Posted in Fiction

The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen

As for you, nameless, stateless, and selfless, the bullet remains lodged in your head, stuck in the seal between your two minds, as stubbornly wedged as a morsel of gristle and meat between your molars. You wiggle the bullet with your thoughts, but you cannot dislodge it. This bullet with your name on it is embedded where no one can see either it or your name, a thing that would drive you crazy, except that you are apparently already crazy.

How is the nameless spy from Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Sympathizer committed in his sequel The Committed? Is he committed to a revolution? Is he committed to a cause or belief system? Has he committed a crime? Has he committed his thoughts to paper? Is he committed to an asylum?

It’s probably yes to all of the questions. And he remains nameless unless one considers nicknames like Crazy Bastard or Camus to be his real name.

As in the first novel, this spy protagonist maintains two personas due to the nature of spying; however, this being of two minds takes its toll. In addition to the metaphor I quoted above regarding the bullet lodged between his two minds, Nguyen takes the metaphor of having a screw loose to new heights with this screw holding together (or not) the two minds. And to make matters even more bizarre, a section of the novel has one mind narrating to the other (in which the above quotation is included).

This second novel has some of the same humor in it specifically when it comes to the comic relief of the ghosts of those the protagonist has killed. They pop up at inopportune times to heckle him.

The craziness and the humor give sections of the novel a Kurt Vonnegut feel. Vonnegut specifically comes to mind when the nameless spy seems to be talking to a lawyer or a therapist (difficult to tell which and it really doesn’t matter) about what the Eiffel Tower might be shaped like. He concludes “I didn’t create the absurdity in the world! I just see it!”

For anyone who has read The Sympathizer, I highly recommend The Committed; however, read the first novel first.

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