The Gate

The Gate

3.86 (820 ratings by Goodreads)
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Selected as a Book of the Year in 2017 in the Scottish Herald

'The beauty of the prose is in contrast with the horror anticipated by this superbly subtle narrative' Kapka Kassabova

In 1971, on a routine outing through the Cambodian countryside, the young French ethnologist Fran-ois Bizot is captured by the Khmer Rouge. Accused of being an agent of 'American imperialism', he is chained and imprisoned. His captor, Douch - later responsible for tens of thousands of deaths - interrogates him at length; after three months of torturous deliberation, during which his every word was weighed and his life hung in the balance, he was released. Four years later, the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh. Fran-ois Bizot became the official intermediary between the ruthless conqueror and the terrified refugees behind the gate of the French embassy: a ringside seat to one of history's most appalling genocides. Written thirty years later, Fran-ois Bizot's memoir of his horrific experiences in the 'killing fields' of Cambodia is, in the words of John le Carr-, a 'contemporary classic'.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 19mm | 213g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • maps
  • 0099449196
  • 9780099449195
  • 120,067

Flap copy

A literary and historical tour de force: what one man saw and did in a land of pristine beauty on the eve of one of the twentieth century's most barbaric spectacles.
In 1971, Franois Bizot was a young French scholar of Khmer pottery and Buddhist ritual working in rural Cambodia. Now, more than thirty years later, he has summoned up the unbearable memory of that moment, letting us see as never before those years leading inexorably to genocide. Perfectly recalled, in-delibly written, The Gate recounts the nightmare of Bizot's arrest and captivity on suspicion of being an American spy, and his nearly miraculous survival as the only Westerner ever to escape a Khmer Rouge prison. It is the story, as well, of Bizot's unlikely friendship with his captor, Douch-a figure today better remembered as a ruthless perpetrator of the then-looming terror, about which Bizot tried, without success, to warn his government.
Bizot's experience to that point would itself have merited report. But upon his return to Cambodia four years later, chance ordained a second remarkable act in this drama. As the sole individual fluent in both French and Khmer, Bizot found himself playing the intermediary in a surreal standoff when the Communist-backed guerillas, now ascendant, laid siege to the French Embassy compound in Phnom Penh. Finally it would fall to Bizot to lead the desperate retreat of the colonial population: here he re-counts how he helped the remaining Westerners-and any Cambodians he could-to escape the doomed capital.
Both beautiful and devastating, The Gate is a searing and unforgettable act of witness and remembrance.
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Review quote

"A harrowing narrative, worthy of a novel by Graham Greene or John le Carre... [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 Carre, 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"
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About Francois Bizot

Fran-ois Bizot is a French ethnologist who has spent the greater part of his career studying Buddhism. He is the Director of Studies at the -cole Pratique des Hautes--tudes and holds the chair in South-East-Asian Buddhism at the Sorbonne.
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Rating details

820 ratings
3.86 out of 5 stars
5 28% (229)
4 38% (313)
3 27% (225)
2 5% (42)
1 1% (11)
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