Podcast: Hernan Diaz and Viet Thanh Nguyen in Conversation

Access the transcript for this episode here.

What can a novel about wealth in America tell us about America? In this next podcast episode, 2023 Fiction winner Hernan Diaz is in conversation with Pulitzer Board member and 2016 Fiction winner Viet Thanh Nguyen in New York City. Together, the authors discuss Diaz’s Trust and In the Distance (a Fiction finalist in 2018), as well as Nguyen’s The Sympathizer

Diaz and Nguyen explore some of the key mythologies behind America’s exceptionalism, especially around money and capital, and the mythical idea of the West. As Diaz says, “There is something about this country and its culture that invites fiction…and not all of these fictions are pleasant.”

The authors consider some of the mythmaking about America they encountered as early readers. Both authors left their home countries and landed elsewhere as refugees – Diaz in Sweden, and Nguyen in America. They talk about how these experiences impacted them, and share their personal journeys of discovering books and the power of literature. They discuss the perils of book bans and censorship. With censorship, as Nguyen puts it: “We don't just lose the power of literature and all that stuff that we like to talk about as writers and readers, we lose the power to address some very fundamental core elements and problems of what make us Americans.”

Both writers share what it’s like to have their novels adapted for the screen. Diaz’s Trust is currently in development with director Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine) and actor/executive producer Kate Winslet, who is slated to portray the character of Mildred Bevel. An HBO miniseries adaptation of Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, co-created by Park Chan-wook (The Vengeance Trilogy) and starring Hoa Xuande and Robert Downey Jr., premiered on April 14.

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The Pulitzer on the Road Podcast is a production of the Pulitzer Prize Board at Columbia University, in collaboration with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and produced by Central Sound at Arizona PBS. The producers are Anna Williams and Alex Kosiorek from Arizona PBS and Nicole Carroll. Pulitzer Administrator Marjorie Miller is the executive producer.