Friday, November 02, 2007

Two new books about the Khmer Rouge experience

I have a couple of new books to tell you about and I’ll begin with the memoir of Denise Affonço who survived the Khmer Rouge regime after her comfortable life in Phnom Penh was shattered in 1975. In To The End of Hell, Affonco, who was born and brought up in Phnom Penh, with a Vietnamese mother and French father, tells the story of how she was deported with her husband, a communist idealist, and their two children to the countryside, where her husband was taken away by the Khmer Rouge and never seen again, and her daughter died of starvation. In 1979, four hellish years were brought to an end when the Vietnamese invaded. With Introductions by Jon Swain and David Chandler, part of the profits from the book will go to the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), where a scholarship has been set up in the name of her nine-year-old daughter Jeannie, who starved to death in 1976 under the Khmer Rouge regime. Published by Reportage Press, what gives this book its remarkable freshness is that much of it was written in the months after her liberation, in 1979. After that, she had to rebuild her life with her surviving son in France and the carbon copy manuscript was all but forgotten. It was only when some 25 years later she met a European academic who told her that the Khmer Rouge did “nothing but good” for Cambodia that she realised it was time to end her silence. Her phenomenal testimony sold 50,000 copies when published in 2005 in France. Today, Denise is remarried, lives in Paris and works at the EU's Institute for Security Studies. Her book will be serialised by the Sunday Times in the UK.

The second book is Corpse_Watching, a book of poems by Sarith Peou, who is currently serving prison time in Minnesota. While incarcerated, he converted to Christianity, and earned a GED and an Associate of Arts degree. He has dedicated his life to education, and moral and spiritual transformation within the prison. Peou is a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide – he fled to Thailand in 1982 and relocated to the USA in 1987 – and his stark poems are accompanied by equally stark photographs from S-21. TinFish Press are the book’s publishers. Read a review of the book here.

No comments: