The GateBook - 2003
A literary and historical tour de force: what one man saw and did in a land of pristine beauty on the eve of one of the twentieth century's most barbaric spectacles. In 1971, François Bizot was a young French scholar of Khmer pottery and Buddhist ritual working in rural Cambodia. Now, more than thirty years later, he has summoned up the unbearable memory of that moment, letting us see as never before those years leading inexorably to genocide. Perfectly recalled, in-delibly written, The Gate recounts the nightmare of Bizot's arrest and captivity on suspicion of being an American spy, and his nearly miraculous survival as the only Westerner ever to escape a Khmer Rouge prison. It is the story, as well, of Bizot's unlikely friendship with his captor, Douch--a figure today better remembered as a ruthless perpetrator of the then-looming terror, about which Bizot tried, without success, to warn his government. Bizot's experience to that point would itself have merited report. But upon his return to Cambodia four years later, chance ordained a second remarkable act in this drama. As the sole individual fluent in both French and Khmer, Bizot found himself playing the intermediary in a surreal standoff when the Communist-backed guerillas, now ascendant, laid siege to the French Embassy compound in Phnom Penh. Finally it would fall to Bizot to lead the desperate retreat of the colonial population: here he re-counts how he helped the remaining Westerners--and any Cambodians he could--to escape the doomed capital. Both beautiful and devastating, The Gate is a searing and unforgettable act of witness and remembrance.
Publisher: New York : Knopf, 2003, c2002
Branch Call Number: 959.604 Biz
Characteristics: xv, 275 p. : maps