Viet Thanh Nguyen’s new novel sends the protagonist of ‘The Sympathizer’ to the City of Light.
On a special bonus episode hosted by Editor-in-Chief Tom Beer, Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen discusses his new novel, The Committed (Grove, March 2), a “quirky intellectual crime novel that highlights the Vietnam War’s complex legacy” (starred review).
The Committed takes the nameless narrator of Nguyen’s earlier novel to 1980s Paris, where he falls in with a group of Vietnamese immigrant drug dealers and is caught up in a turf war with a rival gang of French Arab dealers. It’s a heady meditation on colonialism, capitalism, communism, immigrant identity, and more.
Nguyen was awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his debut novel, The Sympathizer, which followed the fortunes of a half-Vietnamese, half-French double agent as he came to the United States in the wake of the Vietnam War to spy on his countrymen. He is also the author of a story collection, The Refugees, and a work of nonfiction, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, as well as a children’s book, Chicken of the Sea, which he wrote with his son Ellison, and illustrator Thi Bui and her son Hien. He’s a professor of English and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California and a newly elected member of the Pulitzer Prize board—the first Asian American to serve in that role.
Nguyen and Beer discuss researching the novel in Paris, the refugee experience, the seductions of genre crime fiction, indictments of capitalism, fiction versus nonfiction writing, found photographs, and much more.
Then editors Vicky Smith, Laura Simeon, Eric Liebetrau, and surprise guest Megan Labrise join with their reading recommendations for the week.
Soul Lanterns by Shaw Kuzki, trans. by Emily Balistrieri (Delacorte)
The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel & Friends)
The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster)
What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster (Grand Central Publishing)
Also mentioned in this episode:
Shin’s Tricycle by Tatsuharu Kodama, trans. by Kazuko Hokumen-Jones, illus. by Noriyuki Ando (Walker)
A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata, illus. by Julia Kuo (Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum)
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (Dunne/St. Martin’s)
Thanks to our advertisers on this episode:
On Training: Volume 1 by Dustin P. Salomon
A Mistake Incomplete by Lorenzo Petruzziello
False Light by Eric Dezenhall
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.