Hello friends. This book is a collection of quotes from the book - The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping spy novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship.
I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds.
A talent is something you use, not something that uses you. The talent you cannot not use, the talent that possesses you - that is a hazard, I must confess.
Nothing [...] is ever so expensive as what is offered for free.
Americans liked seeing people eye to eye, [...] especially as they screwed them from behind.
Every man should have a false bottom in his luggage [...]. You never know when you’ll need it.
America, land of supermarkets and superhighways, of supersonic jets and Superman, of supercarriers and the Super Bowl! America, a country not content simply to give itself a name on its bloody birth, but one that insisted for the first time in history on a mysterious acronym, USA, a trifecta of letters outdone later only by the quartet of the USSR.
It is always better to admire the best among our foes rather than the worst among our friends.
Queuing was unnatural for our countrymen. Our proper mode in situations where demand was high and supply low was to elbow, jostle, crowd, and hustle, and, if all that failed, to bribe, flatter, exaggerate, and lie. I was uncertain whether these traits were genetic, deeply cultural, or simply a rapid evolutionary development.
Bachelorhood is one of the unexpected benefits of being a bastard, as I was not considered much of a catch to most families. Not even families with a daughter of mixed ancestry welcomed me, for the daughter was herself usually frantic to squeeze into the elevator of social mobility through marriage to someone of a pure pedigree.
I had an abiding respect for the professionalism of career prostitutes, who wore their dishonesty more openly than lawyers, both of whom bill by the hour.
The creation of native prostitutes to service foreign privates is an inevitable outcome of a war of occupation.
To a bureaucrat paper was never just paper. Paper was life!
I, for one, am a person who believes that the world would be a better place if the word “murder” made us mumble as much as the word “masturbation.”
Our society had been a kleptocracy of the highest order, the government doing its best to steal from the Americans, the average man doing his best to steal from the government, the worst of us doing our best to steal from each other.
The only good thing about being fat, besides the eating, is that everyone loves a fat man. Yes? Yes! People love to laugh at fat men and pity them, too.
If the bloody history of the past few decades has taught me anything, it’s that the defense of freedom demands the muscularity only America can provide.
I liked my scotch undiluted, like I liked my truth. Unfortunately, undiluted truth was as affordable as eighteen-year-old single malt scotch.
Innocence and guilt. These are cosmic issues. We’re all innocent on one level and guilty on another.
Besides my conscience, my liver was the most abused part of my body.
I might have been just half an Asian, but in America it was all or nothing when it came to race. You were either white or you weren’t.
Too much freedom of the press is unhealthy for a democracy.
Most actors spent more time with their masks off than on, whereas in my case it was the reverse. No surprise, then, that sometimes I dreamed of trying to pull a mask off my face, only to realize that the mask was my face.
The citizenry can’t sift out what is useful and good if there’s too much opinion circulating.
Two choices and look at all the drama with every presidential election. Even two choices may be one too many. One choice is enough, and no choice may be even better. Less is more, isn’t it?
One must be grateful for one’s education no matter how it arrives.
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.
A guarantee of happiness - that’s a great deal. But a guarantee to be allowed to pursue the jackpot of happiness? Merely an opportunity to buy a lottery ticket. Someone would surely win millions, but millions would surely pay for it.
Isn’t it funny that in a society that values freedom above all things, things that are free are not valued?
People who live in a given place may have difficulty seeing its charms as well as its faults, both of which are easily available to the tourist’s freshly peeled eyes.
Brute force is not the answer, gentlemen, if the question is how to extract information and cooperation. Brute force will get you bad answers, lies, misdirection, or, worse yet, will get you the answer the prisoner thinks you want to hear.
Interrogation is not punishment. Interrogation is a science.
Interrogation is about the mind first, the body second. You don’t even have to leave a bruise or a mark on the body.
Movies were America’s way of softening up the rest of the world, Hollywood relentlessly assaulting the mental defenses of audiences with the hit, the smash, the spectacle, the blockbuster, and, yes, even the box office bomb. It mattered not what story these audiences watched. The point was that it was the American story they watched and loved, up until the day that they themselves might be bombed by the planes they had seen in American movies.
A spy’s task is not to hide himself where no one can see him, since he will not be able to see anything himself. A spy’s task is to hide where everyone can see him and where he can see everything.
A great work of art is something as real as reality itself, and sometimes even more real than the real.
We would all be in Hell if convicted of our thoughts.
Vodka was one of the three things the Soviet Union made that were suitable for export, not counting political exiles; the other two were weapons and novels.
Disarming an idealist was easy. One only needed to ask why the idealist was not on the front line of the particular battle he had chosen.
This world I’m living in isn’t worth dying for! If something is worth dying for, then you’ve got a reason to live.
Wars never die. They just go to sleep.
Cognac made everything better, the equivalent of a mother’s kiss for a grown man.
The hardest thing to do in talking to a woman was taking the first step, but the most important thing to do was not to think. Not thinking is more difficult than it sounds, and yet, with women, one should never think. Never. It simply won’t do.
Music and singing keep us alive, give us hope. If we can feel, we know we can live. And we know we can love.
This was the problem with a walk down memory lane. It was almost always foggy, and one was likely to trip and fall.
The American Dream, the culture of Hollywood, the practices of American democracy, and so on can altogether make America a disorienting place for those like us who hail from the Orient.
It seems to me that one way to understand a person’s character is to understand what he thinks of others, especially those like oneself.
Americans on the average do not trust intellectuals, but they are cowed by power and stunned by celebrity.
No author was immune from having his own ideas and words quoted back to him favorably.
Authors were, at heart, no matter how much they blustered or how suavely they carried themselves, insecure creatures with sensitive egos, as delicate in the constitution as movie stars, only much poorer and less glamorous.
The problem with winning, is that everyone’s so riled up they’re ready to fight again. [...] The good thing about losing is it keeps you from fighting another war, at least for a while.
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.
You must claim America. America will not give itself to you. If you do not claim America, if America is not in your heart, America will throw you into a concentration camp or a reservation or a plantation.
You have traveled to strange lands and been exposed to some dangerous ideas. It wouldn’t do to bring infectious ideas into a country unused to them. Think of the people, insulated for so long from foreign ideas. Exposure could lead to a real catastrophe for minds that aren’t ready for them.
The only thing harder than knowing the right thing to do is to actually do the right thing.
The ultimate life-and-death struggle is with ourselves. Foreign invaders might kill my body, but only I could kill my spirit. This is the lesson you must absorb by heart.