Harriette Four Faces of Truth
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Bayon Monument
Photo by Barry Broman, from
his book Cambodia:
its Land and its People
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Why the title Four Faces of Truth?

            Each of my four fictional narrators presents and represents a specific view into the rise of the Khmer Rouge and the damage done to Cambodia by a handful of Paris-educated young people intent on creating a communist utopia. Instead, they murdered over two million of their fellow countrymen and destroyed much of Cambodia’s cultural heritage. These compelling individuals expand our understanding of the era and the key players involved:

            The General and the Buddha: Hem Narong, a former Buddhist monk serving as an aide to General Lon Nol, realizes how the General’s failure as a leader paves the way for the rise of the Khmer Rouge. He sees how the General relies for political and military advice on a self-proclaimed holy man and witnesses the extent to which Lon Nol and U.S. President Richard Nixon deceive each other concerning their political viability.

 

            Sophana’s Story: Thoun Sophana, a well-educated young woman and enthusiastic member of the nascent Khmer communist movement, is betrayed by the revolution she once supported. She also witnesses the metamorphosis of the unassuming young Saloth Sar into the demonic killer Pol Pot. Her husband and children die at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, and Sophana escapes from the killing fields, but cannot escape the brooding shadows that haunt her day and night with visions of the horrors she has witnessed.

            Mother of the Revolution: Eng Maly, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, treats Pol Pot’s wife Ponnary, who is essential to the success of the revolution but who suffers from chronic paranoid schizophrenia. She accompanies Ponnary on dangerous treks across Cambodia in the service of the revolution and sees how Ponnary, like Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, enables her husband’s descent into evil.

 

            Patriacide: Marcel Blanchette, a western archeologist restoring ancient Khmer temples, witnesses the damage done by the Khmer Rouge to Cambodia’s architectural heritage and natural resources. He decries efforts by today’s rulers –all former Khmer Rouge commanders -- to foster a type of national amnesia regarding the crimes of the Khmer Rouge.

 

            While each of these narrators presents the Khmer Rouge regime from a different perspective, their lives often intersect and their stories form a unified mosaic portraying  the suffering of the Khmer people under Pol Pot. During that era, peace, light, and beauty were smashed, distorted, and transformed into darkness and horror, like a living depiction of the abomination of war expressed a generation earlier in Picasso’s Guernica.

            Viewing events from four points of view also seems in keeping with traditional Khmer symbolism and artistic expression. When the great King Jayarvarman VII (1181-c.1220) built the Buddhist-inspired monuments of Angkor Thom, he created immense stone towers crowned with four faces, each looking out toward a different geographic direction. One guide at Angkor described these serene countenances as “faces of truth” that have born witness to all the good and all the evil that have occurred within Cambodia’s borders over the centuries. The four narrators presented in my book also represent faces of truth compelling readers to listen and learn from what they have witnessed and endured.

 
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Copyright 2013 - 2014, All rights reserved. Revised: May 2014.