Picture of author.

François Bizot

Autor(a) de The Gate

6+ Works 457 Membros 10 Reviews

About the Author

Francois Bizot is the Director of Studies at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes-etudes and holds the chair in Southeast Asian Buddhism at the Sorbonne.
Image credit: Francois Bizot At Home At The Ecole Francaise D'Extreme Orient In Chiang Mai. On February 28Th, 2006. In Chiang Mai, China

Obras de François Bizot

Associated Works

Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison (1999) — Prefácio, algumas edições138 cópias, 3 resenhas


Conhecimento Comum

Nome padrão
Bizot, François
Data de nascimento
País (para mapa)
Local de nascimento
Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Grand-Est, France
Locais de residência
Vientiane, Laos (1994)
Paris, Île de France, France (1987)
Chiang Mai, Thaïlande (1976)
Phnom Penh, Cambodge (1970|1975)
Srah Srang, Angkor (1965|1970)
Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Grand-Est, France
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris (Auditeur)
Ecole des géomètres de Nancy (1962|1965)
Collège de la Malgrange, Jarville, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Grand-Est, France
Professor in the history of budism, university of Paris
Condominas, Georges (Professeur)
Filliozat, Jean (Professeur)
Bareau, André (Professeur)
University of Paris
École française d'Extrême-Orient
Pequena biografia
François Bizot (born February 8, 1940 in Nancy, France), is the only Westerner to have survived imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge.

Bizot arrived in Cambodia in 1965 to study Buddhism practiced in the countryside. He traveled extensively around Cambodia, researching the history and customs of its dominant religion. He speaks fluent Khmer, French and English and was married to a Cambodian with whom he had a daughter, Hélène, in 1968. When the Vietnam War spilled into Cambodia, Bizot was employed at the Angkor Conservation Office, restoring ceramics and bronzes.

Bizot, at first, welcomed the American intervention in Cambodia, hoping that they might counter the rising influence of the Communists. "But their irresponsibility, the inexcusable naivete, even their cynicism, frequently aroused more fury and outrage in me than did the lies of the Communists. Throughout those years of war, as I frantically scoured the hinterland for the old manuscripts that the heads of monasteries had secreted in lacquered chests, I witnessed the Americans' imperviousness to the realities of Cambodia," wrote Bizot in his memoirs of the time. In October 1971, Bizot and his two Cambodian colleagues were captured by the Khmer Rouge. During his captivity on charges of being a CIA agent at the Khmer Rouge Camp M.13 at Anlong Veng, he developed a strangely close relationship with his captor, Comrade Duch, who later became the Director of the infamous Tuol Sleng concentration camp in Phnom Penh. During his three-month imprisonment he came to understand the true genocidal nature of the Khmer Rouge long before other outsiders. He was finally released in December 1971 after Comrade Duch wrote a detailed report that convinced the Khmer Rouge leadership of Bizot's innocence. Bizot's Cambodian colleagues were executed soon after Bizot's release. Phnom Penh. Because of his fluency in Khmer, he soon became the primary point of contact and unofficial translator between the embassy officials and the Khmer Rouge. He left Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge expelled all foreigners and sealed off Cambodia's borders. He returned to Cambodia in 2003 and met his former captor Duch, who was waiting for his trial for crimes against humanity, for about one hour and a half (a few minutes of the encounter were put on film). These moments can be seen in the documentary "Derrière Le Portail" ("Behind The Gate"). Comrade Duch was on trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and received a 35 year sentence, later increased to life from an appeal. Bizot was the first witness to testify at the trial.

Bizot is Emeritus Professor at the École française d'Extrême-Orient.



This is François Bizot's account of his final months in Cambodia in the mid-seventies, first as a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge and then of the days in the French Embassy in Phnom Penh as foreigners and Cambodians took shelter there and how they managed to leave.

