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Monday, 2 August 2021

Viet Thanh Nguyen and Lee Child


I read a couple of book on our short holiday on a Welsh Campsite. 

One was The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen. The other was Nothing to Lose by Lee Child

Both featured flawed protagonists who had undergone some kind of trauma (determined in the case of Vo Danh from The Committed, undetermined in Jack Reacher's case - maybe because I haven't read enough of Lee Child's  books).

Both have a French parent. 

Both are conflicted about their pasts and the way they weave into national histories - in the case of Vo Danh, it's the history of Vietnam, France, and the USA. In the case of Jack Reacher, it's the case of US involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, everywhere. Reacher says there hasn't been a worthwhile war since 1945

Vo Danh questions a simplified polarised view of the Vietnam conflict, but is also scathing about French colonial involvement in the country, with long set pieces that focus on the narrowness and hypocrisy of the French mind.

Reacher questions Bush's America and the evangelical right. He is scathing about that side of the USA

Both protagonists are kind to women at some point. 

Both protagonists have strong pain thresholds. Both books have a big violent ending.

Nguyen quotes Fanon, Cesaire, de Beauvoir and Sartre. Child quotes Dick Cheney, and Revelations

Both end in bloodshed. The protagonist gets out in both cases. I'm not sure which one has the more absurd plot, or whether that matters.

The differences? Jack Reacher's pretty sure of himself, Vo Danh categorically isn't. One book is literary fiction, the other is genre fiction. But there's such a crossover, I wonder if Nguyen hasn't been sneaking up on the bargain shelf at his local charity shop to pick up dog-eared Lee Child books.  And possibly the same goes for Lee Child when he was still writing. They're not that far apart in the big scheme of things. Not much is.

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