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3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  567 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
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 theintermediary between the now victorious Khmer Rouge and the occupants of the besieged French embassy in Phnom Penh, eventually leading a desperate convoy of foreigners ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (first published 2000)
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François Bizot è arrivato in Cambogia nel 1965 per studiare il buddismo locale.
Ha viaggiato il paese in lungo e largo, ammirandone la bellezza e la storia.
Ha sposato una cambogiana e nel 1968 è nata sua figlia Hélène.
Parla khmer e inglese, oltre al francese.

Quattro anni prima che Pol Pot entrasse a Phnom Penh (1975) e scrivesse una delle pagine più allucinanti della storia dell'umanità (l’obiettivo era ricominciare tutto dall'anno zero attraverso l'annientamento totale di ogni
Sep 01, 2009 Cameron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cambodia
Bizot's book describes his captivity in Cambodia during the latter months of 1971 and then moves to spring, 1975 when the Khmer Rouge capture Phnom Penh, forcing him to take refuge at the French Embassy with several thousand others (as depicted at the beginning of The Killing Fields). His writing is lucid, elegant and insightful, and his role during this event was crucial: he was one of the few foreigners who spoke Khmer fluently and the only one with any real experience with the Khmer Rouge. Th ...more
Sep 09, 2012 Deva rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I keep picking up books about the Khmer Rouge that narrate fascinating survival stories but are poorly written. I had higher hopes for a book written by a French academic, but I think it's actually worse. He tries too hard to be poetic, sets up a confusing timeline of events, and comes across as an *sshole. (For example his total apathy toward his Khmer wife who gets left behind while he makes it out--spouses of westerners were allowed to leave with them. Having been married to a westerner would ...more
Aug 31, 2007 Korynn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Mr Bizot is definitely passionate about Cambodia, in fact he seems the epitome of the volatile, emotional Frenchman. His love for the country and its customs that was given so wholeheartedly is corrupted by the destruction of the country he loved by the Khymer Rouge.
He writes in a possessed non-linear fashion about his capture and imprisonment, his eventual teneous friendship with a man who became a mass-murderer, who astoundingly gave him a precious gift, that of freedom. That Douch or Duch was
Although Francois Bizot’s ordeal as a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge is central to this memoir, I was also interested in his work as a scholar of Buddhism. When he described village Buddhism in the countryside of Cambodia as possibly including aspects of pre-Buddhist shamanism, I was reminded of Tibetan Buddhism which includes aspects of the pre-Buddhist shamanistic religion of Tibet, Bon-po. I also found it highly ironic that the Marxist materialist Khmer Rouge considered the peasants the most ide ...more
May 06, 2016 Edgar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book comprises two main parts: concerning Bizot’s incarceration by the Khmer Rouge in the early 1970’s and later in 1975 when he was the official go-between at the French Embassy dealing directly with the Khmer Rouge. Bizot’s captor, Kaing Guk Eau, alias Duch, just last year had his sentence increased to life imprisonment at the Cambodian UN backed war crimes court. It was thanks to Duch that Bizot was eventually freed and he does show gratitude to Duch for sticking his neck out on his beha ...more
Jun 28, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 08, 2012 Becky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
3.5 stars. This is a book with a really fascinating subject that unfortunately isn't written all that well. The author, a French academic studying Buddhism in Cambodia in the 70s, has the distinction of being the only Westerner to be voluntarily released from imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge. Then a few years after his release, he helped negotiate the removal of French citizens from the country after the Khmer Rouge won the civil war. So clearly this guy has had a fascinating life. I hate to be t ...more
Mar 10, 2011 Lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Gate is Francois Bizot's account of his experience with the Khmer Rouge: of his own imprisonment (supervised by the now-notorious Duch) and, a few years later, of his struggle to assist those who were caught in the crossfire of the Khmer Rouge's "liberation" of Phnom Penh. Bizot, who at the time of his imprisonment was an academic researching Buddhist traditions in rural Cambodia, uses evocative prose to tell a compelling story. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to gain a more pe ...more
karl levy
Jun 04, 2016 karl levy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book follows a non linear narrative of Francois' Bizot's, a French Scholar specializing in Cambodian Buddhism with the temples etc. His capture by 'Duch' who was later to gain notoriety by running S21 in Phnom Penh, the infamous Khmer Rouge torture and confession prison with its associated Killing Fields is Part one of the book. During the ECCC UN trials Bizot was called as a witness and testified that his book should certainly not be used as a historical document for he wrote it thirty yea ...more
Dec 26, 2015 Pascale rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although it is futile to fault a book for not doing what you thought it should have done, I couldn't help being frustrated Bizot didn't provide more context for his testimony. Being ignorant about the tragic events unleashed by the Khmers rouges in Cambodia, I would really have appreciated it if Bizot had given us more of a frame. What you find in this book is a detailed account of 2 highly stressful periods of his life: the few months he spent as a prisoner of the Khmers rouges in the jungle in ...more
Philippe Malzieu
It is the history of a crime. How we gave up a people to insane bloodthirsty men. How this young people, who studied in France with gauchists teachers put into practice their absurd theories by assassinating a quarter of the population (intellectual, professors…)A lawsuit against the French intellectuals would be necessary so much their responsibility is committed.
Bizot like Cambodia. He was a khmer's specialist. He married a cambodian. He has been arrested by Dutch a first time and he escape t
Mark Speed
Jun 13, 2014 Mark Speed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, historical
An extraordinary true story of a man who was held hostage and interrogated by one of the leaders of the Khmer Rouge. It's thought-provoking and harrowing. He was the only survivor of his camp, and the only Westerner to survive such an ordeal.

