Whispering drew his attention to the door, where a handful of the students had clustered. He would sigh, get up, and lead her down the hall, step by careful step, her hand wrapped around one of his fingers. Carver drank his weak coffee at their sidewalk table, squatting on a plastic stool and watching Michiko spend five dollars buying postcards and lighters from four barefoot children, dark as dust, who bounded up the moment they sat down. “How many students do you have, dear?” Michiko said. We coddled you so you wouldn’t have to worry about the things we worried about. Boris Johnson is shameless but not stupid. She was his complete opposite, joining Amnesty International in high school and marching against Desert Storm at Vassar, as if protesting made any difference at all. 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’s boring, Dad,” William had said over the phone during their last conversation. Above the relentless hammering of the rain, a high-pitched woman’s voice whined in accompaniment with what sounded like a xylophone, the music pregnant with sorrow, although perhaps it was only Carver who heard a lamentation where there was none. He wanted to find the culprit who had hurt his daughter and beat some sense into the kid’s head, but he restrained himself, as he had whenever he encountered the look in people’s eyes that said What are you doing here? Posters of rock bands papered the walls above the cinder blocks and wood boards where Claire shelved her clothing – Bill’s Dirty Laundry, Whoa, Dengue Fever. “I think we’ve had just about enough family time together, don’t you?”. “I never did care much for these kinds of statues,” Michiko said. 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. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications. But seen up close, from this height, the Cambodian countryside was so poor the poverty was neither picturesque nor pastoral, naked brown toddlers splashing in puddles, a man pulling up the leg of his shorts to urinate on a wall, and Carver’s few minutes of rolling down the window a mistake, an invitation to inhale the reek of the land and the people – blasts of soot from passing trucks, the rot of dung from the oxen and ponies hauling carts, the fermentation of the local cuisine that Carver found briny and nauseating. “Bad dreams?” Of all the lands Carver had encountered, he liked France and Japan the most because of the natives’ enthusiastic appreciation of jazz, an admiration they extended to him. “We use a mongoose because it is too light to trip a mine,” Vanneth said. ... His next book is a short story … Only Vanneth was solicitous, playing “Giant Steps” on the stereo, undoubtedly informed by Claire of her father’s love for bebop, the way the music flowed directly from his ear canal into his bloodstream. The floor’s too hard for her to sleep on.”, “Three days. Watching the water flooding through the gutters, Carver longed for his clapboard cottage on the shore of Basin Cove, autumn waving its metamorphosing wand over the forest’s greenery. The light and focus in Claire’s eyes as she watched Legaspi were the same in Michiko’s when Carver told her on their first date about driving from State College to New York City to catch Thelonious Monk at the Five Spot Café on St Mark’s Place, where he stood close enough to see the yellow half-moons of Monk’s cuticles against white ivory. Whenever Ricky stopped and stood up on his hind legs, Tom stepped in with the metal detector to confirm the landmine’s existence, and Jerry marked it with a red flag. Don’t think everyone’s like you.”, “It’s okay,” Legaspi said. Grove/Atlantic published his novel The Sympathizer in 2015 (winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize), and will publish his short story collection The Refugees in 2017. “Dad, are you okay?”. 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. The back of his linen shirt was stained with sweat, the air humid even though the sky was grey and overcast. Nguyen's debut novel, The Sympathizer was published in 2015 by the Grove Press/Atlantic. It was insipid then and it was insipid now. “All the doughnuts and four-wheel drives you can buy.”. Claire wiped tears from her eyes. If it did, the help it offered was to the enemy. He remembered her infancy, when Michiko insisted on sleeping with Claire in between them, he so worried about rolling over in his sleep on to Claire that he lay awake restless until he could worry no more, whereupon he climbed down to the floor and slept on the carpet. The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The unfairness of this absorbed Carver so much he did not notice the rapid marshaling of storm clouds until the sky grumbled. The blue disc is the impediment sensor, and when it tells the robots something is blocking the way, the robots steer Ricky away from the obstacle. “Do you even know who you’re dealing with? Legaspi started driving toward the blacktop. “Dad, are you crying?”. “I’m a fool?”, He put his arms around her neck and held on tight as she leveraged him up from the bed. “They don’t know what to make of us?” Michiko said. As curtains of rain swept over the road, he ordered a bottle of Hue instead. You will be able to object to this processing on the next page and in all our communications. The woman must be a relative of one of the patients, or maybe a patient herself. “You said the Department of Defence was funding your adviser’s research at MIT. “How much longer are you planning to stay?”