Saturday, April 24, 2010

Who's who

Elizabeth Becker signing copies of her new book Bophana at Monument Books
A who's who of names graced the book launch of Bophana, the latest release from acclaimed former New York Times journalist Elizabeth Becker, at Monument Books earlier this evening. A short speech and questions & answers by Becker was already over by the time I arrived at Monument, having been slow to get away from the football at Olympic Stadium. As I entered the bookshop and saw the massive turnout, I spied Mu Sochua and Roland Eng and knew the heavyweights were out for this particular publication. A mere 83 pages in length, printed in three languages and costing $8, with some of the profits going towards the Harpswell Foundation, Bophana has been published by The Cambodia Daily Press and describes the life of this Khmer heroine as well as Becker's desire to bring her story to a wider audience. Bophana does just that.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Book launch crazy

Monument Books in Phnom Penh are going book launch crazy. They are hosting Elizabeth Becker's new book, Bophana, tomorrow (Saturday) night and then follow that up with Peg LeVine's Love and Dread in Cambodia next Thursday (29 April) at 6pm. Hats off to Monument Books. For Becker, she first told the Bophana love story in her excellent book When The War Was Over and this latest version is published with The Cambodia Daily and available in English, French and Khmer languages. This is a must buy book showing the strength of love under extreme circumstances. For Peg LeVine, she spent a decade researching forced marriages and births under the Khmer Rouge and the traumatic impact this had on so many. Love and Dread in Cambodia: Weddings, Births and Ritual Harm under the Khmer Rouge is published by NUS Press Singapore.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Talk shop

Jon Swain (center) flanked by two hangers-on, myself (left) and Nick Ray (right)
It was sweltering hot, the pa system was inadequate and the organisers were completely unprepared for the huge turnout, and to be honest the panel session could've gone on into the wee hours, the interest was that high. The war correspondents from the late 60s and 70s were out in full force with Al Rockoff snapping merrily away as Jon Swain, Sylvana Foa, Dan Southerland and T Jeff Williams regaled us with their memories, paying particular emphasis to the gung-ho style of reporting in those days and the not to be forgotten contribution from their Cambodian fixers and fellow journalists. Tim Page stood up at the end to announce that the remains recovered recently did not belong to his friend Sean Flynn, George Hamilton, the suave, tanned actor from Hollywood was on hand to lend the event some kudos, but it was the incredibly large turnout that caught everyone by surprise and almost turned the night into a shambles. It was rescued but only just. Jon Swain and Elizabeth Becker graciously signed copies of their excellent books, River of Time and When The War Was Over, which have been in my possession for 15 and 20 years respectively. Nice people.
Three of the war correspondents at tonight's event, Jon Swain, Elizabeth Becker (center) and Sylvana Foa
My camera flash has managed to rob actor George Hamilton of his trademark golden tan - sorry George.
Veteran photographer Al Rockoff (right) snapping away at tonight's event
Jon Swain telling the packed audience of his memories of Phnom Penh
The animated Sylvana Foa and the more restrained T Jeff Williams at tonight's panel discussion
A wall of photos of the journalists who were killed or are MIA from the Cambodia conflict

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Becker's Bophana

If you have read Elizabeth Becker's acclaimed book, When The War Was Over, or watched the documentary by Rithy Panh that's played a couple of times each day at Tuol Sleng, you'll be aware of the story of Huot Bophana. Her love letters to her husband were found in her S-21 file and was a story that first captured the imagination of Becker and many others since. In her new book Bophana, the award-winning author and journalist, takes us closer to the main characters in this love story in the time of war. Elizabeth Becker has covered national and international affairs as a Washington correspondent at The New York Times, the Senior Foreign Editor at National Public Radio and a Washington Post correspondent. She began her career as a war reporter in Cambodia in 1972 and was one of only two journalists to visit Cambodia and interview Pol Pot while he was in power. She will be at Monument Books this Saturday (6pm) to launch her latest offering. website

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