Authors & Events
Gifts & Deals
Jul 02, 2013
| ISBN 9780307475145
Oct 23, 2012
| ISBN 9780307960870
Also available from:
Jul 02, 2013 | ISBN 9780307475145
Oct 23, 2012 | ISBN 9780307960870
In 1999, the media reported the arrest of Duch, aka the Butcher of Tuol Sleng—the most notorious torturer and executioner of the Cambodian genocide. Duch’s unexpected arrest after years in hiding presented François Bizot with his first opportunity to confront the man who’d held him captive for three months in 1973, and whose strange sense of justice had resulted in Bizot’s being the only Westerner to survive imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge. Only after his release had Bizot learned that his former captor—and, in a way, his only companion in those three months—had gone on to exterminate more than 10,000 Cambodians. Taking part in the trial as a witness, with Duch the sole defendant, would force Bizot to return to the heart of darkness. This is the testimony of what he discovered—about the torturer and about himself—on that harrowing journey.
The author of the acclaimed memoir The Gate now gives us a mesmerizing account of his personal relationship with one of the most infamous torturers of the twentieth century, and of his transformative experience observing and participating in that man’s recent trial for war crimes. In 1971, François Bizot was researching Khmer pottery and Buddhist ritual in rural Cambodia when, along with two Cambodian assistants, he was arrested by Communist guerrillas on suspicion of being an American spy. In captivity, Bizot would establish an unlikely rapport with his interrogator, Comrade Duch, a twenty-nine-year-old former math teacher, now commander of the jungle encampment. After many long conversations, Duch would become convinced of Bizot’s innocence, finally deciding to release his prisoner against the wishes of his superiors, including one Saloth Sar—the future Pol Pot. And so it was on Christmas Day 1971 that Bizot was allowed to depart the camp but obliged to leave his assistants behind. In 1999, Bizot would hear of the arrest of the “butcher of Tuol Sleng.” This was the nom de guerre that Comrade Duch had earned after releasing Bizot and proceeding to exterminate some ten thousand Cambodians, including Bizot’s assistants, Lay and Son. Duch’s unexpected capture after years in hiding presented François Bizot with his first opportunity to confront the man who’d held him captive for three months and whose strange sense of justice had resulted in Bizot’s being the only Westerner to survive imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge. The arrest also forced Bizot to confront a paradox: How could the man who’d been his savior have become one of the most monstrous perpetrators of the Cambodian genocide? Taking part in the trial as a witness, with Duch the sole defendant, would return Bizot to the heart of darkness. This is the testimony of what he discovered—about the torturer and about himself—on that harrowing journey.
François Bizot is the author of The Gate. He is an ethnologist who has spent the greater part of his career studying Buddhism. He is the director of studies at l’École Pratique des Hautes Études and holds the chair in Southeast… More about Francois Bizot
Praise for Francois Bizot’s Facing the Torturer“A powerful philosophical meditation on the nature of humanity—and inhumanity—and personal responsibility, and an empathetic attempt to bring Duch the man out from behind Duch the monster.” —Financial Times “Bizot bravely addresses the nature of genocide and the darkest heart of human nature.” —Library Journal “Contemplative. . . . A searching and peculiar meditation on human nature.” —San Francisco Chronicle “Mesmerizing. . . . Bizot presents a complex portrait of Duch that richly rewards close reading.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch“As much an account of the events in court as a passionate and eloquent memoir. . . . François Bizot taps into his experience and feelings and explores how evil lurks in each of us.” —Le Monde“François Bizot has written a book that will go down in history. He breaks one of the most hypocritical taboos: yes, the mass-murderer is a man, worse still, a man like any other. An exceptionally powerful book. A crucial account, to be read urgently by everyone.” —L’Express“An honest exploration of what it means to share moments of humanity with a man most people would consider inhuman.” —Kirkus Reviews“Profound and moving.” —Publishers Weekly“A meditation on original sin and the banality of evil. . . . Those who have read The Gate will undoubtedly want to read this. . . . A hard and admirable book.” —The Spectator“A soliloquy on the nature of evil. What, asks Francois Bizot again and again in different forms, makes a man who is in other ways ordinary and even humane into a torturer and mass executioner?” —Literary Review“Brilliantly written. . . Facing the Torturer is a deeply moving book.” —Asia Times“Ten years after the worldwide success of The Gate—the account of his incarceration under the Khmers Rouge—François Bizot revisits this devastating experience in an exceptional book. This is more than just an important historical account—it provides an incredibly precise and gripping dissection of the prisoner’s frame of mind. A profoundly literary endeavor to pull back the veils that we use to remain at a distance from mass murderers.” —Marianne“This book takes us to the edge of an abyss, alarmingly far into the depths of the human soul.” —Libération“Without self-righteousness or affectation, Bizot unravels the thread of lost innocence and impossible brotherhoods. Thus his torturer continues to torment him, down to the vile gratitude to which he remains obliged. The book is an odiously magnificent confession.” —Le Nouvel Observateur“A terrifying but essential read. Facing the Torturer explores the essential question of the connection between a concept and its subjective experience. It’s a touching, moving, even upsetting book. . . . It’s luminous and grand.” —La Quinzaine littéraire“The ethnologist offers a troubling testimony to the memory of his lost companions, and forces himself to question the bond—if ever there was one—which he shared with his torturer Duch.” —Le Journal du Dimanche“A fascinating, beautiful work haunted by the enigma of Evil. An important book in which Bizot explores the ambiguity of the human soul.” —La Vie
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