The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Author:Viet Thanh Nguyen
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Published: 2015-03-18T18:45:30+00:00

Why had I done that? In my white room, I had nothing but time on my hands to ponder this event I had whitewashed from my mind, the event to which I am confessing now. The Watchman had infuriated me, pushing me into irrational action with his pseudoscientific judgment. But he would not have been able to do so if I had simply executed my role as the mole. Instead, I confess I took pleasure in doing what I was supposed to do and not supposed to do, interrogate him until he broke, as Claude had requested. He replayed the scene for me later in the surveillance room, where I watched myself watching the Watchman as he stared at his confession, knowing he was out of time, a character in a movie, as it were, that Claude had produced and I had directed. The Watchman could not represent himself; I had represented him.

Brilliant work, Claude said. You really fucked this guy.

I was a good student. I knew what my teacher wanted and, more than that, I enjoyed his praise at the expense of the bad student. For wasn’t that what the Watchman was? He had learned what the Americans taught, but he had rejected those teachings outright. I was more sympathetic to the thinking of Americans, and I confess that I could not help but see myself in their place as I broke the Watchman. He threatened them, and thus, to some extent, me. But the satisfaction I had at his expense did not last long. In the end, he would show everyone what it was that a bad student could accomplish. He would outsmart me by proving that it was possible to sabotage the means of production that you did not own, to destroy the representation that owned you. His final move happened one morning a week after I had shown him his confession, when I got a call at the officers’ quarters from the guard in the surveillance room. By the time I reached the National Interrogation Center, Claude was also there. The Watchman was curled up on his white bed, facing the white wall, clad in his white shorts and T-shirt. When we rolled him over, his face was purple and his eyes bulged. Deep in his open mouth, at the back of his throat, a white lump. I just went to the bathroom, the guard blubbered. He was eating breakfast. What was he going to do in two minutes? What the Watchman had done was choke himself to death. He had been on good behavior for the past week, and we had rewarded him with what he wanted for breakfast. I like hard-boiled eggs, he said. So he had peeled and eaten the first two before swallowing the third one whole, shell and all. Hey, good lookin’ . . .

Turn off that goddamn music, Claude said to the guard.

Time had stopped for the Watchman. What I did not realize until I woke up in my own white room was that time had stopped for me, too.


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