In 1971 a young French ethnologist named Francois Bizot was taken prisoner by forces of the Khmer Rouge who kept him chained in a jungle camp for months before releasing him. Four years later Bizot became the intermediary between the now victorious Khmer Rouge and the occupants of the besieged French embassy in Phnom Penh, eventually leading a desperate convoy of foreigners to safety across the Thai border.
Out of those ordeals comes this transfixing book. At its center lies the relationship between Bizot and his principal captor, a man named Douch, who is today known as the most notorious of the Khmer Rouge’s torturers but who, for a while, was Bizot’s protector and friend. Written with the immediacy of a great novel, unsparing in its understanding of evil, The Gate manages to be at once wrenching and redemptive.
In 1971, Bizot, a French anthropologist in Cambodia, was taken captive by the Khmer Rouge and accused of spying. This unsparing memoir recounts his internment in a jungle camp, and his wary friendship with his interrogator -- an idealist who later became one of the most notorious torturers of the Cambodian genocide. Bizot's testimony has a rawness unmitigated by time: he excoriates the Americans for their inexcusable naïveté," and the French for allowing Communist sympathies to blind them to Khmer Rouge atrocities. In 1975, Bizot witnessed the fall of Phnom Penh to the guerrillas, and brokered a deal to evacuate Westerners. In a damning scene, Bizot observes a Frenchman who, crossing the border into Thailand, abandons his Cambodian mistress. As she is beaten by soldiers, her lover watches in silence, "adopting an inquiring look as if to exonerate himself."