Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bruno goes in-depth

Bruno Bruguier presents the 1st of his series of archaeological guidebooks of Cambodia
Okay so it was in French and I hardly understood a word, apart from the names of the Cambodian temples, but Bruno Bruguier's presentation of his latest work, the first in a series of six archaeological guidebooks on Cambodia that he hopes to publish, was well attended by the Fracophiles in the capital at the French Cultural Center earlier tonight. The 266-page book titled Phnom Penh and the Southern Provinces highlights the main ancient temple sites in the bottom half of the country to an in-depth level like never before, using recent photos and maps, alongside archive photos and drawings from the EFEO vaults as Bruno happens to work for the organization that has done so much to rescue and restore Cambodia's Angkorean heritage. Co-authored with his wife Juliette Lacroix, it's the first in a series of six they have written, though funding has been a tough nut to crack and with the help of Reyum, 3,000 copies have been produced. In front of such luminaries as Ang Choulean and Helen Jarvis, Bruno explained his approach to the research and some of his findings for half an hour before fielding questions from the audience. The first book concentrates on well-known temple sites such as Phnom Chisor, Tonle Bati, Phnom Bayang, Phnom Da, Ba Phnom and the cave temples of Kampot, but also introduces the little known sites at Prasat Chea Hao and Prasat Bassac in Svay Rieng. Funding permitting, he is looking to release the following titles in the future: Tonle Sap Basin and Sambor Prei Kuk; Banteay Chhmar and the Western Provinces; Kompong Cham and the Mekong Basin; Koh Ker & Preah Vihear - the Northern Provinces; Around Angkor.
Bruno takes time out to dedicate a copy of his new book

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Treasure trove of the South

The front cover of Bruno Bruguier's archaeological guidebook
Bruno Bruguier handed me a mint copy of the brand new archaeological guidebook to Cambodia, volume 1, and titled Phnom Penh and the Southern Provinces, fresh from the first print-run tonight and its an absolute gem for temple-enthusiasts like myself. 266 pages, packed full of well-researched text and 236 photos, drawings or maps. It's a treasure trove of detail - the biggest drawback being that it's all in the French language, which I am even worse at than the Khmer language. Tomorrow night, Bruno will give a presentation about the book and his research work on the temples of Cambodia at the French Cultural Center at 6.30pm, in French and Khmer, and the book will be on sale, published by Reyum, for the first time. Co-authored with Juliette Lacroix, it will retail at around $15. He's already penned another five manuscripts for the remainder of the temples in Cambodia and is looking for funding to publish all of his works, even better would be to get them published in English too, and considerably open up the audience for his books. Working for EFEO has given Bruno access to a wealth of historical research, photographs and maps and he uses them wisely in his new book to provide a 'must have' tome for any self-respecting temple-hunter, even if they can't read or speak French like me. I had dinner with Bruno at Comme a la Maison tonight, accompanied by an old friend of mine, Cristiano, a fellow temple-hunter from Kompong Thom and two members of a French television film crew who are following Bruno in his work as part of a documentary on French-influenced cultural sites in SEAsia. If I was ever to throw a dinner party then Bruno and Cristiano would be on my guest-list - I could talk about Khmer temples all night long! Fortunately tonight, my fellow diners did me the honour of conducting most of the conversation in English.
An impression of a cave temple at Phnom Khyang by Henri Parmentier, from the EFEO archives dated 1927. I visited this cave temple just a few weeks ago.

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