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Voices From S 21 Terror And History In Pol Pot's Secret Prison

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  223 ratings  ·  17 reviews
The horrific torture and execution of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge during the 1970s is one of the century's major human disasters. David Chandler, a world-renowned historian of Cambodia, examines the Khmer Rouge phenomenon by focusing on one of its key institutions, the secret prison outside Phnom Penh known by the code name "S-21." The faci ...more
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Published (first published December 8th 1999)
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Roderick Vincent
This book covers one of the lowest points of Cambodian history. It is truly sad and horrific, and this was a difficult book to read.

While the events and psychology of the Pol Pot regime were well covered, I was a bit disappointed that the "voices" mentioned in the title were for the most part silent. I suppose part of that is understandable since so much was lost, but I think the narrative aspect of this was lost to more of the factual. Comparison between Stalin's regime and China were well done
...more
Ben
A densely written but engaging analysis of Cambodia's S-21 prison and the psychology and politics of the Khmer Rouge's leadership. Chandler's exploration of the prison's documentation offers a far better insight into the 4 years of Khmer Rouge power than even a visit to teh Choeng Ek Killing Fields (though the analytical nature of Chandler's account does mean that some of the viceral, emotional reaction to the horrors is lost).

What is most important is Chandler's refusal to dismiss the acts of t
...more
Michael
Not what I expected. (Even though I wasn't sure what to expect... haha) The first half(or more) of the book was... well... repetitive. There is A LOT of talk about how prisoners were arrested for made up reasons and tortured to make false "confessions" in writing. And I mean A LOT. I almost gave up on this one. I was literally to the point where I was thinking "OK!!! I get it!! They were arrested because of paranoia and forced to make false confessions. I GET IT!!! Move on!!" Once you get past t ...more
Aimee
This is the book I wish I'd read before visiting S-21 and Choeung Ek. Chandler shaped his analyses on S-21's development and the unspeakable tortures that took place there using scholarly research and interviews with victims and prison guards. This is not a book that you can take in at one sitting--it requires time to process, and the nature of the subject matter is disquieting, to say the least. Chandler's "final thought" reflects a quote from Zygmunt Bauman (a Polish sociologist of Jewish ance ...more
Matt
I read this shortly after visiting the S-21 in early 07, and my mind was fresh with the blood-stained floors and rusting chains used to restrain thousands of victims, so it's hard to separate that experience from an objective account of the quality of this book, but, suffice to say---any glimpse, with eyebrows or editing, into what went on at this prison in Cambodia in the late 70's will leave you rattled and in awe of the collective ignorance that the world perpetrated and continues to on atroc ...more
Lauren
Voices from S-21 is an informative, academic (but readable) account of S-21, the Khmer Rouge's secret prison in Phnom Penh where over 14,000 people were tortured, forced to confess to counterrevolutionary crimes, and killed. Chandler reconstructs the prison's grisly history using materials found in the prison's voluminous archives as well as interviews with the few survivors of the camp. Valuably, he also provides historical and psychological context to help us begin to understand how something ...more
Scott Lapierre
Incredibly thorough, eye-opening, and horrifying.

"Over time one begins to see the details. On stairway landings, for example, holes have been knocked in the walls so the stairs can be cleaned by sloshing water down the staircases. Below each of these openings on the building exterior one can still see the stains of the blood that ran down the sides, as if the buildings themselves had bled."

Charlane Brady
I feel weird rating this book amazing but it is amazing in an unfathomable way. I visited S-21 in 2002 and I could barely walk after entering the building. The history is numbing. Thousands of men, women and children were tortured, incarcerated and killed. Only seven prisoners who entered survived.

David Chandler does a superb job describing what happened and how it was universal.
Pascal
Terrifying daily life in Khmer Rouge's Kampuchea. Very detailed, maybe too much of a documenting book at times, but reflect well the horror of opponents to the regime during 4 years.
Tami Napier


Knowing little about this country and the war, it was interesting and so disturbing-as it should be. Well documented with comparisons to other equally vile regimes.
Sarah
Chandler provides lots of information on an otherwise unknown subject. This book is wonderful in a painful way.
Don
Terrible and wonderful at the same time. A hard pill to swallow but so worth it if you can.
Andrea
This was hard to read after spending time at S-21 and the Killing Fields. Pretty sickening stuff.
Mary
This is about Pol Pot's secret prison. Disturbing to say the least.
Gary Morris
Very good account of a sad period of Cambodian history
Maria Ardiana
Jan 30, 2011 Maria Ardiana is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
once they were school, then it became prison...
Paul Medici
Very good. Read in English
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David P. Chandler is an American historian and one of the foremost western scholars of Cambodia's modern history.
More about David P. Chandler...
Brother Number One: A Political Biography Of Pol Pot A History of Cambodia (Third Edition) The Tragedy of Cambodian History: Politics, War, and Revolution since 1945 The Killing Fields Cambodia and Laos

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