Facing the Torturer



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 The Torturer S Recent Trial For War CrimesIn , 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 Fran Ois Bizot With His First Opportunity To Confront The Man Who D Held Him Captive For Three Months In , 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 Than , 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 JourneyFacing the Torturer

Fran ois Bizot is the only Westerner to have survived imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge.Bizot arrived in Cambodia in 1965 to study Buddhism practiced in the countryside He traveled extensively around Cambodia, researching the history and customs of its dominant religion He speaks fluent Khmer, French and English and was married to a Cambodian with whom he had a daughter, H l ne, in 1968 When the Vietnam War spilled into Cambodia, Bizot was employed at the Angkor Conservation Office, restoring ceramics and bronzes.Bizot, at first, welcomed the American intervention in Cambodia, hoping that they might counter the rising influence of the Communists But their irresponsibility, the inexcusable naivete, even their cynicism, frequently arousedfury and outrage in me than did the lies of the Communists Throughout those years of war, as I frantically scoured the hinterland for the old manuscripts that the heads of monasteries had secreted in lacquered chests, I witnessed the Americans imperviousness to the realities of Cambodia, wrote Bizot in his memoirs of the time.

[Reading] ➭ Facing the Torturer ➵ François Bizot – E17streets4all.co.uk
  • Hardcover
  • 212 pages
  • Facing the Torturer
  • François Bizot
  • English
  • 02 July 2018
  • 0307273504

10 thoughts on “Facing the Torturer

  1. says:

    I like the author s digression into scientific based thoughts of where man s natural cruelty could have possibly originated The author shares a sensitivity of self that makes the bookthan a factual account of events, but a book that encourages one to think about my own human nature with all its flaws, but only after having first examined himself so intelligently and thoughtfully He seems as an architect of where the human race should choose to evolve Where should or can we evolve It is I like the author s digression into scientific based thoughts of where man s natural cruelty could have possibly originated The author shares a sensitivity of self that makes the bookthan a factual account of events, but a book that encourages one to think about my own human nature with all its flaws, but only after having first examined himself so intelligently and thoughtfully He seems as an architect of where the human race should choose to evolve Where should or can we evolve It is not always an easy read as the book seems to meander along make ongoing similar points Anyway, I was in Cambodia when I bought this book at the airport I am hoping to find out a similar truth that Bizot explored with his life, that of what makes humans so absurdly bad pg82 update This book reads like a diary almost I don t know where it is going but it is quite brilliantly roaming through creative expression of an impossible subject that has joined itself to Bizot like eczema, certainly an unwelcome partner that has to be exercised I doubt it possible to be exercised, perhaps it can only be cradled and nurtured and then only temporarily absent Reading this account and story of Cambodia does mean that the demon exists Updt.3 Finally the author meets Duch, though it didn t seem clear that this was a first meeting, rather one with movie cameras Feelings verbally expressed by author attempt to tell what the experience was like, but in my mind continue the seeking of deeper meaning than was there I agree with Bizot s comment which sums up things nicely in a quote from page 101 You expect the devil and instead you find a destitute being, with no memory, no papers, no luggage, who only wishes for one thing to change lives On to 2009, The Defendant Up to this point, much self explanation has been trodden through, and finally we come to activity, the trial This is where some might skip to and read for the heart of the story to avoid the ramblings, some very insightful, but still somewhat tiresome explaining Part 2 is muchinteresting where history is presented The transcripts are what I have waited for, Duch s notes on the Gate are very interesting Part 1 of the book set the stage, although it seems to hover around the similar theme without covering much I am in the stretch to finish the book, though I won t rush Just looking for the book s overall insight.As most legal depositions the word is tedious The author s transcription is proof of his ability to waffle and say little of concrete content, though he senses his truths are of the most profound His arguments are rather unconvincing and formal to a point that they are pointless almost Bizot may have had a horrific experience but it doesn t appear so in this book I still haveto trudge through to get to the end of this long winded dull book, that I d hoped for so much , but it is times like this that I was a much faster reader and that I didn t deliberate on the meaning of things so much At this point I have changed the 3 to 2 stars The last portion of the book doesn t really demonstrate Duch as a killer Perhaps I wanted, expected to seesubstance behind a killer and perhaps that is story, that the killer isn t much different than my neighbor or even the fellow shaving in the mirror under different circumstances, but I don t buy that argument It all comes down I think to your own personal philosophy I am sure I too would fear death in circumstances I have had the experience of mortars landing near me on a regular basis in Iraq I hated it and there was fear Meaningless killing I think I read this book not to understand the killing fields as much to contemplate the old question of my own extinguishment and what that means Understanding the author s view of this when forced into this role has shown me that there are really different versions of this I am particularly relieved to have some small belief about an afterlife or a continued life With this the case, not what the book is about, I have the sense that maybe there isthan complete extinguishment I applaud this diary but it is not not a fresh account retold of a memory that was I assume repressed and brought up to express oneself I can t really recommend the book unless the reader is a student of Cambodia history The philosophy is thin and trial is just looking to find fault for a guilty verdict which is forgone conclusion I don t think they really find a monster but just a regretful intelligent person who hopefully won t commit the same mistakes in his next existence My new question is what can we do now to ensure we improve then What if don t improve Are we damned to repeat the same Is something imparted to us having committed such acts for our spirits next existence Anyway now I am not reviewing a book Best

