's-really-long review of THE SYMPATHIZER. Here for my review of THE COMMITTED, I'm going to try to keep it short. This novel is BRILLIANT. I loved the first book but this sequel really brought it a notch up. I love love love that the sequel seamlessly picks up where the first book drops off and reveals more of the unnamed narrator including a reveal of his supposed (I read an advanced copy via NetGalley.) If you want to know my thoughts on how much respect I have for Nguyen, read my long-okay-it's-really-long review of THE SYMPATHIZER. Here for my review of THE COMMITTED, I'm going to try to keep it short. This novel is BRILLIANT. I loved the first book but this sequel really brought it a notch up. I love love love that the sequel seamlessly picks up where the first book drops off and reveals more of the unnamed narrator including a reveal of his supposed name!!! There was a lot of philosophy talk around Fanon, Adorno, and Cesaire -- all of whom are strangers to me. The philosophy combined with commentary on the binary of communism and capitalism were fascinating but at some points overwhelming. Nguyen really envelopes the reader into the narrator's world to the point where I felt like I was high for 42% of the book (heh). The last little tidbit I'll point out is Nguyen's fantastic play on words; without giving too much away, the title and some proper nouns are puns! I loved this book and cannot wait to discuss THE COMMITTED with the rest of my bookish friends, and I'm also beyond excited to add this to my bookshelf when it comes out!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Thank you NetGalley for letting me read a digital copy of this book! I want to start by saying, I've never read Nguyen's first book based on the main character, The Sympathizer. I wasn't sure if I wouldn't be able to catch on to the sequel, but the back story is summed up fairly well in detail, describing the reeducation camp during the Vietnam War. "...ever since the childhood moment when a Viet Cong cadre aimed the accusatory finger of a revolver at the back of his father's head, puncturing the Thank you NetGalley for letting me read a digital copy of this book! I want to start by saying, I've never read Nguyen's first book based on the main character, The Sympathizer. I wasn't sure if I wouldn't be able to catch on to the sequel, but the back story is summed up fairly well in detail, describing the reeducation camp during the Vietnam War. "...ever since the childhood moment when a Viet Cong cadre aimed the accusatory finger of a revolver at the back of his father's head, puncturing the fragile shell, revealing what no son should ever see..." "Now the threads of the screw were stripped, having been placed under a great degree of being a spy, a sleeper, and a spook." This book jumps in Paris, France, around 1981, post Vietnam War. While "Captain" is no longer a secret spy, he is now facing racial insecurities n a post war era in a foreign country where racism still runs rampant and the Vietnamese are struggling to survive, given the colonization between France and Vietnam. This book isn't really a story about how the main, nameless character survives becoming a hashish dealer (from communist to capitalist society), but a history lesson in a very poetic prose about the Vietnamese living in post war France. There are torture scenes that are not the easiest to read and intense culture lessons on everyday survival, despite living a very torturous past. There are a lot of comparisons between living in America, versus living in other parts of the world. "My God, it must be awful to be a black person in America. You can stop being black in America." I did not have a great time reading this and it was often times hard to understand. However, I did enjoy the history lessons and let's face it - Nguyen is an incredibly gifted writer. The writing is impeccable and beautiful, but the overall story was not for me. "Being tortured was, in that sense, like going to church. after a while, neither taught anything new." "The people of Vietnamese descent in France were quiet, discreet, charming, and most of all harmless." I just reviewed The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen. #TheCommitted #NetGalley [NetGalley URL]

