Is Asian Communism and the Oriental Mode of Destruction by Richard Hedd a Real Book?

Image Credit: Hopper Stone/HBO

A spy finds himself torn between two conflicting ideologies, one of whom is supposed to belong to the enemy, in HBO’s ‘The Sympathizer.’ The protagonist is a man known simply as the Captain, who is a spy for the Viet Cong embedded in the South Vietnamese Army. His real bosses are communists, but his mark and the people he spends the most time with are the opposite. Still, even as he tries to reconcile the differences between the two political ideologies, he must serve his purpose. Interstingly, a book by a Western author becomes an important device in the Captain’s espionage work. SPOILERS AHEAD

Richard Hedd’s Character and Book in The Sympathizer are Fictional

Apart from being historical fiction, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s book, on which the HBO show is based, is also a satire that relies on its darkly comic nature to drive the point home. The story is primarily concerned with the duality of the protagonist’s nature and how he comes to terms with that, trying to have a kinder eye towards both sides. However, the story also focuses on something that is much more binary in nature. Richard Hedd’s book is one of those things.

Image Credit: Hopper Stone/HBO

As the name suggests, the content of ‘Asian Communism and the Oriental Mode of Destruction’ is quite a racist account of an American writer who challenges the Asian way of life, demeaning it in several ways, especially in political and philosophical terms, trying to convince the reader that American intervention in their politics, especially with regards to Vietnam, was essential. This most likely represents the author’s (Nguyen) frustration towards American media’s self-aggrandization of their heroic role in the Vietnam War, reducing the Vietnamese to the role of either the villains or the victims of the war. With the lack of Vietnamese voices, or at least the limited reach of those voices, the Western voices have more authority to drive the narrative, and that is what has happened for the most part.

With Richard Hedd (a clever choice for a name), Nguyen turns the audience’s attention toward this fraught narrative that has been rather easily accepted in the lack of other voices. The author takes the joke further by having the Captain and his communist connections relate critical information to each other by creating code that relies on Hedd’s book to decode the message. The choice of the book is smart because if someone were to get their hands on the code, they would most likely look for every book other than ‘Asian Communism and the Oriental Mode of Destruction,’ considering its racist and anti-Asian leanings. Thus, the book serves a dual purpose in the story, making it an important plot device and something that gives the audience a lot to think about.

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