13 de maig de 2016

Pulitzer-winning 'Sympathizer' wins Edgar Award — but is it really crime fiction?

[The Inquirer Daily News, 12 may 2016]

John Timpane

One of the literary surprises of 2015-2016 has been The Sympathizer  by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Inquirer critic Dan DeLuca reviewed the book enthusiastically last summer and anticipated much of the bruit that has surrounded it. Now, oddly and stunningly enough, this book, having bagged a Pulitzer, has won a major crime fiction award - the Edgar Award for best first novel at last month’s Mystery Writers of America gala - even though it doesn’t seem, at least, to be crime fiction.
For enlightenment, we turned to the biggest crime-fiction expert on The Inquirer staff, Peter Rozovsky. He runs a crime-fiction blog titled Detectives Without Borders and subtitled “Because Murder Is More Fun Away from Home.”
Way ahead of us as usual, Peter already has written a couple of entries about this whole issue. He says he is happy The Sympathizer won even though he doesn’t “see how it fits any reasonable definition of crime fiction.”  
Peter continues:
"Rather, the novel’s generic affinities are from the very first sentence with the espionage novel, which has long led a comfortable co-existence with crime fiction.  Still, I suspect that few readers will regard The Sympathizer as a spy story. Indeed, the subject does not come up in an interview with Nguyen included as an appendix to the Grove Press trade paperback edition of the novel. Rather, the book is a political novel, a novel of immigration, a novel about Vietnam, a novel about the United States, about the perils and exigencies of moving between the two, about the equivocal (at best) nature of revolutions, and, most important, about the illusory nature of binary opposition, whether between American and Vietnamese, European and Asian, communist and its opposite, or what have you.
"So how did the book come to the attention of the crime fiction community? One is tempted to imagine genre readers hankering for respectability and grasping a literary novel into their midst, but I think it's at least as likely that publishers and other promoters of “literary” novels grasp at genre labels because they want people to read their books.  … in this case, the result is all to the good, because The Sympathizer is a hell of a book."

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