  19. 4 out of 5

    Danny

    I’m fairly new to this ARC reviewing lark and I certainly did not expect to be granted the sequel to Pulitzer-prize winning ‘The Sympathiser’, a book that I loved (although I can still never look at a squid the same way again.) I also thought Viet Thanh Nguyen’s ‘Refugees’ was so good that I put it on a school course last year. So, what a pleasure to have the chance to read this a couple of months earlier than most. And for the most part, it was such a joy to be back in the world of Nguyen’s name I’m fairly new to this ARC reviewing lark and I certainly did not expect to be granted the sequel to Pulitzer-prize winning ‘The Sympathiser’, a book that I loved (although I can still never look at a squid the same way again.) I also thought Viet Thanh Nguyen’s ‘Refugees’ was so good that I put it on a school course last year. So, what a pleasure to have the chance to read this a couple of months earlier than most. And for the most part, it was such a joy to be back in the world of Nguyen’s nameless half-Vietnamese, half-French bastard, in all his duplicitous duality. Once again, the author writes with his particular intellectual verve: every page dripping with the irony and lyricism that made ‘The Sympathiser’ such a standout. Where that book was framed around American imperialism and Vietnam’s ruptured self, as brilliantly characterised through the narrator- a communist spy nestled amongst anti-communists- ‘The Committed’ moves the action (and inaction!) to Paris. This relocation allows Nguyen to cast his skewering eye on the French instead- both in terms of their treatment of the large Vietnamese community living there and, of course, their years of colonial occupation in ‘Indochina’. . The narrator- the eponymous sympathising/committed Crazy Bastard who doesn’t know whether he is a capitalist or a communist, a loyalist or a traitor, a believer of everything or nothing, is blessed/cursed to be able to see any issue from two sides and, so, in honour of this quirk, I’m going to appraise this book in the same way: The Great: - Nguyen is one of the wittiest, smartest writers today and his prose is razor-sharp, inventive and often hilarious. He renders serious, weighty topics with hilarity whilst retaining thoughtful insight. There is a complex Matryoshka doll of intellectual layers here that is rather impressive. - The narrator is haunted by the ghosts of the first book and I loved their interjections and presence at key moments in this one. His instability and unreliability as a narrator is creatively conveyed through shifts in narrative perspective, pages-long run-on sentences and recursive, looping thought patterns. He remains a compelling creation. The Less-Than-Great: - I have to admit that around half way I began to seriously struggle with the book and its lengthy digressions and diatribes. It’s hard not to see this as more of an experimental treatise on postcolonial theory rather than a satisfying narrative, one that contrives a plot in order to expound on its communist/capitalist/nihilist/existentialist (et al) ruminations. - Some of Nguyen’s quirks became a little tedious here: the lack of names, ironic wordplay and political disquisitions in particular made the reading experience a rather ponderous one at times. Committing to a final evaluation then: whilst I sympathise with Nguyen’s intentions and remain appreciative of his talent, I did not enjoy this as much as its predecessor. I think it could have done with some heavy pruning: 100 pages could have been lost here without adversely affecting the ‘story’. I will still read absolutely everything Nguyen ever writes but I’m afraid this one didn’t go down quite so well. Thanks to @netgalley for this eARC, given in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    It’s been 4.5 years since I read Viet Thanh Nguyen’s forerunner to The Committed, the Pulitzer Prize winning The Sympathizer, and my memories of that first book are somewhat vague. I know, however, that this new book picks up exactly where the first one left off and it is probably better to think of this as one book in two volumes rather than two separate books. Indeed, thinking of it that way is important to the plot of the book as this new one develops. Looking at my Goodreads review of The Sym It’s been 4.5 years since I read Viet Thanh Nguyen’s forerunner to The Committed, the Pulitzer Prize winning The Sympathizer, and my memories of that first book are somewhat vague. I know, however, that this new book picks up exactly where the first one left off and it is probably better to think of this as one book in two volumes rather than two separate books. Indeed, thinking of it that way is important to the plot of the book as this new one develops. Looking at my Goodreads review of The Sympathizer isn’t a lot of help because it is a bit short and lacking in detail. It does however remind me that I was not sure about the first half of the book but very impressed with the second half. Sadly, only half of that last sentence is true for The Committed. As The Committed begins, The Sympathizer aka Crazy Bastard travels to Paris and becomes a drug dealer working for The Boss (not Bruce Springsteen) who is, basically, a gangster running an organised crime and prostitution syndicate. This sets the scene for one of the two main narrative strands of the novel: a story of gang turf wars involving kidnapping, torture, murder, orgies and all kinds of unpleasantness. The other main component of the book is, as a rather strange bedfellow for the first, what amounts to a thesis on colonialism and Marxism. The two narrative threads are so closely intertwined that gangsters will sometimes even almost break off from a gunfight to discuss philosophy. I think it is simply that I am the wrong kind of reader for this kind of book. The gangster stuff with the silly nicknames, unfunny jokes and rather too much toilet humour (literally) felt immature, especially when laid alongside, or mixed with, a textbook on colonialism. And the ideas presented in the theoretical side of the book need someone with a lot more background knowledge than I have for them to make proper sense or to be enjoyable (whatever that means in this context). I think an editor would have been useful to trim down this part and maybe find a way of including some introductory comments that allowed more people to engage with it. I couldn’t help noticing a sentence that said, "Your entire life reeled forth in paraphrase, in summary, sometimes elliptically, you being in such a rush and there being so much to say, bits a pieces of your autobiography as haiku and epigraph and fragment…" and thinking "Now, there’s a book I’d like to read". As it is, this one was a struggle. The final few pages of the book provide the most food for thought and were actually my favourite bit, but I almost didn’t get that far.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Vansa

