Book Review: Vann Nath – A Cambodian Prison Portrait: One Year in the Khmer Rouge’s S21.

In memory of Vann Nath 1946-2011

http://vannnath.com/

(photo http://vannnath.com/bio/)

A Cambodian Prison Portrait is a short, compelling book which is found in most second hand bookshops on the South East Asian backpacker trail.

Vann recalls the day his family were taken from him, his arrest and his time spent in Tuol Sleng prison.  He was one of seven survivors out of around 20 000 imprisoned at the S21 secret jail, spared his life for his artistic abilities.  His duties as a prisoner at Tuol Sleng involved creating portraits of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

His succinct memoir tells of his uncle’s removal from the S21, alluding to his death, and depicts clear memories of truckloads of people being removed from the prison.  Unbeknownst to him they were taken to the killing fields to be murdered.

Although Vann did not witness any tortures himself, his words create an immediate portrayal of the conditions at the prison, and the reader finds themselves sitting next to Vann, looking out at the prisoners being removed from the prison.

If his words weren’t powerful enough, his artistic representations of the conditions of the prison were painted after the fall of the Khmer Rouge; bringing the prison back to life.

After reading this book one can not help but be compelled to visit the S21 prison for themselves.

Advertisements

One thought on “Book Review: Vann Nath – A Cambodian Prison Portrait: One Year in the Khmer Rouge’s S21.

  1. Pingback: Phnom Penh – Killing Fields and the S21. « Feeding My Wanderlust

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s