. All of the sights, sounds and smells depressed Carver, along with Claire and Michiko’s silent treatment of him, unrelenting since yesterday. “Haven’t they seen tourists before?” Carver said. William would hear the lie. Viet Thanh Nguyen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. Carver immediately forgot their names after the introductions. “You could bulldoze, but that tears up the topsoil and ruins it for farming. “I might go back and finish my doctorate,” Legaspi said in response to a question from Michiko. “The Americans” was originally published on the Chicago Tribune, where it was a 2010 Nelson Algren Short Story Awards finalist. This was how Carver found himself in September in Phnom Penh, walking slowly through the compound of the Royal Palace with Michiko, Claire, and her boyfriend, Chanthou Vanneth. There was a reason he loved flying. Vanneth piloted the robot and mongoose team from under a tent at the perimeter of the field, under which Claire, Michiko, and Carver also stood. “I might go back and finish my doctorate,” Vanneth said in response to a question from Michiko. In writing a collection of stories about the Vietnamese refugee experience and its many facets, Nguyen allows his own cultural heritage and life experience to inform his writing, as well. I have a Vietnamese soul.”. “The Ark,” is a short film written by Viet Thanh Nguyen. “I can go in with you,” Claire said. The short story “Black-Eyed Women” is within the book The Refugees, written by Viet Thanh Nguyen. In the one-room library of the small town five miles down the road from his hamlet; at Penn State, which he attended on an ROTC scholarship; in flight school at Randolph Air Force Base; in an airman’s uniform; in his B-52 and later his Boeing airliner, he was never where he was supposed to be. When his vision returned, Carver saw the tiled floor as if from a very high altitude. “Some brilliant guy at a university working on a defense contract will figure out a way to put a landmine on this robot. She exhibited a confidence that pleased him as he watched her hail a taxi, give directions in Khmer to the English school, and greet the students clustered in the courtyard under the shade of flame trees. The city was just a provincial town that had been destroyed in the course of the war and, from all reports, there had not been that much to see before its destruction. He had survived by focusing on his goal, ascending ever higher, refusing to see the sneers and doubt in his peripheral vision. "The War Years", by Viet Thanh Nguyen (TriQuarterly Review). They wore oversized shorts and anomalous t-shirts, one emblazoned with the Edmonton Oilers logo, the other commemorating a 1987 Bryan Adams concert tour. “Claire was the right size for him to lean on, her head rising a bit over his shoulder”. I much prefer this second title as it embodies the same spirit of longing as the story. Occasionally a cemetery or a temple came into view, encrusted with dragonesque architectural filigree, as well as a couple of churches, their ascetic walls plain and whitewashed. Vanneth was leading them through the tourist-thronged grounds, where the golden hull of Throne Hall rested past the main entrance like a beached ship once sailed by gods. “You’re an American.”, “That’s a problem I’m trying to correct.”. The story was first published under the title "The Other Woman" when it was the Gulf Coast Contest Winner in 2007. “I’m old but I’m not dead.”. Tom and Jerry followed the mongoose as it scuttled over the terrain, Tom with a metal detector strapped to his back, Jerry with a quiver full of red flags. It means I think I’ve found some place where I can do some good and make up for some of the things you’ve done.”, “You bombed this place. By the time the monsoon arrived in the afternoon, he had drunk San Miguel and Tiger from the Philippines, Singha from Thailand, Angkor from Cambodia, and a 333 from Viet Nam, insipid as it was nearly forty years ago. Underneath was written “my bicycle was stolen” and “mistakes were made.”. Nguyen's short fiction has been published in Best New American Voices 2007 ("A Correct Life: Một Cuộc Sống Đứng Đắn"), Manoa ("Better Homes and Gardens"), Narrative Magazine ("Someone Else Besides You", "Arthur Arellano" and "Fatherland", which was a prize winner in the 2011 Winter Fiction Contest), TriQuarterly ("The War Years" - Issue 135/136), The Good Men Project ("Look At Me") the Chicago … For review copies or bookstore events, contact publicity@groveatlantic.com for The Sympathizer or The Refugees and Margaux Leonard of Harvard University Press for Nothing Ever Dies. “We’re a mixed bag.”. You have pneumonia. With age was supposed to come wisdom, but he wasn’t certain what wisdom felt like, whereas intelligence he knew to be a constant firing of the synapses, the brain a six-barreled Gatling gun of activity. I suppose after a while the pure research was not enough. At the one-room library of the small town five miles down the road from his hamlet, at Penn State, which he attended on an ROTC scholarship, in flight school at Randolph AFB, in an airman’s uniform, in his B-52 and later his Boeing airliner, he was never where he was supposed to be. As in his previous work, Nguyen handles the subject matter with empathy and sociopolitical awareness. Her tears agonised Carver, making him feel guilty for delivering her into a world determined to put everybody in her proper place. But Michiko had insisted on visiting after Claire invited them, her email addressed to Mom and Dad but really meant for her mother. “That’s too much,” Carver said. 