Jessica's Reviews > Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare

Pol Pot by Philip Short
Rate this book
Clear rating

I feel this book is sort of misleadingly packaged: it's not much of a biography, presumably because there's not a lot known about Pol Pot the man. Or maybe it is known but there's still just not that much to say: Short does dutifully record biographical details, but they never seem to add up to any fleshed-out understanding of a human being... And maybe that's the point. Maybe the dark emptiness at the root of the Khmer Rouge's ideology and actions is exactly that: a lack not just of humanity, but of any comprehensible substance at all.

Anyway, while this book kind of sucks as biography, it's good as a highly thorough political history of Cambodia in the second half of the twentieth century. I thought Short had a "just the facts ma'am" approach that worked well for this material. He assumes that his readers have some familiarity with accounts of Cambodians' suffering under the Khmer Rouge so doesn't dwell too much on cataloging these and highlighting the horrors, instead reporting them within the context of everything else. I felt he did a good job throughout of contrasting the excesses of the Khmer Rouge to those of other regimes and noting in which ways they did or did not surpass what has occurred elsewhere. He also seemed to be fairly even-handed in his evaluation of all involved parties, including the United States, leaving the reader feeling justifiably bleak and shitty about basically everyone in the world.

The most depressing -- though, I suppose, unsurprising -- thing about this book was learning about how while the Khmer Rouge's reign in the late seventies was particularly horrific in scope and degree, life and politics in Cambodia weren't that great either before, or since.

To be honest, this was not the breeziest or most fun summer read. Just between the two of us, this book was kind of a downer.
11 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Pol Pot.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

05/23/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Jafar (new)

Jafar "To keep you is no benefit. To kill you is no loss."

Jessica Talk about the power of a bad idea.

Jessica (I might have liked this a bit more if someone hadn't TORN OUT all the pictures from my library book! What kind of sick fuck would do something like that??! I mean, personally I think people who desecrate library books should be sent to the paddy fields for reeducation, but also, I mean, these aren't pictures from a biography of Marilyn Monroe... Why on earth would you steal a bunch of pictures of psychotic mass murderers in black pajamas?? ARGH!)

message 4: by Colum (new) - added it

Colum Great review, it is amazing how the root of all the evil is so elusive, the comment about no substance is so true.

back to top