Quotes from “The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Love is being able to talk to someone else without effort, without hiding, and at the same time to feel absolutely comfortable not saying a word.
r many a biblical atrocity. As w
Even if they found themselves in Heaven, our countrymen would find occasion to remark that it was not as warm as Hell. Why’s he taking this route? the driver said.
No, we fought to the tunes of love songs, for we were the Italians of Asia.
The Auteur grimaced and said, Very interesting. Great stuff. Loved it, but I had a question. What was it. Oh, yes. How many movies have you made. None. Isn’t that right. None, zero, zilch, nada, nothing, and however you say it in your language. So thank you for telling me how to do my job. Now get the hell out of my house and come back after you’ve made a movie or two. Maybe then I’ll listen to one or two of your cheap ideas.

Why was he so rude? Madame said. Didn’t he ask you to give him some comments?

He was looking for a yes man. He thought I’d give him a rubber stamp of approval.

He thought you were going to fawn over him.

When I didn’t do it, he was hurt. He’s an artist, he’s got thin skin.

So much for your career in Hollywood, the General said.
me pointing out that the lack of speaking parts for Vietnamese people in a movie set in Vietnam might be interpreted as cultural insensitivity.
I researched your country, my friend. I read Joseph Buttinger and Frances FitzGerald. Have you read Joseph Buttinger and Frances FitzGerald. He’s the foremost historian on your little part of the world. And she won the Pulitzer Prize. She dissected your psychology. I think I know something about you people.
You’re the first Vietnamese I’ve ever met. Not too many of you in Hollywood. Hell, none of you in Hollywood. And authenticity’s important. Not that authenticity beats imagination. The story still comes first.
Here I speak of those cartoons named Fu Manchu, Charlie Chan, Number One Son, Hop Sing—Hop Sing!—and the bucktoothed, bespectacled Jap not so much played as mocked by Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Me, I left before that even got started. Maybe you can give some feedback. Otherwise who knows what kind of Hollywood story they’re going to make.
I was careful, then, to present myself as just another immigrant, glad to be in the land where the pursuit of happiness was guaranteed in writing, which, when one comes to think about it, is not such a great deal.
but since we were dependent on Chinese markets our food had an unacceptably Chinese tinge, another blow in the gauntlet of our humiliation that left us with the sweet-and-sour taste of unreliable memories, just correct enough to evoke the past, just wrong enough to remind us that the past was forever gone, missing along with the proper variety, subtlety, and complexity of our universal solvent, fish sauce.
Yes, you! You must assiduously cultivate those reflexes that Americans have learned innately, in order to counterweigh your Oriental instincts.

I couldn’t help myself any longer. Like yin and yang?
You embody the symbiosis of Orient and Occident, the possibility that out of two can come one. We can no more separate the physical Oriental from you than we can separate the physical Occidental. Likewise with your psychic components. But while you are out of place today, in the future you will be the average!
They are not so different from yourself, also split down the middle. What, then, is the cure? Is the Oriental in the West to feel forever homeless, a stranger, a foreigner, no matter how many generations lived on the soil of Judeo-Christian culture, never able to do away with the Confucian residue of his ancient, noble heritage? This is where you, as the Amerasian, offer hope.
identity suffered by Americans of Oriental ancestry, at least those born or raised here. They feel themselves out of place.
Ah, the Amerasian, forever caught between worlds and never knowing where he belongs! Imagine if you did not suffer from the confusion you must constantly experience, feeling the constant tug-of-war inside you and over you, between Orient and Occident. “East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” as Kipling so accurately diagnosed.
But I was also one of those unfortunate cases who could not help but wonder whether my need for American charity was due to my having first been the recipient of American aid.
Not for the first time, I longed to tell someone that I was one of them, a sympathizer with the Left, a revolutionary fighting for peace, equality, democracy, freedom, and independence, all the noble things my people had died for and I had hid for.
I returned to campus, however, the students were of a new breed, not interested in politics or the world like the previous generation. Their tender eyes were no longer exposed daily to stories and pictures of atrocity and terror for which they might have felt responsible, given that they were citizens of a democracy destroying another country in order to save it. Most important, their lives were no longer at stake because of the draft. The campus had, as a result, returned to its peaceful and quiet nature, its optimistic disposition marred only by the occasional spring shower thrumming on my office window.
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