Author Viet Thanh Nguyen was already a big deal when he agreed to come to the University of Kentucky for the annual Bale Boone Symposium in the Humanities.
His first novel, “The Sympathizer,” a dark and comic literary exploration of the post Vietnam War world, won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and a Gold Medal in First Fiction from the California Book Awards. One of his non-fiction books, “Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War,” was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Then, two weeks ago, he was named a 2017 MacArthur Foundation Fellow, also known as the “Genius Grant,” not long after winning a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation.
“We are thrilled to host Viet Thanh Nguyen on campus, and we hope the public can join us for what promises to be a deeply engaging reading and commentary,” said Phil Harling, director of the Gaines Center, which is co-hosting the event with the English department’s creative writing program.
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Nguyen will speak on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Singletary Center for the Arts’ recital hall. The event is free and open to the public.
His latest book, a collection of short stories titled “The Refugees,” was published earlier this year. In addition to his writing career, Nguyen is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California.
Nguyen was born in Ban Me Thuot, Vietnam in 1971, and came to the United States in 1975, growing up in Pennsylvania and California.
In a recent interview with The Awl, he said he wants his work to explore the intersection of art and politics, “And how art can be a political force without being reduced to politics. ‘The Refugees’ is one way of dealing with this, but in a way that’s perhaps more amenable to mainstream cases, because its politics are kind of muted. ‘The Sympathizer’ is a much more aggressive novel, in which the politics are much more foregrounded in both the content and the form of the novel as well. I think that it’s an intersection, and a set of themes I’m continuing to work with, and trying to figure out how the next novel can do the same thing, or can do it differently in terms of this negotiation with art and politics.”
While in Lexington, Nguyen will also meet with students in UK’s Creative Writing MFA program, as well as Gaines Fellows.
“It’s precisely this sort of intimate interaction with a writer of Nguyen’s acclaim that helps make UK such a special place for our graduate and undergraduate students to learn,” said Hannah Pittard, associate professor and director of creative writing.
For more information on “An Evening with Viet Thanh Nguyen,” contact the Gaines Center at 859-257-1537.
If you go
Viet Thanh Nguyen
What: Speaking for the annual Bale Boone Symposium in the Humanities
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 25
Where: Singletary Center for the Arts recital hall, 405 Rose St.