- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (April 12, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1586487876
- ASIN: B006Z2VTSO
- Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 74 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,879,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 12, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Brinkley takes on the pricey pitfalls of nation building and the labyrinth of centuries-old political corruption in this riveting piece of literary reportage. At once a tale of human tragedy and a primer on the future of Western engagement with developing—and autocratic—countries, the book offers a rare look inside a country beleaguered by poverty and imprisoned by patronage and venal leadership since the 13th century; traumatized by colonialism, Pol Pot's brutal Khmer Rouge, and the genocide he unleashed (and later by Vietnam, which overthrew the Khmer Rouge in 1979). Brinkley is merciless in his critique of both Cambodia's leadership as well as the folly of donor countries that placed faith in the U.N. to bring Cambodia into a modern, democratic era. He expresses empathy for "the most abused people in the world," many of whom are in the grip of post-traumatic stress disorders after Pol Pot's reign of terror, but he saves his mercenary eye for the corrupt leaders, including present dictator Hun Sen, who continue to suppress and exploit the country's resources and young, vital population. (Apr.)
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Kirkus, February 15, 2011
“An excellent…account of a country whose historic poverty, exacerbated by the Vietnam War, remains remarkably unchanged.”
“A riveting piece of literary reportage.”
San Francisco Chronicle, April 16, 2011
“As a young reporter, Brinkley won a Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for his coverage of the Cambodian refugee crisis. Returning to the region 30 years later, Brinkley - now a professor of journalism at Stanford - chose his subject well…[he] admirably…demonstrates that Hun Sen's administration has been a disaster for many Cambodians.”
The Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2011
“Illuminating…Mr. Brinkley won the Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for covering Cambodian refugees, and he weaves the details of the nation's underbelly into a compelling argument, interviewing powerful figures and foreign officials involved in politics, courts, hospitals, land development, forests and schools.”
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I began this book just prior to my first visit to Cambodia, July 26-August 4, 2015, following which I visited Vietnam for about the same length of time. The contrast between the two is stark: Cambodia is so much poorer and less developed. Joel Brinkley's compelling book helped me understand why this is so.
This is not to say that this is a perfect book. In the early stages of the book, one feels like Cambodia is viewed largely through the 'elite' lens of western diplomatic community, without much thought given to the average Cambodian man, woman, or child. Brinkley eventually corrects this, and provides more balance in the second half of the book, but the first part of the book feels a bit slanted in terms of perspective. Feeding into this is the odd habit that Brinkley has to reveal his personal feelings about particular individuals (Cambodian or otherwise) through unnecessary descriptors or phrases, which can be a bit jolting and makes one worry a little about whether his perspective is a bit biased at times. Perhaps the most frustrating part about the book is the tendency to treat Cambodians as shell-shocked victims with no agency of their own ... while, without a doubt, Cambodians *have* suffered incredibly and have seen attempts to 'speak truth to power' end in jail time, slander, graft, and (disturbingly often) death, it also seems to belie the fact that Cambodia *does* seem to be changing ... measures such as HDI have been on the upswing for more than two decades now, for example. Cambodians are clearly not helpless, even if any progress is an incremental struggle. Brinkley briefly hints at positive changes toward the end of the book, but the reader feels like they might have a better grasp of 1977 Cambodia or even 1997 Cambodia than 2017 Cambodia.
That said, considering that I knew very little about Cambodia in 1977, 2017, or any other year, besides general understanding of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, and the connections to the Vietnam War, I was very glad I read this book. But, I am also looking forward to seeing Cambodia with my own eyes to see if the picture is as bleak and seemingly hopeless as Brinkley portrays it to be.
This reads like a novel. I found it extremely interesting and hard to put down.
Excellent coverage of history and politics. I had no idea that corruption could be so widespread, making it nearly impossible to change what few systems their are for the better.
Very good coverage of the war and it's lasting effects.
You'll be glad you read it