    This book picks up where The Sympathizer ends, and continues the story of the unnamed spy. The Sympathizer dealt with the American invasion of Vietnam through his eyes, and was a meditation on the conflict, patriotism, espionage, the depiction of conflicts in pop culture. This book , while ostensibly about Vo Danh ( not his name, I know, but less unwieldy than typing out variations of "nameless narrator"each time!) trying to survive in Paris with Bon, explores the effects of French colonialism o This book picks up where The Sympathizer ends, and continues the story of the unnamed spy. The Sympathizer dealt with the American invasion of Vietnam through his eyes, and was a meditation on the conflict, patriotism, espionage, the depiction of conflicts in pop culture. This book , while ostensibly about Vo Danh ( not his name, I know, but less unwieldy than typing out variations of "nameless narrator"each time!) trying to survive in Paris with Bon, explores the effects of French colonialism on Vietnam, the fallout of that, capitalism and communism and everything in between, and most importantly, reconciling the contradictory parts of your own identity. The conceit of the narrator being a double agent was perfect for The Sympathizer, and works just as well here-the narrator's always in a bind from being able to recognize all the nuances of a situation and ever point of view. That's a great narrative device, because the writer uses that to explore the many facets of being an immigrant to a country that was formerly a coloniser. Viet Thanh Nguyen's writing is as perspicacious as ever in his observations about people, and governments, and how inhuman we really are. To me, though, the book has a lot of "Tell, instead of show"elements-throughout the book, there are various instances of the writer quoting from works by other thinkers, (Fanon in particular) on the implications of colonialism and the enduring effects that's had on the world, and he engages with those ideas to apply them to that specific situation. Those parts are very well-written and deeply thought-provoking, but just as he's built up a fascinating discussion, the book reverts to a not-particularly well-written crime thriller. In the acknowledgements, Nguyen specifically lists out all the philosophers he's read who have inspired him, and that he wanted this book to be about his engagement with their ideas. Since that was the case, and he clearly has a lot to say that's genuinely insightful, I wish the book had been a collection of essays, on the theme, or that the book had been longer so he could more fully develop on those themes. The Sympathizer did not have a single element that felt irrelevant or pointless, everything meshed perfectly to play a part in developing the writer's theme of the conflict from his perspective. The Committed, however, has multiple instances that seem completely superfluous-the long-winded operations of the gangs, multiple repetitive descriptions of the filthy loo he has to scrub, an orgy meant to show the deeply racist and troubling fantasies of a colonial power, that in turn completely dehumanises the prostitutes forced to take part in it, a scene that ran for far too long describing in unnecessary detail the narrator's bowel movements (yes, you've read that right), in complete contrast to the hilarity of scenes like the memorable squid Portnoy scene in The Sympathizer. Additionally, the female characters literally fall into Madonna/Whore dichotomies- with the writer again performing a 'Tell ,not show", with a couple of characters hurling Helene Cixous' and Kristeva's names at you and scorning the rest of us for being banal and only knowing about Beauvoir and Arendt. I think it's great if the writer wants us to know about a variety of thinkers-it would enhance that if instead of showing me how well-read he is, there was more direct engagement with their ideas, which he tries with a paragraph or two about Kristeva right at the end. By then, however, the twists and turns and happenstance through the book is so exhausting that the denouement, which should have been heart-breaking, is merely annoying. I don't expect books to be perfect and satisfy everyone, however I do expect it to be true to its themes. I keep bringing up The Sympathizer because that's one of my favourite books, and provided an extremely unique, nuanced perspective. The Committed has the advantage of that perspective, but it gets lost amidst the mediocre crime thriller elements. I appreciate his appeal to the power of moderation in face of extremist thought, though I found his proposed solution to rising fascism a little naive in its assumption of good faith-which is strange coming from a writer as clear-sighted as he is. I've given this book 4 stars, and docked just one, despite an entire paragraph devoted to its shortcomings! Viet Thanh Nguyen is a great writer, with some very powerful insights. I love his style of writing-I've never seen stream-of-consciousness used as well as he does, in any other works of literature. His extremely powerful passages, that usually extend upto at least a page, describe generations of injustice, their fallout, the difficulties of overcoming them and the effects on subsequent generations, and how better to explain the insidiousness of this than a powerful rant that has to compress world-altering occurrences in a single page. His understanding, and ability to write complicated socio-political ideas in a lucid way that can be applied to a multitude of experiences is as sharp as ever. He clearly has so much to say that's of value, that I was glued to the page despite being aware of all the parts of the book I wasn't enjoying. I would recommend this book for Vo Danh's unmatched ability to see all sides of a situation, and the writer's wince-inducing thoughts on humanity and governments. I'm really glad Grove Atlantic and NetGalley gave me this opportunity to review this ARC! #TheCommitted #NetGalley