Speaking as an anthropologist, he poses some fascinating questions - not just the obvious "Why do humans do this to each other?" One of the most disturbing is when he talks about people being taken away to be executed in the forest. Everyone taken away knows
John Dobbin
Mar 10, 2014 John Dobbin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cambodia
John Le Carré , in his introduction, says it all: "Now and then you read a book and, as you put it down, you realise that you envy everybody who hasn't read it, simply because, unlike you, they will have the experience before them."

I read this amazing book on cramped busses and hostel balconies while travelling through Cambodia. Looking up from the pages and seeing the landscape and places where the story took place created a connection that enriched both the book and the country -- The Gate is
May 29, 2016 Sunny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a memoir of a Frenchman's year of detention by the Khmer Rouge's infamous Brother Number 2 (Duch) prior to the Khmer Rouge taking power in Cambodia, and the chaotic days in the French Embassy prior to the evacuation of Phnom Penh.

Written from the perspective of an expatriate, the book does not elicit the same sadness as memoirs written by other Khmer survivors of the period. However, it does present a unique perspective on France's historical links with the IndoChinese colony, and the co
Jan 28, 2016 Monica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very difficult book - the descriptions of the horrors inflicted by the Khmer Rouge, and of the surreal, multi-faceted war in which there were so many enemies both internal and external - are painful to read. It is an intensely personal account of Bizot's capture by the KR and his subsequent life until the evacuation of all foreigners from Phnom Penh. It is also a portrait of his captor Douch, who seems thoughtful and approachable and who ultimately releases him (he is the only French p ...more
Jan 05, 2015 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this autobiographical account, Bizet tells the story of his capture and (as becomes clear later) rather remarkable release by the Khmer Rouge as they were consolidating power in Cambodia. The book centers on the relationship between Bizet and his captor and eventual savior Douch, as the author tries to understand how one man, and indeed a whole, movement, could eventually lose its humanity and descend into such brutality and savagery.

I purchased and read the book immediately after visiting t
Jul 10, 2015 Arielle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book in French at the airport in Siem Reap after an unbelievable trip to Cambodia. I have traveled throughout the world and found Cambodia to be one of the most incredible, fascinating and touching places I have visited in a long time.

Bizot's memoir of his captivity by the Khmer Rouge and escape from Cambodia is part-philosophical, part-suspense thriller. I really enjoyed the first part an found it beautifully written. It started to slow down a bit towards the end. Overall, a well
May 31, 2015 Kit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Francois Bizot is a French journalist who was living in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge came to power. Arrested and imprisoned as a suspected 'agent,' Bizot was able to use his linguistic abilities in Khmer to convince his captors that he was actually in the country to do research on local Buddhist practices. He was ultimately released thanks to the efforts of a man named Douch, the leader of the prison camp, whom he befriended during his captivity. With a foreward written by John LeCarre, this fa ...more
Feb 01, 2015 Pedro rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I re-read this recently while holidaying in Sri Lanka. However, I read this the first time in Cambodia. Reading this on Asian soil and in Asian time on both occasions set the scene. I cannot even imagine what Bizot's life was like in the camp and in the aftermath but feel he was one lucky survivor and am glad he penned his story for generations to come. Such a sad tale of a Cambodia and what would happen later - with people going to the fields enmasse. A definitive must read for anybody with an ...more
Jul 09, 2012 Kristen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, memoir
This is one of the best memoirs ever written, and certainly the best book I've ever read about Cambodia. I know that reveals some Euro-centric bias on my part; I agree that some of the memoirs of the Killing Fields written by Cambodians are just as eloquent and perhaps show an even clearer picture of Cambodia during the awful ascendency and throttling years of Pol Pot.

