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In the hallway, the bathroom door was a pale green rectangle in the blue moonlight, a fly skimming and skipping against the door’s surface. When Claire opened the door to her studio apartment the next morning, Carver was relieved to see only a twin-sized bed, shrouded behind a mosquito net. Now his mind was only shooting thoughts through one or two barrels. “She’s been here every day, but she can’t stay here at night. Viet Thanh Nguyen was born in Vietnam and raised in America. “A human team would take months to clear out this area,” said Legaspi. It was Vanneth who helped him to his feet and into the idling Landcruiser, Claire hovering over them with an umbrella. The back of his linen shirt was stained with sweat, the air humid even though the sky was grey and overcast. But there’s never been a place for me.”. Then came the deluge. ISBN-13 978-0-8021-8935-6. It is Nguyen's first published short story collection and his first book after winning the Pulitzer Prize for The Sympathizer. In the distance, behind him, a car honked. Becoming stupider was a consequence of age for which he was unprepared. “We’re a mixed bag.”. There was a reason he loved flying. After their sales, the quartet retreated a few feet and stood with their backs to a row of parked motorbikes, giggling and staring. Carver nicknamed the tall one Tom and the shorter one Jerry, the same names he and his roommate in U-Tapao, a Swede from Minnesota, had bestowed on their houseboys. She exhibited a confidence that pleased him as he watched her hail a taxi, give directions in Vietnamese to the English school, and greet the students clustered in the courtyard under the shade of flame trees. “I might go back and finish my doctorate,” Vanneth said in response to a question from Michiko. “We use a mongoose because it is too light to trip a mine,” Vanneth said. “The legs. Throughout his writing, the author uses a certain language to unfold the story of a Vietnamese narrator suffering in silence from the loss of her loved ones. The look in Legaspi’s eyes was hesitant, afraid, weak, that of someone not ready to face bare-knuckled reality, the clenched iron fist of power. With the high beams in his eyes, blinding him, he made another misstep, this time with his left foot, the toe coming down straight into the mud, the leg locking at the knee and his body pitching forward into the path of the car. If you do not know your login details, simply close this pop-up and click 'Login' on the black bar at the top of the screen, then click 'Forgotten password? Once he was sitting on the bed with his feet on the ground, he hung an arm around her neck and let her pull him to his feet. He heard the car’s old engine as it got closer, choking like a cat coughing up a hairball. Viet Thanh Nguyen 404D Taper Hall Department of English University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 90089-0354 Email. . It was the same with Vanneth, borrowing someone else’s ideas, and this was enough for Claire. Claire was the right size for him to lean on, her head rising a bit over his shoulder, his arm draping comfortably over her back. Claire must have been sleeping on the bamboo mat by his bed. The realisation burned through the fog of dizziness and fear, delivering a feeling for his daughter so strong it pained him. You just need some rest.”. Now he was 68 and limping, determined not to be outpaced by Legaspi as he led them through the grounds of the tomb, which more closely resembled a summer palace, its pavilion overlooking a moat filled with lotuses. He had woken to find himself a passenger in a darkened airliner, everyone else asleep, the portholes closed. “Hello!” “How are you!” “Good morning, Mr and Mrs Carver!” Carver smiled at them and waved back. Almost everything looked more beautiful from a distance, the earth becoming ever more perfect as one ascended and came closer to seeing the world from God’s eyes, man’s hovels and palaces disappearing, the peaks and valleys of geography fading to become strokes of a paintbrush on a divine sphere. “How about a picture?” Legaspi proposed. Currently you have JavaScript disabled. “They don’t know what to make of us?” Michiko said. “Or Thailand.”, “But you could always go home,” Claire said. King and stallion were frozen atop a pedestal, shaded by a cupola with a golden roof tiered like a gigantic wedding cake, tapering to a spire aimed skywards. “Not people crawling on their knees digging out mines by hand.”, “Won’t this robot put those people out of work?”, “That is not the kind of work people should do,” Vanneth said. Most important, flying a tanker was safe, unlike Carver’s own job during his military years when he piloted a B-52, an ungainly blue whale of a plane that he loved with an intensity still felt as a lingering hunger. Recalling a lesson from the couples therapy Michiko had persuaded him to attend, Carver counted down from 10. Legaspi had promised to pick them up in a white buffalo, and when Carver had asked him if he really meant a white buffalo, Legaspi had winked and said, “You’ll see.” The white buffalo turned out to be a white Toyota Land Cruiser speckled with measles