  22. 4 out of 5

    Book

    Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC. Find the full review and others at: https://bookclubbed.buzzsprout.com/15... Viet Thanh Nguyen is a sterling writer. There is no doubt in regard to his political convictions, his vision for The Committed, and the wide swath of political theory he has at his disposal. There are times when the writing sings, and he handles the violence with a Reservoir Dogs tone. Unfortunately, the majority of this book is long-winded, repetitive political theory laundered throug Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC. Find the full review and others at: https://bookclubbed.buzzsprout.com/15... Viet Thanh Nguyen is a sterling writer. There is no doubt in regard to his political convictions, his vision for The Committed, and the wide swath of political theory he has at his disposal. There are times when the writing sings, and he handles the violence with a Reservoir Dogs tone. Unfortunately, the majority of this book is long-winded, repetitive political theory laundered through the protagonist attempting to secure an identity in Paris. This is understandable in a sense, given the character’s backstory and the inextricable link between colonizer/colonized and his status in France. However, capitalist diatribes by secondary characters are exhausting, especially when they are so banal. We get it, I wanted to plead with the author, please move on to something else. The author overrides the protagonist, postcolonial lens fused to his face so he can’t possibly interpret his world in any other sense. It borders on solipsism, and the reductive musings on “nothing” isn’t nearly as interesting as the author makes it out to be. There is inscrutable wordplay (and rhetorical questions) that we are supposed to assume is clever if no meaning can be drawn out of it. The conversations are interrupted by brief spasms of violence centered around drug warfare and territory control. At that point, however, every character is a vehicle for their political beliefs and I couldn’t have cared less about what happened to them. At points in the novel, Nguyen draws on Fanon so much that you might be better served just reading the source material.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lisa of Troy

