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

Pol Pot by Philip Short
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's review
Dec 10, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: history
Read in October, 2009

Short's history/biography combines an engaging narrative flow with a good amount of detail. I am still not sure I understand how Pol Pot evolved from the mediocre student, Saloth Sar, and budding Marxist into the leader of a (briefly) successful revolutionary movement. Short does mention his later charisma, but if he possessed such an appeal in his early days, the book did not really show it. It did, however, do a brilliant job of showing how Cambodian culture, psyche and worldview were more important in explaining what happened as the Khmers Rouges took power than was Marxism. Pol was certainly influenced by revolutionary writings of the past (especially the more radical and violent stuff) but readily ignored, revised or rejected that which did not serve his ends. I also found the geopolitical aspects of the conflict fascinating. Cambodia found itself between two very different cultures, Sino-influenced Vietnam and Indo-influenced Thailand. Outside powers took sides based on broader strategic aims and ended up being drawn into the conflict in unexpected ways.

I read this on a Kindle, which was not ideal. There are a lot of people to keep track of, many of whom change their names a few times, so it was a bit of a pain using the glossary of names in the back of the book. Maps were not very clear (though they are probably better on the Kindle 2 and DX).
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message 1: by Rob (last edited Oct 20, 2009 07:23AM) (new)

Rob Interesting comments on the Kindle being a bit rubbish for searching for names - one would think the eBook reader would be better for that kind of thing.

Alan To get to the glossary, you need to go to the toc, scroll to the next page and then down to glossary, then hit next page until you find the name, each page refresh taking a second or two. Then find your way back to where you were. With a book, you just turn to the glossary. It was clear that the publisher/Amazon did no special formatting beyond putting it into Kindle format. For example, it retained word-break hyphens from the print edition even though the words appear in different locations on the page on the Kindle edition, which was annoying. I suspect it will be better once books are formatted with ebook readers in mind. Until then, I will probably stick with novels only on the Kindle.

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