“A harrowing narrative, worthy of a novel by Graham Greene or John le Carré… [It] possesses the indelible power of a survivor’s testimony.” The New York Times
“It possesses such truth of feeling, such clarity and conviction of narrative, such a wealth of image and adventure, and such depths of long-held passion that I do believe it is indeed that rarest thing: a classic.” – John le Carré , from the Foreword
“A deeply unsettling account of a particular ordeal that suggests larger questions: the moralities of power's ends and means, the character of revolutionary fanaticism and the indecipherable humanity that flickers within it. . . . by turns evocative, wise and crisscrossed by fury.” – The New York Times Book Review
“[A] fascinating book, to say the least. Passages of The Gate are riveting, some scenes heartbreaking.” –The Wall Street Journal
In 1971, Bizot, a French anthropologist in Cambodia, was taken captive by the Khmer Rouge and accused of spying. This unsparing memoir recounts his internment in a jungle camp, and his wary friendship with his interrogator -- an idealist who later became one of the most notorious torturers of the Cambodian genocide. Bizot's testimony has a rawness unmitigated by time: he excoriates the Americans for their inexcusable naïveté," and the French for allowing Communist sympathies to blind them to Khmer Rouge atrocities. In 1975, Bizot witnessed the fall of Phnom Penh to the guerrillas, and brokered a deal to evacuate Westerners. In a damning scene, Bizot observes a Frenchman who, crossing the border into Thailand, abandons his Cambodian mistress. As she is beaten by soldiers, her lover watches in silence, "adopting an inquiring look as if to exonerate himself."
This mesmeric book is much more than a survivor's story. It is an agonizing effort to understand what produced such horror and to get inside the Khmer mind.... Bizot has dug further into these mysteries and into the darkness of the Khmer Rouge than any other contemporary I know of....You will find unspoken echoes here of Hitlerism and Stalinism and Maoism, and every other mass slaughter carried out in the name of ideology and purification. Cambodia is no more dated than Srebrenica, especially at a moment when the clank of war machinery is in the global air again....Bizot spills out his viscera, and we see him as whole and as candidly as anyone can expect from a memoirist.....Many passages burn with a lyricism that reminds one of books we call classic literature.
LA Times Book Review
"[A} wrenching and haunted telling of two great adventures.... Yet "adventures" is a badly misleading word; it summons the notion of thrills where the only reality is terror, of excitement in moments of psyche-shattering danger, of shrewd calculations resulting in narrow escapes when survival depends on the rolls of cosmic dice. ... [The Gate is] steeped in politics yet ultimately concerned with matters of the soul....Despite himself, despite his passionate drive to get not only to the heart but to the soul of the matter, Bizot has written a classic of prisoner/escape literature. There are scenes of such dramatic power and clarity - the frantic, nerve-rasping chaos as freedom lies just yards away- that "The Gate" could be not unfairly called, if not categorized as, a thriller.
San Diego Union Tribune
"It's better to have a sparsely populated Cambodia than a country full of incompetents!" The speaker of this chilling statement is Douch, the Khmer Rouge true believer who ran the camp that held French ethnologist Bizot for the closing months of 1971, several years before the Marxist revolutionaries unleashed massive bloodshed on the small Southeast Asian country. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge's chaotic occupation of Phnom Penh confined the small French community in the city to the premises of the French embassy, the portal of which supplies this volume with its title. Married to a Cambodian citizen, Bizot was an unusual Westerner there, in that once the terror started, he showed little inclination to flee the country. Bizot exploited his status as a rare Khmer-speaking Westerner not only to escape execution but also to extract a measure of autonomy for himself. He frequently showed remarkable defiance toward his heavily armed and ruthless captors. Bizot's account maintains a melancholy tone throughout. Despite his frequent heroic acts, Bizot emphasizes his own frailty and weakness-when he's not looking to set the record straight. He remains especially angry at Western leftists who insisted that the Vietnamese played little role in Cambodia despite ample evidence to the contrary. What's especially striking is the apparent contradiction between Bizot's sympathetic portrait of Douch and his description of the countless murders Douch committed in the name of the revolution. For many Americans, the senseless tragedy of Cambodia remains a mystery; this elegant volume helps outline the contours of that tragedy from a unique perspective. Maps. 40,000 first printing. (Mar. 11) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Scholar Bizot was arrested in early 1970s Cambodia on the charge of being an American spy and eventually became the only Westerner ever to escape from a Khmer Rouge prison. Here's his story. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Breathtaking memoir by a young French scholar who twice managed to escape from the clutches of the Khmer Rouge as the Cambodian genocide was unfolding. An ethnographer, art historian, and student of Buddhism, Bizot knew the risks he was taking when he arrived in Cambodia in 1965, just as the war sweeping through Indochina reached a fever pitch. But out in the countryside, he writes, things seemed tranquil enough: "The land was rich and beautiful, enameled with paddy fields, dotted with temples. This was a country of peace and simplicity. . . . Festivities, divine service, ordinary rituals--nothing was conceived without art, and poetry, and mystery." All that changed with the disintegration of the Sihanouk government and Lon Nol’s coup d’état; foreign powers--Beijing, Hanoi, and Washington--converted Cambodia into a proxy battlefield, and the vengeful hillbillies called the Khmer Rouge set their awful revolution in motion. Captured by these guerrillas, Bizot proved a curious and difficult prisoner. Under interrogation as a suspected CIA agent, he retorted with Buddhist conundrums that drew on his wealth of knowledge about ancient Cambodia; for his captors’ enlightenment, for instance, he once likened the Khmer Rouge "reeducation" program to the Buddhist ideals of "renouncing material possessions; giving up family ties, which weaken us and prevent us from devoting ourselves entirely to [the people]; leaving our parents and our children in order to serve the revolution." The Khmer Rouge were unimpressed, but at least they didn’t kill Bizot, who managed to get away in time to witness the fall of Phnom Penh and to organize an even more daring escape, this time with children in tow. Everspiritually minded, he closes by observing, "I emerged from the Cambodian hell by crossing the bridge of transmigration. . . . I entered the land of rose-apple trees to be reborn into a new existence." Heartbreaking and terrifying: a superb account of the madness of war, and of a people’s wholesale self-destruction. First printing of 40,000