Bizot was in Cambodia researching Khmer Buddhist traditions and was traveling around the areas being taken over by the Khmer Rouge with two Cambodian assistants when he was taken by the Khmer military and sent to a prison in the countryside, really just a makeshift camp in the jungle where the prisoners were kept locked in ankle stocks and lying in rows. Because Bizot was too large for the shackles and to keep him isolated, he was chained up near the entrance to the camp. His main interactions were with the camp leader, a man who would later be infamous for being in charge of torture, but with whom Bizot formed a sort of relationship, one that led to him finally being released a few months later. Back in Phnom Penh, he takes shelter in the French embassy and given his fluency in Khmer, he soon took on a leadership position. He's also one of the few willing to venture out of the embassy in search of the foreigners who chose not to come to the embassy earlier or to search for supplies. Eventually, a risky exit is planned, a logistical nightmare involving moving over a thousand people through Khmer-held territory into Thailand.

Bizot is not a likeable man and it's to his credit that he makes no attempt to make himself so. He's arrogant and he holds attitudes and ideas about the Cambodians, and especially a fetishization of the women, that he might be encouraged to examine and rethink today, but that doesn't change the value of this document of an important and terrifying time in history.
… (mais)
RidgewayGirl | outras 7 resenhas | May 21, 2021 |
This book is dated and a little too self-absorbed to be truly illuminating about pre-Khmer Rouge Cambodia and Duch, the cadre who became the director of S-21 (Tuol Sleng) and one of the architects of the Cambodian genocide. Much better is journalist [a:Thierry Cruvellier|3427766|Thierry Cruvellier|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/user/u_50x66-632230dc9882b4352d753eedf9396530.png]'s [b:The Master of Confessions: The Making of a Khmer Rouge Torturer|18513484|The Master of Confessions The Making of a Khmer Rouge Torturer|Thierry Cruvellier|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/book/50x75-a91bf249278a81aabab721ef782c4a74.png|26311026]. Yet it is a glimpse of Duch as well as life inside the prison. There are some beautifully rendered moments, like this description:

The man who spoke had the black skin of the Khmers, very dark and coppery. He had a hard look, square jaw, short teeth, like small, worn blocks, and the three furrows in his neck, stacked horizontally, so characteristic and so elegant in young women that they used to represent one of the hieratic attributes of beauty in wall paintings. Beneath his open shirt you could see the ritual tattoos. He wore a mass of necklaces, adorned with Buddhas, tigers' teeth, and amulets, which we were to hear clinking together protectively throughout the night.
… (mais)
MaximusStripus | outras 7 resenhas | Jul 7, 2020 |
Francois Bizot was a 30-year old French ethnologist studying Buddhism in Cambodia when he was arrested at a monastery by the KCP (Kampuchea Communist Party), his four-year-old daughter left by the roadside. He was sentenced to death and detained at M-13 Camp, a Khmer Rouge extermination camp. Nearly thirty years later he would write The Gate, describing his three-month imprisonment, the unusual relationship he developed with his interrogator, Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, and his unprecedented release. I read this book several years ago and was recently reminded of it by SassyLassy’s excellent review, which included this quote: “I have written this book in a bitterness that knows no limit.”

Inspired to read Bizot’s follow-up work, Facing the Torturer, I was surprised to find virtually no bitterness expressed. His reflections on this horrific period in Cambodian history and his own unjust imprisonment were so forgiving as to seem almost to emanate from an entirely different experience.

Bizot begins by recounting how as a young man, he killed his much-loved pet fennec (sand fox), by flinging it at full force against a wall. Although the reason for this cruel and impulsive response to his father’s death is unclear, he places it at the center of his assertion that all humans are capable of killing, given the right circumstances, and that “…what is inside me equals the worst of what there is in others.”