  2. says:

    Reviewed for the Portland Book Review It s not uncommon to see portrayals or stories of torture on news and TV programs, but an examination or reflection on torture israre The topic is either viewed as a bygone consideration or a foregone conclusion due to exceptional historical circumstances or solitary people, yet Francois Bizot has written Facing the Torturer to call to mind the very near, human missteps and configurations that underpin torture Bizot describes that while imprisoned b Reviewed for the Portland Book Review It s not uncommon to see portrayals or stories of torture on news and TV programs, but an examination or reflection on torture israre The topic is either viewed as a bygone consideration or a foregone conclusion due to exceptional historical circumstances or solitary people, yet Francois Bizot has written Facing the Torturer to call to mind the very near, human missteps and configurations that underpin torture Bizot describes that while imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge under Comrade Duch, he acted differently and was viewed differently than other prisoners it is now Bizot s endeavor to instigate a different view and show that the butcher of Tuol Sleng and our shared humanity with him needs broader scrutiny if we care at all about preventing torture His book is recounted mostly in an impressionistic and anecdotal fashion, dropping graphic details and emotions along the way Only towards the end of the book does objective court testimony and post Khmer Rouge encounters with Duch appear and bring welcome grounding of the subject, but it is the mythic language that provides equal lucidity Francois Bizot provides an authentic account of the process of facing the torturer which follows its own pace Some of my favorite passages in the book had to do with writing, language, and translation, which I did not expect in this book but were beautiful words As I wrote, the book to me was mainly impressionistic, and doesn t get very graphic I do not know whether Bizot keeps this sort of distance now because he already churned it out when he wrote The Gate, about his time imprisoned, but I m intrigued enough about that and about the before and after of his arrest when he remained in Cambodia working to want to read The Gate

  3. says:

    The Khmer Rouge triumph was a milestone in the life of this nation, for it was not just many human lives that were annihilated, but also the heart of the subtle mechanics of intimacy.This is Bizot s reflection following his testimony at the torture and genocide trial of Duch, the man who led the torture and murder of some 17,000 or so Cambodian people, most famously in the S21 prison, of which there were only 7 survivors Another one of Duch s few survivors, Bizot, a foreigner captured early The Khmer Rouge triumph was a milestone in the life of this nation, for it was not just many human lives that were annihilated, but also the heart of the subtle mechanics of intimacy.This is Bizot s reflection following his testimony at the torture and genocide trial of Duch, the man who led the torture and murder of some 17,000 or so Cambodian people, most famously in the S21 prison, of which there were only 7 survivors Another one of Duch s few survivors, Bizot, a foreigner captured early in the Khmer Rouge period, was released after three months chained to a tree in a rural prison camp Bizot has an autobiography that tells the story of his capture and eventual release, at the behest of Duch s political machinations, after the torturer found some affinity for Bizot during his interrogations and went above his direct superior to secure Bizot s freedom This book offers a bit of history and context for the trial, and a larger part philosophy as Bizot tries to make sense of his own luck and survivor guilt From a distance as a reader, I see only a man who was privileged as a foreign, well spoken researcher to be able to relieve the boredom of the soldier bureaucrat, who chose to enact one episode of interesting pity in the midst of tens of thousands of methodical choices to ignore humanity Yet within this book is the writing of someone who clutches desperately to his own free will, and with it, a sense of guilt, of having partaken in some crime for evoking sympathy in the butcher of Tuol Seng This whole book, down to the notes that Duch scribbled in response to reading Bizot s autobiography, reminds me of the central conclusion of Judith Herman s Trauma and Recovery what was shocking when I read Herman s book is how long term domestic violence and sexual abuse produces the same trauma as combat Here, in Facing the Torturer and to a greater degree in the documentary film S21, everywhere I saw survivors and perpetrators enacting the same personal revisions of history claiming choice and therefore guilt in the former, releasing oneself to societal pressure and victim blaming in the latter of mundane sexual violence The Khmer Rouge never lost, really, and there was almost no accountability or reconciliation between the victims, the perpetrators, and the victim perpetrators the child soldiers, the food hoarders, the people who harbor their own Sophie s Choice and the ones who saw and blamed who perhaps account for most people during the time when Angkar penetrated every aspect of existence so that no one could ever do right or heroically, and survive.Bizot tries to make sense of the illogic of the Khmer Rouge confession machine in which prisoners were tortured until they crafted, together with their torturers, the particular story invented and applied to them out of an inexplicable demand for written narrative, pure creative fictions declaring guilt, a piece of bureaucratic red tape required before getting on with the business of execution In this light, it is fascinating that the narrator here and the main surviving storyteller in S21 the film are both artists Bizot writes with poetry the survivor in S21 is a painter Who better to reflect upon the all encompassing, mind boggling theater of the Khmer Rouge s constructed universe This book is haunting and unsettling, worth reading but perhaps not so full of revelations to make it indispensable reading In Bizot s decision to hold himself accountable and lay bare his personal wrongs, I think he does himself a disservice Yes, it is people who commit torture and genocide, not monsters But it is people enacting choices or choosing to view the constraints offered them as bereft of choices, and it does humanity no service to conflate actions and magnitudes of cruelty

