HAING NGOR: A Cambodian Odyssey by Haing with Roger Warner Ngor
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HAING NGOR: A Cambodian Odyssey

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Ngor is the Cambodian doctor who won a 1985 Academy Award for his portrayal of photographer Dith Pran in The Killing Fields. In this searing memoir, he reveals his own descent into the hell of the Khmer Rouge rape of his native land and people. Ngor's account compares favorably even to two other excellent eyewitness accounts of the Cambodian holocaust, Pin Yathay's (with John Man) Stay Alive My Son (p. 982), and Joan D. Creedle's and Teeda Butt Mam's To Destroy You is No Loss (p. 769). Because Ngor's work is autobiography rather than history, he opens years before the Khmer Rouge march into Phnom Penh that marks the beginning of the Yathay and Mam books, thus granting an understanding of both the political background of the Khmer Rouge ascent (seeded in the loam of the corrupt Lon Nol regime) and of the rich cultural heritage these psychopathic communists were to grind to dust within five years (1975-79). Moreover, Ngor's account takes us further yet into the heart of the Khmer Rouge madness. Imprisoned three times (his crimes? foraging for food, for one; calling his wife ""sweetheart,"" for another), he witnessed tortures, degradations, and horrors nearly beyond belief (graphically detailed here--one is an unforgettable image of scores of crucified suspended upon a burning plain--with warnings to ""readers with sensitive feeling"" to skip over the painful passages). And finally, Ngor's memoir works as a potent tribute to the human spirit, for despite the train of abuse-the stripping away of his right to practice medicine; the near. fatal diarrhea and malnutrition; the humbling before Khmer Rouge bullies, often adolescents; and the ultimate tragedy, the death before his eyes of his lover and their infant during childbirth--Ngor never loses his will to survive and rebel. A relatively happy ending--emigration to the US, the Oscar--and an analysis of the current Cambodian situation (the Khmer Rouge lurk on) wrap up this terrible tale. With sure and simple prose (courtesy of, presumably, co-author Warner, a journalist), Ngor sweeps the reader inexorably into a maelstrom not easily forgotten. Nor should it be; this important document, which traces the suffering of a nation within the torment of one life, deserves remembrance--and a wide readership.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Macmillan