In 1971 the French ethnologist François Bizot was arrested in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge. Imprisoned for three months and condemned to death, he was freed by the intervention of his jailer, a young revolutionary called Comrade Duch.
In 1988, while visiting the regime's infamous concentration camp, S-21, Bizot discovered that his 'liberator' had been responsible for the death of many thousands of victims.
In 2009, at Duch's trial for war crimes in Phnom Penh, Bizot dedicates his testimony to the memory of his murdered companions, and examines three pivotal issues: What takes place inside the mind of a torturer? How do we acknowledge but not condone his crimes without laying them at the door of mankind itself? And how can we face Duch, and those like him, without seeing ourselves in the mirror?
Seeking answers, Bizot considers uncomfortable truths with a clarity that is often unnerving, whilst the beauty of his prose turns Facing the Torturer into an unparalleled investigation of the fundamental nature of our humanity.
Praise for Facing the Torturer :
"Facing the Torturer is a powerful philosophical meditation on the nature of humanity – and inhumanity – and personal responsibility, and an empathetic attempt to bring Duch the man out from behind Duch the monster." - Financial Times
"A hard and admirable book." - The Spectator
"As much a report on the events in court as a passionate and eloquent memoir." – Le Monde
"Ten years after the worldwide success of The Gate—the account of his incarceration under the Khmer Rouge—François Bizot revisits this devastating experience in an exceptional book. This is more than just an important historical account—it provides an incredibly precise and gripping dissection of the prisoner's mind-frame. A profoundly literary endeavor to pull back the veils that we use to remain at a distance from mass murderers." –Marianne
"A gripping account. To his unforgettable first book, Bizot adds this new chapter: a book that is more than an eyewitness account—an anxious, troubled meditation on the mirror that can reveal the worst of murderers." –Télérama
"Facing the Torturer is a brave attempt at clarity; that it poses more questions than it answers is a measure of how unanswerable and disturbing these questions remain." - Literary Review
"This beautifully written book will certainly get you thinking"- We Love Books
It would be all too easy if this man was a monster, not a member of the human race. We could use the slogan 'never again' and move on. But the deep horror is that this man is normal, that in other circumstances he could have been an effective and well-liked manager, an honest and incorruptible civil servant. Through his very qualities he became a mass murderer. Does that exonerate him from these crimes? Certainly not. But it does force us to question ourselves in a way that is deeply unsettling. – Francois Bizot