Thursday, July 12, 2007

River Books' new releases

Two new books from the Thai-based River Books publishing stable are hitting the shelves and are a must if you are an Angkor officianado. Bayon New perspectives is edited by Joyce Clark and includes contributions by some of the biggest names in Angkorean research such as Ang Choulean, Olivier Cunin, Claude Jacques, Vittorio Roveda, Peter D Sharrock, Michael Vickery and Hiram Woodward. The book is 416 pages,and contains 242 photographs, 87 diagrams and 3 maps. It is more than 30 years since the story was last told of the Bayon, the enigmatic state temple of Jayavarman VII, the greatest king of ancient Angkor. Recently, researchers from several disciplines have again been probing the mysteries of this extraordinary monument and its giant face towers. Under an eminent editorial team, Bayon: New perspectives brings together for the first time leading scholars whose findings and insights challenge, not always in consensus, many of the earlier interpretations of the Bayon’s art, architecture and inscriptions. Claude Jacques distils decades of research in a close-up of Jayavarman’s life, family and immediate successors. T.S. Maxwell conducts the first in-depth study of the Bayon ‘short inscriptions’ and through them the unique Buddhist-Hindu-ancestral religion imposed by Jayavarman. Olivier Cunin draws on new technology and sophisticated techniques for precisely tracking the temple’s bewildering architectural design changes. Peter Sharrock uncovers clear signs of the Tantric Buddhism of the ancient Khmers and proposes we see the Tantric supreme Buddha Vajrasattva in the renowned face towers. Anne-ValĂ©rie Schweyer discovers how the inscriptions of the neighbouring Chams, among whom Jayavarman spent his early adult life, throw new light on the king’s psychology and life – which Vittorio Roveda carefully tracks in the detailed political reliefs of the Bayon’s outer gallery. Ang Choulean then paints the living Bayon in its vivid local folklore – the great monument as it is seen by the people who live in the villages around it today. These intense engagements to unravel the meaning of the temple draw a masterly new preface from Hiram Woodward, who pioneered the current wave of reinterpretations of the Bayon a quarter of a century ago. Michael Vickery’s rigorous scholarly imprint, alongside the sustained energy and commitment of editor Joyce Clark permeate every page of this volume, as it yields a more contoured and credible story of the king’s remarkable career. The religion and mythology of the new Khmer Buddhist state are rendered with a more subtle brush and a new vision emerges of the historical and political significance of the Bayon.

The second book is The Khmer Empire by Claude Jacques and Philippe Lafond; 400 pages, over 430 colour illustrations plus maps and plans. The beauty and awe-inspiring grandeur of the Khmer civilisation is captured in this breathtaking volume. The renowned author, Claude Jacques, explores the achievements and developments of the Khmer people from the 5th to the 13th century. Journeying behind the well-known temples of Angkor Wat, The Khmer Empire reveals the marvels of many sites hitherto inaccessible to visitors. Superbly photographed by Philippe Lafond, the book includes site plans, aerial shots of the cities as well as detailed photographs showing the reliefs and other magnificent carvings. Never before has the richness and diversity of the Khmer Empire been shown in one volume.

Forthcoming titles by River Books will include Denise Heywood's Cambodian Dance: Celebration of the Gods and Gill Green's Pictorial Cambodian Textiles. Link: River Books.

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