2.7 The Novel of Revolutionary Ideas: Viet Thanh Nguyen and Colleen Lye (AV)

Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning The Sympathizer and its sequel The Committed, joins esteemed scholar Colleen Lye of UC-Berkeley for a candid discussion about the Asian-American novel and the role of literature and theory in radical social movements. Colleen is drawn to the mix of philosophy and suspense in Viet’s work and wonders if he considers himself a member of the theory generation–that is, writers for whom literary theory is not just a way of reading texts but an impetus to create new literary forms for grappling with ideas. Viet, schooled in deconstruction and postcolonial theory, accepts the designation with a caveat: If he is a novelist of ideas, then he is a novelist of revolutionary ideas. Inspired by Fanon’s anticolonialism and Gayatri Spivak’s concept of the double bind, Viet’s defiantly politicizing aesthetic looks to place the colonial subject, particularly the Vietnamese refugee, at the center of multiple stories of American and French imperialism.

Colleen and Viet reflect on the role of academic training in Viet’s transformation from Asian-Americanist scholar into Asian-American novelist and discuss the peculiarities of immigrant Asian identity in terms of language. Mother tongues, bilingualism, orphaned language, and adopted language all become metaphors for how Asian-American writers must balance the loss of heritage and weight of expectation with the call to self-invention. Plus, Viet reveals the not-so-wholesome treats that enabled him to complete The Sympathizer!

Mentioned in the Episode

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Audio: The Novel of Revolutionary Ideas: Viet Thanh Nguyen and Colleen Lye

3.6 Why are You in Bed? Why are You Drinking? Colm Tóibín and Joseph Rezek in Conversation Novel Dialogue

Colm Tóibín, the new laureate for Irish fiction, talks to Joseph Rezek of Boston University, and guest host Tara K. Menon of Harvard. The conversation begins with Colm’s latest novel The Magician, about the life of Thomas Mann, and whether we can or should think of novelists as magicians and then moves swiftly from one big question to the next. What are the limitations of the novel as a genre? Would Colm ever be interested in a writing a novel about an openly gay novelist? Why and how does death figure in Colm’s fiction? Each of Colm’s revealing, often deeply personal answers illuminates how both novels and novelists work. As Thomas Mann wrote of the “grubby business” of writing novels, Colm reminds us of the “day to day dullness of novel writing.” Insight and inspiration only arrive, he warns, after long, hard days of work. Mentioned in this episode: Robinson Crusoe (1719), Daniel Defoe Pride and Prejudice (1813), Jane Austen The Portrait of a Lady (1881), Henry James The Wings of the Dove(1902), Henry James The Ambassadors (1903), Henry James The Golden Bowl(1904), Henry James The Blackwater Lightship(1999), Colm Tóibín The Master (2004), Colm Tóibín Brooklyn(2009), Colm Tóibín The Testament of Mary(2012), Colm Tóibín Nora Webster(2015), Colm Tóibín The Magician(2021), Colm Tóibín Aarthi Vadde is Associate Professor of English at Duke University. Email: aarthi.vadde@duke.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  1. 3.6 Why are You in Bed? Why are You Drinking? Colm Tóibín and Joseph Rezek in Conversation
  2. 3.5 The Romance of Recovery: Ben Bateman talks to Shola von Reinhold (AV)
  3. 3.4 The Work of Inhabiting a Role: Charles Yu speaks to Chris Fan (JP)
  4. 3.3 In the Editing Room with Ruth Ozeki and Rebecca Evans (EH)
  5. 3.2 Promises Unkept: Damon Galgut with Andrew van der Vlies

image credit: wikipedia

Published by aarthivadde

Associate Professor of English - Duke University

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