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Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare


Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare Cover




From Pol Pot:

There were many causes of the egregious tragedy that befell Cambodia in the last quarter of the twentieth century, and many actors amongst whom responsibility must be shared. The over-confidence of the country's new leaders, above all of its principal leader, the man who would become Pol Pot, was but one element among them, and at the time of the Khmer Rouge victory, one that was skillfully dissembled.

Another full year would pass before the reclusive figure who had directed the war on the communist side would emerge from clandestinity and take the name by which his compatriots, and the rest of the world, would remember him.

Even then, he did so reluctantly. For two decades he had operated under multiple aliases: Phouk, Hay, Pol, "87," Grand-Uncle, Elder Brother-to be followed in later years by "99" and Phem. "It is good to change your name," he once told one of his secretaries. "The more often you change your name the better. It confuses the enemy." Then he added, in a phrase which would become a Khmer Rouge mantra: "If you preserve secrecy, half the battle is already won." The architect of the Cambodian nightmare was not a man who liked working out in the open.

Product Details

Anatomy of a Nightmare
Short, Philip
Henry Holt and Co.
Modern - 20th Century
Political atrocities
Southeast Asia
Prime ministers
Presidents & Heads of State
Asia - Southeast Asia
General Biography
ia/Southeast Asia
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
John MacRae Books
Publication Date:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
16-page insert
1400x1800 1

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Asia » Cambodia

Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
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Product details 560 pages Henry Holt & Company - English 9780805066623 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Towards the beginning of this massive biography, Short cautions readers against dismissing the terror of Pol Pot's regime as the incomprehensible work of evil men. Instead, Short argues, the explanations for the Khmer Rouge regime, which resulted in the death of over one-fifth of Cambodia's population, or 1.5 million people, are 'rooted in history.' The book begins its search for these explanations in the early life of Saloth Sâr, a 'mediocre student' whose political disengagement offered no hint of the ideological nightmare he would fashion under the name Pol Pot. As a student in Paris, Sâr's political philosophy slowly began to take shape, and the book deftly follows his political evolution abroad as a part of the 'Cercle Marxiste' against the backdrop of the tumultuous history of Cambodia after the war. Short, a former BBC correspondent who has also written an acclaimed biography of Mao Zedong, moves between Sâr's personal story and the broader history with ease. By the time these two narratives converge in the lucid and harrowing description of the Khmer Rouge victory and subsequent evacuation of Phnom Penh city, the book has already laid the groundwork for the horrors that would follow. Occasionally, Short's attempts to understand Pol's psychology lapse into vast over-generalization, as when he attributes Pol's erratic behavior to 'the perpetual Khmer tendency to take things to extremes.' More often, though, Short expertly identifies the historical and ideological causes that generated the Khmer Rouge impulse to terror and that eventually led to the regime's collapse. Though daunting in length, Short's book offers a copiously well-researched and surprisingly accessible portrait of Pol that will prove indispensable to anyone interested in the subject." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Just before he died in 1998 in a jungle hideout — unrepentant and unpunished — Pol Pot claimed in an interview that his conscience was clear and that he had done it all for his country. Like other tyrants of his century, we may never know enough about him to draw the right conclusions. Short's book, however, takes us more than half way there." (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
"Review" by , "Deeply unsettling, Short's probing analysis reveals how the loftiest of political ideals can become the justification for the cruelest brutality. A chilling portrait."
"Review" by , "A superbly wrought, richly nuanced study in evil, though more likely to attract discussion for its controversial conclusion than its careful rendering of its murderous subject."
"Review" by , "[A] well-written narrative possessing both shocking detail and thoughtful analysis....At times, the horrible nature of the subject elicits a haunting feeling when one contemplates the future of civilization. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "Were this biography a novel, I would apply the word 'verisimilitude' to much of it, for Short's Pol Pot possesses a detailed reality whenever he appears. ... His account of Pol Pot's final two decades is of exceptional interest."
"Synopsis" by , A gripping and definitive portrait of the man who headed one of the most enigmatic and terrifying regimes of modern times. This powerful biography reveals that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia were not a one-off aberration but instead grew out of a darkness of the soul common to all peoples.
"Synopsis" by ,
A gripping and definitive portrait of the man who headed one of the most enigmatic and terrifying regimes of modern times

In the three and a half years of Pol Pot's rule, more than a million Cambodians, a fifth of the country's population, were executed or died from hunger. An idealistic and reclusive figure, Pol Pot sought to instill in his people values of moral purity and self-abnegation through a revolution of radical egalitarianism. In the process his country descended into madness, becoming a concentration camp of the mind, a slave state in which obedience was enforced on the killing fields.

How did a utopian dream of shared prosperity mutate into one of the worst nightmares humanity has ever known? To understand this almost inconceivable mystery, Philip Short explores Pol Pot's life from his early years to his death. Short spent four years traveling throughout Cambodia interviewing the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge movement, many of whom have never spoken before, including Pol Pot's brother-in-law and the former Khmer Rouge head of state. He also sifted through the previously closed archives of China, Russia, Vietnam, and Cambodia itself to trace the fate of one man and the nation that he led into ruin.

This powerful biography reveals that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were not a one-off aberration but instead grew out of a darkness of the soul common to all peoples. Cambodian history and culture combined with intervention from the United States and other nations to set the stage for a disaster whose horrors echo loudly in the troubling events of our world today.

"Synopsis" by ,
“The text sparkles with shrewdly plausible inferences mortared into a compelling narrative . . . [Short] is excellent at coining pithy summations of political motives that ring humanly true.”—The New York Times Book Review (front page)

     Observing Pol Pot at close quarters during the one and only official visit he ever made abroad, to China in 1975, Philip Short was struck by the Cambodian leaders charm and charisma. Yet Pol Pots utopian experiments in social engineering would result in the death of one in every five Cambodians—more than a million people.

     How did an idealistic dream of justice and prosperity mutate into one of humanitys worst nightmares? To answer these questions, Short traveled through Cambodia, interviewing former Khmer Rouge leaders and sifting through previously closed archives around the world. Key figures, including Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary, Pols brother-in-law and foreign minister, speak here for the first time.

     Shorts masterly narrative serves as the definitive portrait of the man who headed one of the most enigmatic and terrifying regimes of modern times.

“Short chronicles the stages of the Cambodian revolution with admirable clarity . . . A few chilling details, expertly deployed, do the necessary work.” —The New York Times

“A spectacularly efficient job of describing what happened and why . . . A chillingly clear portrait.” —The Economist

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