In 1971, on a routine outing through the Cambodian countryside, the young French scholar Francois Bizot was captured by the Khmer Rouge. Accused of being an agent of "American imperialism", he was chained and imprisoned. His captor, Douch, later responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, interviewed him at length; after three months of torturous deliberation, during which his every word was weighed and his life hung in the balance, he was released. No other Western prisoner survived. Four years later, the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh. Francois Bizot became the official intermediary between the ruthless conqueror and the terrified refugees behind the gate of the French embassy: a ringside seat to one of history's most appalling genocides.
Francois Bizot is a French ethnologist who has spent the greater part of his career studying Buddhism. He is the Director of Studies at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes-Etudes and holds the chair in South-East-Asian Buddhism at the Sorbonne.