    This is the second book in a series (admittedly I have not read the first book); however, I thought that I might enjoy this book based on the description: A former Vietnamese communist spy finds himself in Paris believing in nothing and resorting to drug dealing. This book fell flat and disconnected, soulless. It was similar to reading Nick - the main character observing without any feelings - and also the chaos and disorganization of Catch-22. Most of the time, I didn't know where the novel was This is the second book in a series (admittedly I have not read the first book); however, I thought that I might enjoy this book based on the description: A former Vietnamese communist spy finds himself in Paris believing in nothing and resorting to drug dealing. This book fell flat and disconnected, soulless. It was similar to reading Nick - the main character observing without any feelings - and also the chaos and disorganization of Catch-22. Most of the time, I didn't know where the novel was heading (and not in a good way). Perhaps it was the formatting, but there were missing quotation marks so I could not always tell if someone was talking. The main character spoke about some heartbreaking events, but they were described so high level that it wasn't emotionally riveting. For example, if you read an article about how 3 million people died that isn't particularly uplifting but you go about your day. Now, you read about one girl who was found on the side of the road and you hear about her life story and that she was on her way to a dance performance, most readers have a response. This was written more like the 3 million people article. Additionally, one of the reasons that I picked up this book is because I wanted to learn a bit more about the philosophies mentioned in this book. However, some of the events were mentioned very briefly and then moved on so I still didn't learn anything additional. Overall, this book just wasn't for me. As mentioned earlier, if you enjoy books where the main characters is very aloof, this might be one you enjoy. *Thanks, NetGalley, for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    "The ambassador likewise proceeded to torture his audience with a bilingual soufflé of cliches, topped with the whipped cream of excessive compliments slathered onto French culture. Real talent was required to use so many words in two languages and say nothing." In this sequel to the Pulitzer Prize winning The Sympathizer, our protagonist arrives as a refugee in Paris in the 1980s. There he bounces between his aunt's highfalutin crowd of leftist intellectuals and drug dealing gangsters. Part shoo "The ambassador likewise proceeded to torture his audience with a bilingual soufflé of cliches, topped with the whipped cream of excessive compliments slathered onto French culture. Real talent was required to use so many words in two languages and say nothing." In this sequel to the Pulitzer Prize winning The Sympathizer, our protagonist arrives as a refugee in Paris in the 1980s. There he bounces between his aunt's highfalutin crowd of leftist intellectuals and drug dealing gangsters. Part shoot-'em-up action story, part political ponderings, part post-Vietnam war reminiscence, part contrast between the haves and have nots, part commentary on racism and sexism, part investigation into the psychology of our protagonist, The Committed is a smattering of so many diverse things I can't really classify it as one genre. Part of me feels like a 3 star rating is really unjust for this book, as it's my own fault for picking up a novel has a lot of elements in it that don't really do it for me. I know very little about the Vietnam war. I have minimal interest in politics. Philosophical musings and French colonialism are two more topics that don't gauge my interest. I'd never heard of Adorno, Althusser, nor Cesaire. Needless to say, due to my ignorance on certain subjects and lack of enthusiasm over others, a lot of this book was a slog for me to get through. I didn't officially do a word count or anything, but I'd wager the terms capitalism, communism, and Marxism (and the variations thereof) made up 10% of the words in this here book. No thank you. Additionally, The Committed's blurb mentions it follows the character from Nguyen's book The Sympathizer, but it didn't flat out say this is a sequel. It is. Since I hadn't read The Sympathizer, I was a bit lost from page one. If you haven't read The Sympathizer already, I'd recommend you do so before tackling this tale. It will save you a lot of head scratching and eyebrow furrowing. I loved when this book got into the psychological musings of our unreliable narrator. Between the disturbing things he saw and experienced in the Vietnam war and the period shortly thereafter (as was explained in The Sympathizer, I'm guessing), the guy is... not all there in the head. And he recognizes this. He pictures himself as multiple people - me, myself, and I - and some parts of him have conversations with the ghosts of people he's killed. The lines between reality and the imagination blur, but in a way that lets you see what the protagonist is going through and how he sees the world. And I really dug the ending where the explanation for the title of the book is fully revealed. Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my unbiased review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ming

