17th parallel in the flesh : ''The Committed'' By Viet Thanh Nguyen is a rare masterpiece. What the immigrant, the ghost, the spy and the war have in common is that they are all gothic subjects, both haunted and haunter, notoriously difficult to contain.

It is to his eternal misery [and many reader's delight] that the narrator of Viet Thanh Nguyen's extraordinary 2015 novel. ''The Sympathizer,'' happens to be all four.

Born to a Vietnamese mother and a French father, our narrator is communist mole, embedded among the South Vietnamese forces throughout the war and beyond.

''A spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces,'' he betrays his way from Saigon to Los Angeles and back - only to end up imprisoned in Vietnam, confessing all his sins during his ''re-education''.

Equal parts Ellison's Invisible Man and Chang-rae Lee's Henry Park, Nguyen's name less narrator is a singular literary creation, a complete original.

Fortunately for us, this tormented double agent is back for another serving of ghostcolinial discontent in Ngunyen's showstopper sequel, ''The Committed.''

How fitting : After all, isn't it the nature of the immigrant, the spy, the ghost and the war to return? [Nota bene : You need not have read ''The Sympathiser'' to enjoy ''The Committed,'' but why deny yourself the delirious, hair-raising pleasure?].

''The Committed'' begins in 1981, two years after we last saw our narrator preparing to flee Vietnam by boat, Flee Vietnam he has, via an Indonesian refugee camp. Now traveling under the nom de guerre Vo Danh, our narrator is one again in the wind, driven by his only commandment : ''We will live!''

His many travails have clearly not dulled his mordant wit - ''Ah contradiction! The perpetual body odor of humanity!'' - or his inner turmoil. Vo Danh is still a man at odds with himself, a 17th parallel in the flesh, a man with the Janus-like talent of seeing both sides of any situation, which he acknowledges is both a talent and a curse.

Unwelcome in Vietnam or the United States, where he murdered two men to protect his cover, Van Danh needs a home - or at least a home base.

Where is a Eurasian former Communist spy to go? To his French fatherland, naturally. And so faster than a French para can cry ''Dien Bien Phu.''

Vo Danh lands at Charles De Gaulle. Along for the ride is his blood brother and fellow re-education camp graduate Bon, an all-around badass who has made it his life mission to kill the Communists in the world - starting with the Vietnamese variety.

Bon has no idea that Vo Danh himself was once a dedicated Communist agent, who betrayed nearly everyone they knew.

Were Bon ever to discover the truth, he would kill our narrator without hesitation.

In my enthusiasm though, I've forgotten my critics duty to point out deficiencies. There are some. The jokes can sometimes overstay their welcome.

The narrator, acutely sensitive to racial discourses of every kind, used the world ''spook'' without reflecting on its racist resonances, a missed opportunity.

Any other shortcomings?

Yes, a very big one :

The novel ends.

The World Students Society thanks Review Author Junot Diaz, who is also the author, most recently of ''Island born'' and ''This Is How You Lose Her.''


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