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The Lost Executioner: A Story of the Khmer…

The Lost Executioner: A Story of the Khmer Rouge

by Nic Dunlop

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Dunlop's biography humanizes Comrade Duch without diminishing the horrifying impact of his actions. He illuminates some of the internal politics that make the Khmer Rouge's contradictory policies so confusing.

Though the account is engrossing, some of the writing is uneven and awkward. Some sentences don't seem to relate to their contexts. He repeats himself. He assumes that the reader knows the basic history of Cambodia, so there are gaps that detract from the reader's ability to follow the narrative easily.

Dunlap is ambivalent about photography, finding it distancing and aesthiticizing of suffering, yet it was a photograph that moved and motivated him to conduct this investigation. Similarly, he wants people to visit the Toul Sleng prison museum, but also denounces it as a "commercial enterprise" (p. 226). His ambivalence doesn't trouble me, but he frequently gives strong, contradictory opinions without developing the relationship between these points of view.

Dunlap's resources are good, but he does not seem to be aware of Vann Nath's A Cambodian Prison Portrait: One Year in the Khmer Rouge’s S-21 Prison. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
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"In Cambodia, between 1975 and 1979, some two million people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Twenty years later, not one member had been held accountable for the genocide. Haunted by the image of one of them, Comrade Duch, photographer Nic Dunlop set out to bring him to life, and thereby to account. "I needed to understand how a seemingly ordinary man from one of the poorer parts of Cambodia could turn into one of the worst mass murderers of the twentieth century." The result, The Lost Executioner, is an unforgettable, illuminating document that, by bearing witness, captivates us all with its revelation." "Weaving seamlessly between past and present, Dunlop unfolds the history of Cambodia as a filter for understanding its tragic last forty years. He makes clear how much responsibility the United States must share, through failed political alliances and the illegal bombing of Cambodia, for the bloodshed that followed. Guided by witnesses Dunlop teases out the details of Duch's transformation from sensitive schoolchild and dedicated teacher to the revolutionary killer who later slipped quietly back into village life. From the temples of Angkor to the prisons of Pol Pot's regime, to his unexpected meeting with Duch himself, Dunlop's special vision as a photographer enlarges our own. The Lost Executioner is a blend of history and testimony - and a vivid reminder that, whether in the killing fields of Cambodia or the deserts of Darfur, if we turn our backs on genocide, we must bear a collective guilt."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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