'An outstanding book of astonishing power . . . One finishes it
with an ache in the heart' Jon Swain, writer and foreign
correspondent, author of River of Time 'Like Auschwitz, like
Stalin's purges, the mass murders of the Khmer Rouge are one of
those extraordinary events that make us wonder about the human
capacity for evil. Through a profoundly moving tale that weaves
together the connected stories of a victim, his surviving family,
and members of the regime, Robert Carmichael brings us into the
heart of the darkness that took over Cambodia, bringing it alive in
the way no mere statistics can. I've not seen a comparable book
about these horrors.' Adam Hochschild, award-winning author of King
Leopold's Ghost 'What does it mean to say two million people lost
their lives during the years of Khmer Rouge rule? The true answer
can only be told in microcosm, as Robert Carmichael has done in
this intimate and heartbreaking story of the disappearance of one
man, and the decades of suffering that followed as his family
searched for answers.' Seth Mydans, former Southeast Asia
correspondent for the New York Times 'As moving as it is well
researched. Robert Carmichael's sharp prose and depth of knowledge
of Cambodia's history transforms a daughter's search for her
missing father into a nation's journey to find peace and
reconciliation with its brutal history of genocide.' Loung Ung,
author of First They Killed My Father During the Khmer Rouge's
four-year reign of terror, two million people died in Cambodia. In
describing one family's quest to learn their husband's and father's
fate and the war crimes trial of Comrade Duch, who ran the
notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, When the Clouds Fell from the
Sky illuminates the tragedy of a nation. Having been found
responsible for the deaths of more than 12,000 people, Duch was the
first Khmer Rouge member to be jailed for crimes committed during
Pol Pot's catastrophic 1975-9 rule during which millions were
executed or died from starvation, illness and overwork. The Khmer
Rouge closed Cambodia's borders, barred all communication with the
outside world and sought to turn the clock back to Year Zero. They
outlawed religion, markets, money, education and even the concept
of family. But the revolution soon imploded, driven to destruction
by the incompetence and paranoia of the leadership. Like hundreds
of others, when he returned in 1977, Ouk Ket was utterly unaware of
the terrors being wrought in the revolution's name. Carmichael has
woven together the stories of five people whose lives intersected
to traumatic effect: Duch; Ket's daughter, Neary, who was just two
when her father disappeared; Ouk Ket himself; Ket's French wife,
Martine; and Ket's cousin, Sady, who never left Cambodia and still
lives there today. Through these personal stories and months spent
following Duch's trial, Carmichael extrapolates from the experience
of one man to tell the story of a nation. In doing so, he reaffirms
the value of the individual, countering the Khmer Rouge's
nihilistic maxim that: 'To keep you is no benefit, to destroy you
is no loss.'
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