    DNF'd. I read the ARC of this title during the US elections. I got through 33% but I had to stop. The author is very smart and very sharp. The book has a clever beginning but soon the enterprise is dragged down. "Down" is the operative word here. The snark is abundant. The observations and analysis are told with a snide and bitter edge--one that cuts deeply and relentlessly. And as a result, there is no joy and no hope. Moreover, I found no way to grasp on to something I could relate to or nomin DNF'd. I read the ARC of this title during the US elections. I got through 33% but I had to stop. The author is very smart and very sharp. The book has a clever beginning but soon the enterprise is dragged down. "Down" is the operative word here. The snark is abundant. The observations and analysis are told with a snide and bitter edge--one that cuts deeply and relentlessly. And as a result, there is no joy and no hope. Moreover, I found no way to grasp on to something I could relate to or nominally appreciate. I've read/seen VTN's posts on various social media platforms, his opinion pieces, and his emceeing events. He's generally personable; he's learned. But this book reflects and causes a ceaseless ache that is unforgiving. Lastly, I am troubled by an anti-Chinese pattern, given some of his posts and how VTN frames his fictional characters. It's something he needs to address and very soon.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    This follow up to the incredible, pulitzer prize winning ,"The Sympathizer", is very much worth looking forward to. I feel I may reread upon publication as, at times, this novel of ideas and the duality of man was complicated to follow. Overall most of this book didn't engage me as much as his previous work, but then there were parts that were over the top outstanding. I would definitely recommend, especially to those interested in history, colonialism, and literary fiction that gets pretty meta This follow up to the incredible, pulitzer prize winning ,"The Sympathizer", is very much worth looking forward to. I feel I may reread upon publication as, at times, this novel of ideas and the duality of man was complicated to follow. Overall most of this book didn't engage me as much as his previous work, but then there were parts that were over the top outstanding. I would definitely recommend, especially to those interested in history, colonialism, and literary fiction that gets pretty meta at times. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with this drc available through netgalley.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Nguyen is one of America’s finest writers and thinkers. This follow up to The Sympathizer follows our double agent protagonist in Paris after surviving the re-education camp at the end of the first novel. I greatly appreciate the Advance Readers copy, but I did struggle a bit with the meandering prose. While Nguyen’s talent and intellect shine through, this one takes a patient and dedicated reader.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    It’s not as good as The Sympathizer but still a good read (I listened on audible). Fantastic writing as usual, and an interesting plot with numerous twists, all set in Paris. What’s not to like! On the downside, the philosophy was a bit heavy handed and felt like lecturing at certain points. But despite my distaste for some of the messaging it’s still a great book and worth reading and considering the issues it raises.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cherrie

    Wowowow. Still digesting. Review to come.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    This is the kind of book only someone like Viet Thanh Nguyen, who has both the literary and sociological background, could write. The book explores a similar concept to one which Orwell does in 1984 bringing to our attention that (1) revolution must be perpetual or otherwise becomes the state and (2) that commitment to our values and lifting up the most marginalized people of society is "what must be done". I like the departure from what I was taught from my numerous ethnic studies classes from This is the kind of book only someone like Viet Thanh Nguyen, who has both the literary and sociological background, could write. The book explores a similar concept to one which Orwell does in 1984 bringing to our attention that (1) revolution must be perpetual or otherwise becomes the state and (2) that commitment to our values and lifting up the most marginalized people of society is "what must be done". I like the departure from what I was taught from my numerous ethnic studies classes from one of colonialism as a catch-all for issues to a much broader and deeper look into the layers of racial history as well as the lost and forgotten lives, products of both capitalism, communism, and other ideology. Not as good as The Sympathizer, as Viet does have some ridiculously long and insightful sociological analyses in the form of conversations with French elites (while appreciated get quite ridiculous by the 10th time) referencing classics by Fanon et al. Nonetheless, another masterpiece in the Asian American literary scene from a story that was truly his to tell.

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