Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Lockdown reading


When I was ten years old Khmer refugees arrived at my school, & my parents took me to see The Killing Fields at St James cinema. Since then I've been fascinated by Pol Pot & the Khmer Rouge; there is something about evil that is compelling as well as repulsive. I've been rereading Philip Short's massive, disturbing, and brilliant biography of Pol. 

I think that the quiet of lockdown Auckland must have subconsciously reminded me of footage of the empty city of Phnom Penh in the years after the Khmer Rouge marched two and a half million urbanites into the countryside. Short shows how the Khmer Rouge appropriated Theravada Buddhist as much as Marxist ideas. He reproduces this photo of Khieu Samphan, Pol Pot's future lieutenant, dancing in Paris in 1955, at a celebration of the Buddha's 2,500th birthday.

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