Sunday, June 04, 2006

Geoff Ryman's Jayavarman VII

Scholars have long sought to paint a picture of the life and times of Cambodia's God King, Jayavarman VII, the Buddhist ruler who united his war-torn country in the twelfth century and created a kingdom that was a haven of peace and learning. One man who has done just that, is novelist Geoff Ryman, in his new book The King's Last Song, published by HarperCollins in March. I'm a big fan of Ryman's interpretation of a significant period in Cambodia's history and here's my review of his latest book:

I eagerly awaited Geoff Ryman's novel, The King's Last Song, that links the glories of the Angkor dynasty of King Jayavarman VII with modern-day Cambodia, and I was richly rewarded. It's excellent. I particularly loved the passages that yielded such a vivid and atmospheric recreation of life in the court of the King during the twelfth century that I could almost taste it. Okay, much of it was from the author's own imagination, but I believed it. The book swirls around the life story of Jayarvarman VII written on gold leaves which are found and subsequently stolen. The hunt is on for their recovery and with it, we gain an insight into the Cambodia of today. This book sets a towering standard for new fiction writing on Cambodia that will be difficult to match, let alone exceed. I take my hat off to the author for a wonderful and evocative story that I found impossible to put down. I urge everyone with an interest in Cambodia to buy this book and then encourage your friends and family to do the same.

One of the centrepiece items in the Guimet Museum in Paris is this immaculately sculptured head, believed to be King Jayavarman VII.

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