In 1971 a young French ethnologist named Francois Bizot was taken prisoner by forces of the Khmer Rouge who kept him chained in a jungle camp for months before releasing him. Four years later Bizot became the intermediary between the now victorious Khmer Rouge and the occupants of the besieged French embassy in Phnom Penh, eventually leading a desperate convoy of foreigners to safety across the Thai border.
Out of those ordeals comes this transfixing book. At its center lies the relationship between Bizot and his principal captor, a man named Douch, who is today known as the most notorious of the Khmer Rouge’s torturers but who, for a while, was Bizot’s protector and friend. Written with the immediacy of a great novel, unsparing in its understanding of evil, The Gate manages to be at once wrenching and redemptive.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: The Gate|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group||Store Sales Rank: 10599|
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|Parent title||The Gate|
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FROM AMONG MY MEMORIES there comes up today the image of a gate. It appears before me and I recognize the pathetic hinge which was both a beginning and an end in my life. It is made of two swinging panels, which haunt my dreams, and wire mesh welded onto a tubular frame. It closed off the main entrance to the French Embassy when the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh in April 1975.
I saw it again thirteen years later, when I first returned to Cambodia. That was in 1988, at the onset of the rainy season. This gate seemed much smaller and flimsier. I let my eyes and my hands wander blindly over it, immediately startled by my own temerity, not at all sure what I was looking for and not suspecting what I would find. A lock, slightly askew; evidence of welding; reinforcement plates at each corner: all these scars suddenly seemed to me vitally important. My eyes had always looked past them, never at them. An unexpected blend of confusion and fear overcame me. As the gate became real, and took on an existence of its own, it gave me a sense of pleasure, at the same time as horror welled up inside me.
This was not just the pleasure of releasing tears. It was a new reality, overlaying my memories, which made me think of the workmen who had indifferently welded the metal grille to the framework, and the builders who had pushed the hinges into the cement. Could they ever have imagined that this assemblage would one day be the instrument of such dramatic events? I couldn’t understand why an embassy should have such a shoddy gate, or how such fragile mesh could have resisted so many strong hopes or opened itself to so many heavy wrongs. I remembered a far more im