It isn't often that a brutal personal account of mass murder, slavery, torture and the obliteration of a sovereign nation causes a reader to meditate on the art of acting, but then, Haing Ngor's was no ordinary life. An Academy Award winner for his role in the 1984 movie The Killing Fields, and a survivor of the Cambodian genocide chronicled in the movie, Ngor is depicted on the back cover of his memoir, A Cambodian Odyssey, holding aloft his Oscar, his entire being ablaze with joy. On the front cover is a picture of Ngor as he must have looked during the depths of his travails just a few years before, seated in torn fatigues, with an expression on his face that defies description-other than to say it is the same as in photographs of Cambodians as they entered Pol Pot's infamous prison, Tuol Sleng, knowing they were about to be tortured to death.
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Ngor spent four years as a "war slave" under the Khmer Rouge, experiencing severe torture, losing most of his family and posing as a former cab driver when in fact he had been a doctor. His account of what amounted to a living nightmare vividly conveys the extent of organized savagery that held sway in Cambodia from 1975 until the invasion by the North Vietnamese. Some of the details are so ugly that in three places the author suggests that "readers with sensitive feelings" skip the balance of a chapter. This is more than a recounting of his ordeal, however; Ngor goes a long way toward explaining why a land known for its shy and gentle people became the site of mass killings that reached genocidal proportions. He also provides an excellent account of the origins of the Khmer Rouge and the career of Pol Pot. The latter part of the book has to do with the almost incredible circumstances that led to an Academy Award for his role in the film The Killing Fields. A terrible and thrilling story.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Best known for his Oscar-winning role in The Killing Fields , Haing tells his life story, concentrating on his experiences in the hell that was Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. He lost most of his family; unable to admit his medical training (doctors and their families were marked for death), he watched helplessly as his wife died in childbirth; and he was repeatedly imprisoned and tortured. This frank and often horrifying narrative of survival is enriched by the author's attempts to understand incredible inhumanity, his perceptive discussion of events that led to the Khmer Rouge victory, and his description of the continuing suffering of Cambodians under North Vietnamese occupation and as refugees in Thailand. For adult readers. Kenneth W. Berger, Duke Univ. Lib., Durham, N.C.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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