of rust, its counter reading over 300,000 kilometres. It picks up after his celebrated novel “The Sympathizer,” continuing a complex and deeply intimate tale of war, displacement, and survival. And I really want to teach.”, “So you’ve been here two years.” Carver toed a slab of tile flaking loose from the floor. Viet Thanh Nguyen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. The story was first published under the title "The Other Woman" when it was the Gulf Coast Contest Winner in 2007. “That’s too much,” Carver said. “I’m a truck driver.”, “Truck driving is good,” Carver said. He slogged toward the blacktop, not a human being or an animal in sight, the dull green fields flanking him on either side. “And the mongoose.”, “How about the day after tomorrow?” Vanneth said. He had refused to go until Michiko compromised, proposing Angkor Wat as the prelude and Thailand’s beaches and temples as the postscript to a brief Vietnamese sojourn. The tens of thousands?”, “It’s not like you’ve ever listened to anyone before.”, “You don’t understand anything. When he tripped on the body’s outstretched foot, a woman with short-cropped hair raised her head and snapped, “Troi oi, can than di!” To which Claire said, apologetically, “Xin loi, co!”. “But maybe not. Claire’s mind wasn’t complex enough to grasp the need to strike the enemy from on high in order to save fellow Americans below, much less understand his belief that God was his copilot. I have a Cambodian soul.”. A window and narrow horizontal slits at the top of the high walls provided ventilation, the air pushed about by a ceiling fan that rotated as slowly as a chicken on a spit. Smiling at your relatives never got you very far, but smiling at strangers and acquaintances did. University of Southern California He walked out of the store then, leaving her there, and he had no choice but to walk away now. The book additionally won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from an American Authorfr… “I think we’ve had just about enough family time together, don’t you?”. Her tears agonized Carver, making him feel guilty for delivering her into a world determined to put everybody in her proper place. When he tripped on the body’s outstretched foot, a woman with short-cropped hair raised her head and snapped: “I’m not crying,” he said, but he was. Nguyen's debut novel, The Sympathizer was published in 2015 by the Grove Press/Atlantic. A big congratulations to Viet Thanh Nguyen, who is joining the Pulitzer Prize Board as its first Asian-American and Vietnamese-American member. Most of all, flying a tanker was safe, unlike Carver’s own military years when he flew a B-52, an ungainly blue whale of a plane that he loved with an intensity still felt as a lingering hunger. A few doors down the colonnade from the courtyard was Claire’s classroom, her wooden desk confronting several rows of short tables and benches. She smelled of strong soap and a citrus shampoo, with no hint of perfume to mask the tang of sweat. The unfairness of this absorbed Carver so much he did not notice the rapid marshaling of storm clouds until the sky grumbled. December 5, 2020 REGISTER NOW For her sake, he took his place obediently between his wife and daughter, who themselves were flanked by two grey stone mandarins, goateed and with swords on their shoulders. He stumbled across the dark bathroom’s threshold, closed the door behind him, and rested his forehead against the wall, the toilet’s ammoniac scent nearly causing him to retch. What spooked Carver about the detachable limbs were not just their mismatched color, but their hairlessness. The woman must be a relative of one of the patients, or maybe a patient herself. When his vision returned, Carver saw the tiled floor as if from a very high altitude. It is very difficult to mimic the locomotion of human or animal legs, especially over rough terrain. “Bad dreams?” Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with our newsletter, subscription offers and other relevant information. Viet Thanh Nguyen, who arrived in America as a Vietnamese child refugee in 1975, is an academic who has written on the cultural depictions of the Vietnam War. “Just restless. He drank too eagerly and water dribbled over his lip and on to his gown. “You could bulldoze, but that tears up the topsoil and ruins it for farming. Having a robot vacuum your living room floor or climb some steps is completely different from having it deal with sand, or grass, or rocks, or any unexpected thing even a five-year-old knows how to get around.”. Although she empathised with vast masses of people she had never met, total strangers who regarded her as a stranger and who would kill her without hesitation given the chance, she did not extend any such feeling to him. He hung on to Claire even more tightly as she clutched him around his waist, navigating him past the first body and around another at the foot of a bed by the door. She was only twenty-six. You have to rest, okay?” Claire sighed. Nguyen’s first novel, The Sympathizer, won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. “Look! For more details on the cookies we use and how to manage them, see our, Podcast: Douglas Stuart on writing Shuggie Bain. "The War Years", by Viet Thanh Nguyen (TriQuarterly Review). You’ve had a bad fever. The forward rod was attached to a round blue disc the size of a Frisbee, with Ricky yoked to the blue disc via a rubber vest, the entire robot-and-mongoose affair no more than a metre long and half that in width. But seen up close, from this height, the countryside was so poor that the poverty was neither picturesque nor pastoral: tin-roofed shacks with dirt floors, a man pulling up the leg of his shorts to urinate on a wall, labourers wearing slippers as they pushed wheelbarrows full of bricks. Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Refugees. What is the future of liberalism? “You are so stubborn. He envied Claire her sense of mission, teaching English to people as poor as the dirt farmers and sharecroppers of his childhood, their skin as brown and cracked as the soil they tilled, the desiccated earth of summer’s oppressive months. Plot Summary. What spooked Carver about the detachable limbs was not just their mismatched colour, but their hairlessness. Nguyen . “What got into you?”, “I’m 68, damn it.” Carver sneezed. The tens of thousands?”, “It’s not like you’ve ever listened to anyone before.”, “You don’t understand anything. Almost everything looked more beautiful from a distance, the earth becoming ever more perfect as one ascended and came closer to seeing the world from God’s eyes, man’s hovels and palaces disappearing, the peaks and valleys of geography fading to become strokes of a paintbrush on a divine sphere. You always say that.”, “When I left Maine for school.” Claire held up three fingers of her right hand and slowly curled each one into her palm as she counted the times, ending up with a balled fist. “Some brilliant guy at a university working on a defence contract will figure out a way to put a landmine on this robot. The community celebration offers music, dance, art, speaker series,… (read more), Viet Thanh Nguyen The royal past alluded to was nowhere near as grand as Buckingham Palace or Versailles, which Carver had seen during layovers on the European routes he had piloted for Pan Am, but the tomb had its own melancholic charm. “Try being a Japanese wife at a Michigan air base in 1973.”, “Try being me in Japan,” Carver said. Claire let go of his arm and he lifted it over her head, dropped it by his side, took a deep breath, and opened the door. “You don’t even know where you are.”. deftly sketches characters caught in the limbo of dislocation with power and grace . “I have heard this before.”, “It’s not okay. “Meanwhile, its sense of smell is acute enough to detect explosives.”. It sounds strange, I don’t know how to put it but I feel like… I have a Vietnamese soul”, A few doors down the colonnade from the courtyard was Claire’s classroom, her wooden desk confronting several rows of short tables and benches. “Truck driving is honorable.”. “Haven’t they seen tourists before?” Carver said. Claire was the right size for him to lean on, her head rising a bit over his shoulder, his arm draping comfortably over her back. It can also be seen on the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center website. “What got into you?”, “I’m sixty-eight, damn it.” Carver sneezed. No one asked him what he had dreamed, so he said no more. Boris Johnson is shameless but not stupid. . Michiko wanted to see Viet Nam as well, hearing from relatives who had toured there that it reminded them of Japan’s bucolic past, before General MacArthur wielded the postwar hand of reconstruction to daub western makeup on Japanese features. If you’re going to bomb a country, his roommate in U-Tapao had said, you should at least drink its beer. The only ones he could clearly recall later were manifested in the dream, where he had woken to find himself a passenger in a darkened airliner. “When I majored in women’s studies. Vanneth drove them in a white Toyota Landcruiser speckled with measles of rust, its counter reading over 300,000 kilometers. She kicked aside a bamboo mat on the floor and manoeuvred him down the narrow passage between his bed and his neighbour’s. You ever thought about what the DOD could do with these robots?” Carver said. “I kept waking up.”, Carver hesitated. “There was always a place for you somewhere. The next morning Claire hired a van to take her parents on the two-hour ride to Quang Tri, where she was living and where Legaspi’s demining operation was based. “And we visited that terrible war museum in Saigon. Except for his bronze skin, he resembled the college students at Bowdoin who Carver spotted loitering on the sidewalks whenever he drove to town. The unfairness of this absorbed Carver so much he did not notice the rapid marshalling of storm clouds until the sky grumbled. “The Ark,” is a short film written by Viet Thanh Nguyen. “For Chrissakes,” Carver muttered. Copyright © 2017 by Viet Thanh Nguyen, extracted from “The Refugees,” published by Corsair, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group. Even if people could afford this place, there’d be an entire family in here.”, “You’re not a native,” Carver said. 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