Part One of this short work is organized around four periods of time, beginning with Bizot’s 1971 detention at M-13 Camp and the transformation of Duch from his interrogator to his liberator. In 1988, he recognizes Duch in a photograph and becomes aware that he is the infamous torturer known as the “Butcher of Tuol Sleng”, responsible for the deaths of thousands. This awakens memories of his detention, the recording of which he would not begin in earnest until a decade later. Following the death of Pol Pot and the collapse of the Khmer Rouge movement (1998-99), Duch is apprehended and imprisoned. He readily confesses to his crimes and requests to meet with “his friend” Bizot, resulting in written correspondence and two in-person meetings (2003 and 2008). The author closes with discussion of his 2009 testimony at Duch’s trial before the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia. His narrative is supplemented in Part Two by excerpts from actual documents: Duch’s 2008 notes in response to reading The Gate; Bizot’s sworn deposition, consisting of salient parts of his trial testimony; a chronology; and miscellaneous notes.

Bizot’s portrayal of Duch is fascinating, but limited in its explanation of why and how a presumably good and educated man turned to inflicting torture and death under Khmer Rouge allegiance. Bizot characterizes Duch as a man of deep convictions, a former schoolteacher whose desire for justice for his people made him willing to sacrifice himself for the cause. He rationalizes Duch’s actions as being the natural result of his commitment to a cause in which he firmly believes, combined with the expected passivity of a soldier who is following orders and fears his superiors. Although acknowledging that Duch’s actions were unquestionably evil, Bizot argues that the man himself was not, his capacity for empathy apparent in his self-sacrificing efforts to secure the author’s release, as well as in his physical revulsion to inflicting torture. Duch cooperated fully with the Courts, acknowledging some degree of responsibility for the deaths of forty thousand people, and expressing great remorse before withdrawing into silence. He was sentenced in 2010 to 35 years in prison and Bizot’s postscript seems prescient of the fact that to date, Duch remains the only of the Khmer Rouge leaders whose trial has resulted in a judgement.

Duch now feels cheated by everyone, perhaps by me too. Not because I set myself up against him and spoke for the dead – that I know he understands – but because I put him on a par with the worst of the leaders whose orders he carried out, Nuon Chea, the cold and remorseless man, author of Duch’s misfortune and object of his anger; the only one after Pol Pot to whom he thought he would never be compared.

Having found The Gate to be a powerful book, I was both intrigued and somewhat perplexed by [Facing the Torturer]. Although offering a window into a horrific episode in history, this is at its heart a personal book, concerned with how a man reaches peace with his own terrifying experience. While offering many insights, Bizot’s forgiveness towards Duch felt too simple and strangely flat, given the extreme emotional ambiguity that would be expected when owing one’s life to the perpetrator of unimaginably monstrous acts. This may in part be due to the failings of memory and the doubts that come with age, both mentioned by the author, who was 71 years old at the time of writing this second book.

I have lost the certainty that things, as soon as they occur, take on a shape that stays unchanged for eternity. What was not true then is often made true by us after the fact. The present changes the past more than the future, each new ordeal crowds in on the previous ones to crush them.

Although many reviewers have criticized Facing the Torturer for offering little that is new to the understanding of those who commit mass killings, I found it to be a worthwhile read and one that will stay with me. I would, however, suggest that it not be read as a stand-alone book, but rather as a follow-up to Bizot’s more highly recommended first book, The Gate.
… (mais)
9 vote
Linda92007 | 1 outra resenha | May 25, 2013 |
Unlike many memoirists of the Cambodian civil war, Bizot was an adult and not Cambodian. In fact, he was the only foreigner actually detained by the Khmer Rouge who survived the experience. This was in the early years of their insurgency and is detailed in first part of the book; the second half has elements that are more familiar to the reader of histories and memoirs of this era and describes his experiences inside the French compound after the fall of Phnom, Penh.

Bizot's child figures prominently, though always as an absent figure; her mother, a Cambodian, is even further removed from the narrative. The time jump between sections is disconcerting and lends a fragmented air to the book. Since Bizot worked with ancient Buddhist texts and objects, perhaps this is deliberate parallelism. Read with one of the Cambodian narratives of the Khmer Rouge period, with Swain's [b:The River of Time|228665|The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1)|Robert Jordan|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1172889531s/228665.jpg|2008238] and the film The Killing Fields for a rounded description of the foreign experience prior to evacuation.… (mais)
1 vote
OshoOsho | outras 7 resenhas | Mar 30, 2013 |


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