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Viet Thanh Nguyen, author, sees something vital in Ralph Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man’


“I read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison in college and was struck by its ambition in depicting African-American history through one person’s experience. When it came to be time to write my novel The Sympathizer, about an everyman who stands in for the Vietnamese, I used it as a guide.

Invisible Man was written in 1952; it’s about a young black man who doesn’t understand who he is in a white society. Though the novel is about what it means to be black, it’s also about how to find your identity and how to rise above various factions that want to determine your fate. It’s about feeling invisible—as if people do not see you for who you are—and not recognizing yourself as a result. The Sympathizer is about a similar kind of person, who is invisible in the sense that he’s a spy and always hiding, and therefore he can’t recognize himself. It was an exaggeration of my experience growing up as a refugee in America. I felt like a spy in my parents’ house because I was an American, but I felt like a spy in the U.S. because I was a refugee.

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KILLER INSTINCT: IS NORTH KOREA'S KIM JONG UN OUT OF CONTROL Kim Jong Nam was the half-brother of the current North Korean ruler, Kim Jong Un, but the two likely never met. Nam was thirteen years older, and "they were raised in separate households,’’ says a former South Korean intelligence analyst, “and [Kim Jong Nam] was shipped off to Switzerland for school as a boy. No way they ever met.” Which makes what happened on February 13 that much more confounding and disturbing. Shortly before 9 a.m., as Kim Jong Nam walked through an airport terminal, he was approached by two women; one walked in front of him, as if to distract him, while the other slipped behind him. Both quickly touched his face and then hurried off. Twenty minutes later he was dead. The assassination, unquestionably ordered by Kim Jong Un, was stunning in its brazenness: out in the open, easy for security cameras to capture and then display to the world. But is this killing just the beginning of a lethal spree?