Hell on Earth

Stephen Haggard

  • Cambodian Witness: The Autobiography of Someth May edited by James Fenton
    Faber, 287 pp, £9.95, November 1986, ISBN 0 571 14609 0
  • The stones cry out: A Cambodian Childhood by Molyda Szymusiak, translated by Linda Coverdale
    Cape, 245 pp, £11.95, January 1987, ISBN 0 224 02410 8

The bloodiness of the events of the Seventies in Cambodia, and the desperate nature of the refugee exodus, have been of such monstrous proportions as to hinder the emergence of detailed accounts about what really happened. Someth May and Molyda Szymusiak (this is her adopted name) are two Cambodians who lived through the Khmer Rouge years and eventually gained refuge in the West. Someth May’s close collaboration with James Fenton on his book was the subject of a recent BBC documentary: credit for the vivid and readable style of Cambodian Witness must go to Fenton, whose name appears on the book as its editor. Molyda Szymusiak wrote her book in Paris with the help of her adoptive Polish parents: it was published in France in 1984 to an enthusiastic reception. The American translation which now appears is a slightly shortened version which unfortunately lacks the author’s original drawings but includes some seriously misleading historical notes.

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