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. “You don’t even have an air-conditioner.”, “This is better than what most people have. The dream he hadn’t recounted to Legaspi came back to him in his hospital room, where he floated on his back in a black stream, his face emerging every now and again to catch glimpses of his fellow patients in the three other beds, silver-haired, ageing men, tended by crowds of relatives who chattered loudly and carried bowls and other things wrapped in towels. All the dozens of passengers were Asian, their eyes closed, among them the street kids and Claire’s students and Tom and Jerry. Literary, translation, and film rights are handled by Nat Sobel at … As the Landcruiser pulled up, two teenage boys leapt from hammocks strung under the house from the stilts. Claire lowered his head to the pillow and then wiped his chin with a napkin. Viet Thanh Nguyen is the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America. The tonnage fell far behind his B-52 after its release, and so he had never seen his own payload explode or even drop, although he watched other planes of his squadron scattering their black seed into the wind, leaving him to imagine what he would later see on film, the bombs exploding, footfalls of an invisible giant stomping the earth. “They lost them playing with cluster bomblets when they were kids,” Vanneth explained. Your email address will not be published. What she wanted to say, but wouldn’t, was that he should not be frightened. “Just restless. A few doors down the colonnade from the courtyard was Claire’s classroom, her wooden desk confronting several rows of short tables and benches. Even if people could afford this place, there’d be an entire family in here.”, “You’re not a native,” Carver said. You have to rest, okay?” Claire sighed. “Ricky sniffs for the mines. “You’ll be okay. Our Teacher Edition on The Refugees can help. He is the author of The Sympathizer, which was awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction alongside seven other prizes. The bathroom door was a pale green rectangle in the blue moonlight before them. He hated taking pictures, but Michiko loved commemorating every occasion, important or trivial. Now he knew he would probably die with panic pooling in his lungs, in a place where he was not supposed to be, on the wrong side of the world. He heard the car’s old engine as it got closer, choking like a cat coughing up a hairball. “The foreigners and the NGOs and the UN love the Land Cruiser.”, “Donor money,” Carver said. © 1997-2020 Viet Thanh Nguyen All Rights Reserved. “She’s been here every day, but she can’t stay here at night. She had promptly sat down in the aisle and howled with all the grief and fury only a child or someone on the brink of death could muster. The mud was wet and cold against his belly and face, its odor and taste evoking the soil in the distant yard of his childhood, the one where he had so often lain prone on the earth and played soldier. Timothy Garton Ash outlines the threats to liberal democracy and how it can renew itself in a post-Trump age. We coddled you so you wouldn’t have to worry about the things we worried about. “Why do I ever think things will be different with you?”, “For Chrissakes,” Carver muttered. . Michiko was the one who wanted to see Vietnam, 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. . “You are so stubborn. The monsoon struck fifteen minutes later, when Carver was a few hundred meters away from the demining site, the best he could manage on the rutted road and his bad hip. “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. He regarded it as fate that he had met Michiko at a jazz bar in Roppongi, she a teenage waitress and he a decade older, on R & R from Okinawa, wowed by the sight of Japanese musicians sporting porkpie hats and soul patches. “No, baby, I’m not,” he said, even though he was. Carver, however, cared little for pastoral fantasies, his childhood passed in a rural Alabama hamlet siphoned clean of hope long before his birth. University of Southern California “Dad?” Claire knocked on the door. “Robots were invented to free people from danger and slavery.”, Carver’s ears twitched. She was only 26. Lining the road outside Quang Tri were one and two storey homes of faded wood and corrugated tin, a few freshly painted and plastered mini-mansions towering over their primitive neighbours, all of them long and narrow. “Just restless. Credits: Director and Artist – Matt Huynh Writer and Narrator… Occasionally a Wat came into view, spectacularly encrusted with dragonesque architectural filigree, as well as a couple of mosques, their ascetic walls plain and whitewashed. And I really want to teach.”, “So you’ve been here two years.” Carver toed a slab of tile flaking loose from the floor. Genre: Short story Pulitzer prize winning contemporary author Viet Thanh Nguyen does it again with The Refugees, a collection of nine short stories written over a period of 20 years. The field was planted with defused landmines. PLUS you’ll find out about the big ideas that will shape our world with Prospect’s newsletter and receive our Top Thinkers e-book free. “It’s not stupid,” Claire hissed. “She’s at the hotel,” Claire said softly. He had refused to go until Michiko compromised, proposing Thailand’s beaches and temples as the postscript to a brief Cambodian sojourn. She was his complete opposite, joining Amnesty International in high school and marching against the invasion of Iraq at Vassar, as if protesting made any difference at all. Confusing.” And, when Ricky smells a mine, which he can from three meters, he sits up.”, “My advisor developed it to demine in Sri Lanka. In the distance, behind him, a car honked. “We use a mongoose because it is too light to trip a mine,” Legaspi said. Now he knew he would probably die with panic pooling in his lungs, in a place where he was not supposed to be, on the wrong side of the world. Claire was kneeling by his bedside in the dark room. 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