The Sympathizer is a story about the nameless narrator only known as the Captain — a subversive, a mole who pretends to sympathize with the south but is a spy and collaborating with the north. He is brought up by a poor Vietnamese mother and absent French priest for a father, went to study in the US and returned home to fight for the Communist cause.
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s writing style is beautiful and he certainly has a way with words. Try reading the first page and you’d know you’re reading the work of a talented writer. The book is full of wonderfully written passages and I’ve learned a good deal of vocabulary, too. I even made a list of these words so I can check them again and maybe use them myself someday as well.
The Sympathizer is a complex read that tackles different themes: war, identity, history, friendship, communism, loyalty, etc. It is a real page-turner and one of the books I’ve read this year I find particularly interesting. I can definitely see why it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2016.
“Besides my conscience, my liver was the most abused part of my body.”
“We would all be in hell if convicted of our thoughts.”
“Nothing is ever so expensive as what is offered for free.”
“I could live without television, but not without books.”
“We don’t succeed or fail because of fortune or luck. We succeed because we understand the way the world works and what we have to do. We fail because others understand this better than we do.”
Gia Rai is one among the 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam.
Funeral rites for the Gia Rai people are complex and expensive. Water buffalo and cows are usually offered as sacrifice. They follow a custom that all the people of the same matriarchy family must be buried in the same tomb when they die. Below is a replica of a Gia Rai tomb displayed in the Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi.
Thirty dead people can be buried in this tomb. It is also said that the tomb house is for the dead in the afterlife. There are totally 27 carvings surrounding the tomb and the most prominent are carvings of sexually-explicit figures of men and women and children seated in the corners of the tomb house.
The pictures below are some funerary statues displayed inside the museum.
I love Vietnamese food. Last month, I had the chance to go back to Vietnam and as an avid eater, I tried to eat as much as I could. There’s nothing I didn’t like. Everything was wow just like the first time I’ve been here and tasted their food.
For this post, let’s have bun cha…
Bun cha is said to have originated in Hanoi. It’s basically rice noodles, grilled pork in cold broth and herbs. So in a small bowl, you just have to mixed them all together then add some garlic, chili and lime. Most places include fried spring rolls when they serve bun cha and it perfectly complements the meal.
I noticed that bun cha is mostly served for lunch but I can eat it any time of the day. 🙂
The best place, for me, is the one in Hang Manh.
Yes, there are tables on the sidewalk, and that’s normal. 🙂
The Ede (or Rade people) is one among the 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam.
Below is a photo of a typical Ede House.
This Ede Long House was originally built in 1967 and was reconstructed in the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in 2000. The house reflects many aspects of Ede culture. I learned that Ede families are matriarchal. The head of the family is a woman, children bear their mother’s surname, daughters inherit family assets, the groom moves to his bride’s house after marriage, etc. A new compartment is added every time a girl in the house gets married. It is said that the longer the house, the more prosperous the family is.
An Ede House is divided in two parts: the Gah and the Ok. The Gah, basically the living room, as shown in the photo above, is used for gatherings. Jars and gongs are kept and displayed in this part of the house for the rich Ede families. The Gah occupies around 1/3 to 2/3 of the house and the rest is the Ok, mainly the area for sleeping.
The most interesting part of the house for me are the staircases. For rich families, there are two staircases in front of the house, one for males which are just plain and another for females, where a crescent and female breasts are carved.
It wasn’t just once that I got lost in Hanoi when I was there last May. And every time I got lost, I found something interesting. One of those is the St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
This is the oldest church in Hanoi and one of the first structures built by the French colonial government. It looks a bit unattractive outside but it’s definitely wow when you go inside. I lost more than a thousand photos of my trip including photos of the church’s interior, sorry about that, but if you happen to visit Hanoi, don’t skip the St. Joseph’s Cathedral. It’s definitely stunning inside!
Among the thousands of islets of different sizes and shapes in Halong Bay, this Chicken Islet/Island is my favorite. I’ve heard different stories about this islet when I went to Vietnam last May.
I wish I could take photos quite well to bring justice to this beautiful islet but unfortunately, it’s the best I could make of it. So you can just search better photos in the internet or go visit it yourself and be amazed not just by this Chicken Island or Kissing Island (however you want to call it) but the entire Halong Bay.