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The Gate by François Bizot

The Gate (2001)

by François Bizot

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Showing 5 of 5
Unlike many memoirists of the Cambodian civil war, Bizot was an adult and not Cambodian. In fact, he was the only foreigner actually detained by the Khmer Rouge who survived the experience. This was in the early years of their insurgency and is detailed in first part of the book; the second half has elements that are more familiar to the reader of histories and memoirs of this era and describes his experiences inside the French compound after the fall of Phnom, Penh.

Bizot's child figures prominently, though always as an absent figure; her mother, a Cambodian, is even further removed from the narrative. The time jump between sections is disconcerting and lends a fragmented air to the book. Since Bizot worked with ancient Buddhist texts and objects, perhaps this is deliberate parallelism. Read with one of the Cambodian narratives of the Khmer Rouge period, with Swain's [b:The River of Time|228665|The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1)|Robert Jordan|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1172889531s/228665.jpg|2008238] and the film The Killing Fields for a rounded description of the foreign experience prior to evacuation. ( )
1 vote OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
unbelievable story of the horrors of the Pol Pot regime! ( )
  zmagic69 | Mar 12, 2011 |
Intriguing memoir of a French academic caught up in the Khmer Rouge uprising. Bizot found himself taken as a prisoner by the Communist forces and, following his release, central to events at the French Embassy. Bizot has an alternative world view and his straight faced disbelieve is at times comical. He is honest to the point of being painful. Unfortunately the pacing is uneven at times and the jumble of events and names can become confusing. This does not lessen the emotional impacts which come thick and fast. Bizot is capable of beautiful prose and his idiosynchratic telling of this tale fits the oddness within it very well. ( )
  furriebarry | Feb 12, 2009 |
I enjoyed reading this one at the time - Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge are topics I know little about - but the more I thought about it afterwards, the more Bizot's attitudes towards some of the characters (and his Cambodian wife specifically) all seemed a bit odd. Regardless, it's an amazing portrait of a dark period of history. ( )
  stillbeing | Feb 23, 2007 |
Francois Bizot is one of the only westerners to survice the Khmer Rouge camps in Cambodia. His account of his time in captivity is terrifying and completely enthralling. This is one of those stories that would be unbelievable if it weren't true. ( )
  jensho | Jun 27, 2006 |
Showing 5 of 5
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 037541293X, Hardcover)

French ethnologist Francois Bizot's The Gate offers a unique insight into the rise of the Khmer Rouge. In 1971 Bizot was studying ancient Buddhist traditions and living with his Khmer partner and daughter in a small village in the environs of the Angkor temple complex. The Khmer Rouge was fighting a guerilla war in rural Cambodia; during a routine visit to a nearby temple, Bizot and his two Khmer colleagues were captured by them and imprisoned deep in the jungle on suspicion of working for the CIA. On trial for his life, over the next three months Bizot developed a strong relationship with his captor, Comrade Douch, who would later become the Khmer Rouge's chief interrogator and commandant of the horrifying Tuol Sleng prison where thousands of captives were tortured prior to execution. The portrait Bizot gives of the young schoolteacher-turned revolutionary and their interaction is simultaneously fascinating and terrifying.

Finally freed after Douch had pleaded his case with the leadership, Bizot became the only Western captive of the Khmer Rouge ever to be released alive, but his story does not end there. On his return to Phnom Penh, due to his fluency in Khmer, he was appointed interpreter between the occupying forces and the remaining western nationals holed up in the French embassy. As the interlocutor at the eponymous gate, he relates with dreadful resignation the moment when the Khmer nationals in the compound were ordered out by the Khmer Rouge forces for "resettlement."

Bizot's is a touching and gripping account of one of the darkest moments in modern history and it is told with a unique voice. As a Cambodian resident, a lover of Cambodia and a fluent Khmer speaker, Bizot shows an understanding of the prevailing mood in the country that other Western commentators have failed to capture effectively, while as a Western academic he is able to see the forces at work and how Cambodia fits into the bigger picture of South East Asian conflict. What emerges is a tale of a land plunged into insanity and Bizot tells it like a eulogy for a dead friend and a confrontation of old demons. The Gate is a stunning book and a must for anyone interested in this grim period of Asian history. --Duncan Thomson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:01 -0400)

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Author presents a riveting account of his imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge during the Vietnam War.

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