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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  430 ratings  ·  73 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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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
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
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
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
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
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
François Bizot arrivò 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 form
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
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 individual, it ...more
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.
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
There was something funky about the translation here, I think. There were sentences that literally made no sense. If I hadn't already returned the book I would throw out some examples, but c'est le vie.

Also, the writer clearly has an agenda and was a bit whiny about it, all in all. Of the series of kidnapping/war memoirs I've read lately, this was definitely the least coherent or interesting. I got to about the halfway point by the time the book was due back at the library, and decided to chuck
I found this book while browsing at my library; something about the title drew me in. I don't know a lot about the Khmer Rouge or the killing fields of Cambodia. History classes I took as a kid glossed over that part of history and spent most of the time devoted to the US involvement in the Vietnam War.

I found the author's insight into what occurred in Cambodia from the influx of communists from Vietnam to the fall of Phnom Penh, and the desperate last days at the French Embassy before the expul
Ellen Guerin
This is a powerful book. I read it in only a couple of days, foregoing sleep in order to do so. Even though I read a translated version, Bizot portrays setting and character so vibrantly that it is (sometimes painfully) as if you are in his shoes. There are times when he describes tragic occasions in a matter-of-fact manner, but that almost makes them seem more tragic, as if no one cared. I hadn't realized the political complications in Cambodia in the 1970s, though I knew about the Khmer Rouge. ...more
Beautifully written, but a very difficult book to read: because of the subject matter. Mr Bizot talks about his life in Cambodia, particularly on the time of the Khymer Rouge 'revolution' and the later 'liberation' invasion by the North Vietnamese. He focusses on his personal experiences as a captive and the torture he endured.

No doubt his stinging and blunt criticism of American involvement in IndoChina will put off most American readers, but his should be required reading, so that we all can l
Faine Greenwood
Meditative account of the fall of Phnom Penh and the arrival of the Khmer Rouge - as well as a portrait of what Cambodia was like before the genocide.
Jul 19, 2007 jeano rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: tourists in cambodia
this book really touched me, but it's a bit of an obscure, local read. french ethnologist bizot was living in cambodia in the 1970s studying ancient buddhist traditions when he was taken prisoner by the khmer rouge. he later became the only western prisoner ever to be released by the KR. the prose is extremely 'french': kind of dreamy, veiled, philosophical, metaphorical. i have a soft spot for such charismatic, learned, adventurous raconteurs like bizot (see axel munthe) but the story on its o ...more
I like this book because it deals about intolerance and fanatism and the story of Cambodgia
Rui Igreja
Francois Bizot is a French ethnologist who was captured and released 3 months later by the Khmer Rouge in 1971. His captor was Douch, who was just a couple of weeks ago (in July or August 2010) condemned by court for the killing of tens of thousands of people. 4 years after being released, François Bizot was an intermediary between the refugees at the French embassy in Phnom Penh and the Khmer Rouge. The perspective of someone who knew well Cambodia and spoke the language, about the beginning of ...more
Bizot is the only Westerner to have survived an encounter with the Khmer Rouge, a communist group in Cambodia. This book in part details his three-month "stay" at the prison in the woods in ~1971. His would-be executioner was Comrade Duch, who has been detained since 1999 and who is now (mid-2009) on trial in the UN-sponsored Khmer Rouge Tribunal. This book reveals fascinating dialogue between victim and prison chief, and what the author learned about humanity from that encounter and the war in ...more
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  • River of Time
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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
More about François Bizot...
Facing the Torturer Le Saut du Varan Le Silence du Bourreau Râmaker ou l'Amour symbolique de Râm et Setâ: Recherches sur le bouddhisme khmer - Tome 5 Les traditions de la Pabbajja en Asie du Sud-Est: Recherches sur le bouddhisme khmer - Tome IV

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