How many ways can you split a noodle, nation, person? The author chose to title his debut novel “The Sympathizer” after the protagonist (who narrates the story) but he could have just as easily named it “The Bastard,” an appellation used throughout the book by the narrator and others to describe himself. In this case the epithet isn’t used to denote character… but rather brings attention to his mixed (split) ancestry. His father was a French priest; his mother Vietnamese.
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Just let the author’s name roll off your tongue a few times. That’ll prepare you for a voyage to exotic African locales. However, by the time you’ve completed this close-to-six-hundred page novel what has seemed exotic will have taken on a new normalcy, while aspects of London and America may seem strange and new to you.
This novel is hefty in many ways besides length . Adichie doesn’t hesitate to jump into issues of race; class; tribalism; cross-cultural conflict and gender. The protagonist Ifemelu writes blogs with headings such as :“Understanding America for the Non-American Black: What Hispanic Means”. They’re scattered throughout the book and are witty, perceptive, and pull no punches.
Book One of the six volume work “My Struggle” by Karl Ove Knausgaard, begins with a two sentence description of life and death in terms of a beating (or non-beating) heart. More than the last half of the book (close to three hundred pages) follows Karl being informed of his father’s death and then together with his brother Yngve literally cleaning up the unholy mess their father left behind, while arranging his funeral. He had been an alcoholic who drank and drank until his heart finally gave out.