  4. says:

    bizot is famous for his insightful historical and philosophical wrtings, he being a master of explicating very complicated human thoughts and actions in understandable prose also, he made a big splash when after being captured and help pow by khmer rouge he wrote aobut his expericnese in the camp and with his captor in this most excellent book The Gateso this book here is a continuation of that ordeal, as he attends and testifies at the trials of khmer crimes against humanity.so he revisits mor bizot is famous for his insightful historical and philosophical wrtings, he being a master of explicating very complicated human thoughts and actions in understandable prose also, he made a big splash when after being captured and help pow by khmer rouge he wrote aobut his expericnese in the camp and with his captor in this most excellent book The Gateso this book here is a continuation of that ordeal, as he attends and testifies at the trials of khmer crimes against humanity.so he revisitsof his captivity, the geopolitical situations during that time and now and asks, among many other questions, are humans evil as individuals, social beasts, training, arendt s banality, exigencies, or other reasons so this one isa mix of real events and thoughts on evil, while his the gate isabout real events with some thoughts about why.bizot is a beautiful and important writer and can help a reader understand genocide and evil

  5. says:

    What happens when you accept the humanity of a monster That is the key question at the heart of Franciois Bizot s essay Facing the Torturer The writing itself is peppered with a wonderful philosophical premise the reason we chose to make monsters of people is because we cannot handle the realization that what hideous things live in THEM live in US as well And while this point is interesting enough, it is over elaborated and extended throughout a laborious 200 pages Bizot also fails to giv What happens when you accept the humanity of a monster That is the key question at the heart of Franciois Bizot s essay Facing the Torturer The writing itself is peppered with a wonderful philosophical premise the reason we chose to make monsters of people is because we cannot handle the realization that what hideous things live in THEM live in US as well And while this point is interesting enough, it is over elaborated and extended throughout a laborious 200 pages Bizot also fails to give us enough historical or political context on the Khmer Rouge and it s role in Cambodian politics and the atrocities that ensued for the book to have the kind of historic weight it clearly requires As a sequel to his memoir The Gate , I m sure it works splendidly Without these contexts, though, the essay tends to retread the same interesting idea over and over again, adding little narrative or philosophical insight to it

  6. says:

    I have to say that I wasn t really impressed by this book The author had some great details and unique perspectives, but he was very repetitive Much of the book was confusing because some of the things he wrote about seemed contradictory Some of the story was pretty interesting to read about, like when he d talk about his daughter he had to leave I don t really recommend reading this unless you have something like a research project to do Much like I did.

  7. says:

    I loved this book There are so many books from the perspective of prisoners of war, however this was like no other This looked at things from a really compelling point of view There were many questions asked regarding humanity that I d never thought of and sparked many thoughts within me This is a must read for anyone who enjoys thought provoking novels.

  8. says:

    When we prosecute crimes against humanity , should we indict humanity or insist on masking the accused as an inhuman monster, separate from ourselves The question has not let Bizot go for 50 years.

  9. says:

    Helps if you ve read the previous books of his, especially The Gate Tries to get to the heart of why Duch does what he did but generally struggles to offer much insight.

  10. says:

    This is a difficult read, for many reasons Subject matter, structure, that it s although very well translated from the original French It s weighty and tangled It s as much a reflection on philosophy as memoir and not at all a memoir in the traditional sense I actually read it twice through, immediately, and that helped not all of it made sense to me until I d read further and not all of it made sense to me completely, at all There isn t a point to point timeline here, and monumental This is a difficult read, for many reasons Subject matter, structure, that it s although very well translated from the original French It s weighty and tangled It s as much a reflection on philosophy as memoir and not at all a memoir in the traditional sense I actually read it twice through, immediately, and that helped not all of it made sense to me until I d read further and not all of it made sense to me completely, at all There isn t a point to point timeline here, and monumental events that changed Bizot are layered in his own language and abstract reactions Reading it felt like a late night rambling discussion over tea then booze then coffee There is a thesis in it, I think, and it came as his answer to one of the lawyer s prosecuting the crimes What I mean by that is that to take the measure of the abomination of the torturer and his actions, that it s especially about, you just cited the name of Nuon Chea Or of the defendant I say that we need to rehabilitate the humanity that inhabits him If we make him into a special monster, in whom we are unable to recognise ourselves, as a human being, not as what he did but as a human being, the horror of his actions seems to escape us to a certain extent So if we consider that he is a man with the same capacities as ourselves, we are frightened, beyond that kind of segregation that would have to be made between those who are capable of killing and us, who are not capable of it Unfortunately I m afraid that we have aterrifying understanding of the torturer when we take account of his human side It is not a question of wanting ot forgive what was done My approach is trying to understand the universal tragedy that was played out here, in the forests of Cambodia as in other countries, or at other times in our history Even the most recent history

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