Still. Bizot was the only Westerner taken and released instead of killed by the early Khmer Rouge squads. In his case, his capto
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Nov 12, 2013 Babak Fakhamzadeh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoires, far-east
An excellent book. Bizot, a Frenchman, was taken prisoner by the Khmer Rouge in 1971 and released after three months. That makes him the only westerner to be captured by the Khmer Rouge who was subsequently released.

The first half of the book details this three month ordeal. The camp in which he was held captive was run by the infamous Dutch (or Doutch), well known for being in charge, a few years later, of S-21, the notorious prison in Phnom Penh during the Khmer Rouge's short rule of Cambodia
Aug 14, 2008 BC rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of the only Westerner to be released from imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge, The Gate manages to fall short. Some of it, I think, is a weak translation from the original French. (And, I'll add, one of the worst printings I've seen in a long while with smudges at the top and bottom edges of many pages and near onion-skin paper). Some it, no doubt, is that the author fell short in his storytelling.

What should be an absolutely riveting story about the author's capture and confinement is qu
In turns, I admired this book, and yet was frustrated by it. It plays in two halves, starting with Frenchman Francois Bizot's capture by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in 1971. Bizot was a foreigner living in the country as an archaeologist, and it turns out he was one of the few people to "escape" (aka be released from) a Khmer Rouge prison camp. This part plays like a POW war movie, as he becomes strangely personable with his captor, Comrade Duch, who later became infamous as the brutal commander ...more
Aug 14, 2015 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mid 3. The memoirs of the only Westerner to fall into the clutches of the murderous Khmer Rouge and live to tell the tale, and of the self-same uinterpreter for the beseiged foreign community in the compound of the French embassy at the fall of Phnom Penh should have become a classic of modern reportage. Instead, Bizot's failings as a writer, as well as the possible shortcomings of the translation, make this a frustrating read. Though many commentators find the author to be a distasteful individ ...more
Damien Travel
Jun 10, 2015 Damien Travel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For Cambodia’s recent history, in particular the Khmer Rouge period (1975-79), the book by François Bizot « The Gate (Le Portail) » is an excellent testimony. He was a French ethnologist in Angkor when the Khmer Rouge took control of the country and captured him. He seems to have been the only Westerner who escaped the internment camps. One of the worse war criminals, Duch, interrogated him.

Read more on my blog:
Feb 23, 2013 Silke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cambodia
The first part of this book I thought as a little bit weird. Don't know, it wasn't the story but the style of writing. I had the feeling the riter jumped sometimes from one event to a much further event. I had to torture me through it, but then, when he made a jump in time, it read very fast. Strangely after reading newspaper articles about Duch, I liked the first part more and more! The writer don't focus himself on what Duch did for cruelties, but on the person behind it,....and that is what m ...more
Yves Gounin
Prisonnier des Khmers rouges en 1971, témoin privilégié de la chute de Phnom Penh en 1975, François Bizot revient, près de trente ans plus tard sur ces événements.
Le vrai héros du livre est en fait Douch, son gardien qui s'avèrera être son paradoxal sauveur. De longues discussions nocturnes rapprochent les deux hommes : d'un côté le jeune ethnologue français soucieux de connaître et de défendre l'identité khmère, de l'autre le professeur de mathématique devenu révolutionnaire par idéal marxiste.
Aug 27, 2013 Chalky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Halfway into this book so far and finding it excellent reading.

I few years back I did a meditation retreat in Australia led by a Cambodian monk, who was the ex Finance Minister, in the period leading up to the Khmer Rouge/Pol Pot takeover. He lost all his family, wife, 10 kids and somehow got out of the country becoming a monk later. It very much brought it home that this was real and in our times. We all wish for peace and an end to senseless genocide ... but will it ever be achieved. I hope an
Apr 06, 2016 Nina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
While I feel for Bizot's suffering at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, he doesn't come across as a sympathetic figure in this book, more like a giant dick though perhaps not as much as his fellow French or any of the Westerners. Plus I didn't find the writing style or content to be well-constructed.
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François Bizot is the only Westerner to have survived imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge.

Bizot arrived in Cambodia in 1965 to study Buddhism practiced in the countryside. He traveled extensively around Cambodia, researching the history and customs of its dominant religion. He speaks fluent Khmer, French and English and was married to a Cambodian with whom he had a daughter, Hélène, in 1968. When the
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