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Surviving the Killing Fields: Cambodian Odyssey [Paperback]

Haing S. Ngor , Roger Warner
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 Feb 1989
This is an autobiographical account of life in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, written by the Oscar-winning actor from "The Killing Fields", whose own experiences under the Khmer Rouge were more shocking than those of Dith Pran, the character he played. The Khmer Rouge, led by Maoist fanatics, laid waste to the social fabric of Cambodia, forcing the entire population into agricultural labour camps and murdering those they considered bourgeois or intellectual. As a doctor, Haing S. Ngor was a special target of the Khmer Rouge; his family was wiped out, his wife died from starvation in his arms, and he himself managed a dangerous escape from the devastated, war-torn country.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; New edition edition (10 Feb 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330306472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330306478
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 11.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 608,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"The best book on Cambodia that has ever been published." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Haing Ngor survived labour camp, torture and near death, before his escape to America. A champion for the cause of Cambodian refugees, he was murdered by street robbers in LA in 1996. Roger Warner, his friend and co-writer, writes extensively on foreign affairs. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding yet terrifying 12 Jun 2005
Dr. Haing Ngor's book on his life is probably the most heart breaking account of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. When I picked it up I literally read it in one go. And so will you. It is an amazingly absorbing story.

Starting off with his childhood, I found it amazing that a teenager as rebellious as Ngor nevertheless makes it into medical school and becomes a doctor working in a Phnom Penh hospital. Whilst he progresses we catch a good feel how quickly Cambodia falls into corruption during the Lon Nol regime. The take-over of the country by the Khmer Rouge in April 1975 was seen by some as a new beginning. It was indeed that, but rather different than people expected and one which still haunts the country today. Dr. Ngor's description of life under the Khmer Rouge makes every movie made on the subject a very polite first try. I think one should read all of it including the three bits Dr. Ngor suggests one (perhaps) shouldn't. Fleeing the country in 1979 to Thailand and then the USA, Dr. Ngor survives the killing fields. In the US he climbs to Hollywood success almost by chance. Dr. Ngor's life story is not a singular experience - everyone who survived the killing fields has a story to tell - but perhaps his was noted more than others' because of his Hollywood fame.

This book is a must for everyone interest in this part of Cambodian history.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 26 Aug 2004
By Adam
Format:Audio Cassette
This book is far more than a survivor's account of the Khmer Rouge era: it is also, unobtrusively, a lucid analysis of that regime and of the historical events that gave rise to it. Brilliantly written (or edited) - there is not one clumsy or cliche sentence to be found.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Survival in the Killing Fields 3 Jun 2004
By Alun
This is a superb book. Moving, traumatic, and totally absorbing. I could not put it down. This book takes you on a journey from the early childhood of Haing Ngor, through his teenage and early adult life and into the trauma of life under the Khymer Rouge, both on a very personal level, but also how a simple and beautiful way of life was torn apart by outside influences and foreign powers. Thought provoking, emotional and first class. One of the best books I have read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This is an excellent book that describes the life of Haing Ngor through childhood and then in more detail during the 3 years of Khmer Rouge rule. It gives a harrowing insight into this communist regime through the eyes of someone with everything against him, and as a result is subjected to the worst of thier cruelty.

While it is excellent on the Khmer Rouge, it is equally interesting for the insights it gives into normal Cambodian life and customs. The description of his early life describes rural life and later his success in Phnom Penh.

This is the most moving book I have read and I would recommend it to anyone who takes an interest in Asia or Foreign Politics, the latter as a shocking example of how it can go wrong.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book 15 Jun 2009
Well written and educational. It is a good way of putting yourself in the shoes of people that were there during the Khmer Rouge regime. Haing S. Ngor is an amazing man for surving the atrocities in Cambodia but sometimes I lost my sympathy for his personality a little bit. I thought he sometimes had some strange apathetic ideas about people around him which already starts in his early childhood. Altogether, it's a good book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars gripping 16 Nov 2006
I have never been so gripped by a book and so emotionaly attached. Probably the first book to move me to tears. An incredible and heart renching story of an easy going doctor and his wife as they are moved from their easy lives under the corrupt yet peaceful regime of King Sihanok, to the disasterous communist ideals under the Khmer rouge, to Thailand to Hollywood and fame. Graphic details of torture, conspiracy and a great account of human behaviour under unimaginable pressures of a crazy regime are highlighted here. I was hooked from the introduction till the last word. Its probably the best book i have read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Survival in the Killing Fields is a very well written account of the events leading up to the 1975 takeover of Cambodia by the Khymer Rouge. I would urge anyone to read this account - if you know of the Khymer Rouge you will know what to expect - if you haven't heard of the Khymer Rouge you will be staggered at how cruel man can be.

The author, Haing Ngor, was a trained doctor and worked in the hospital in Phnom Penh, so was a target for extermination by the rebels, and consequently the new government.

I won't cover the whole story, suffice it to say it covers his trials and tribulations in great detail, and he warns at the start of some of the more graphic passages of what is to come, so you can avoid these parts if you want. I would recommend that you do not miss these passages out as, uncomfortable as they are, it is essential to read these to understand how brutal the regime was.

The twist in this extraordinary tale of survival, is that after his escape from Cambodia, Ngor was chosen to play the part of Dith Pran in the film, The Killing Fields. I particularly found his account of his arguments with the film production company as he felt the film was not brutal enough, very interesting as anyone who has seen the film will know how brutal the film is.

This version has an extra chapter detailed what has happened to the author since he completed this book, a tragic end to the life of a man who survived the killing fields.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Makes you think - trying times
Published 21 days ago by Mr
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
What a book - a real life drama - emotional and exciting
Published 27 days ago by cornwall48
4.0 out of 5 stars Good interesting reading about actual person in Cambodia
Bought this as a present so i cannot really give you a decent review but the person was definitely engrossed in the book so i suppose it's a good read but for a better review there... Read more
Published 27 days ago by vinnie13
5.0 out of 5 stars Having spent 3 weeks in Cambodia earlier this year, ...
Having spent 3 weeks in Cambodia earlier this year, I couldn't help but be moved to tears at the story told in this book. The cruelty performed by the Khmer Rouge is unbelievable! Read more
Published 1 month ago by Paul Brennan
5.0 out of 5 stars Your worst nightmare - but a compelling read
Horrifying but compelling story of a doctor caught up in the atrocities of the Killing Fields. I immediately bought a DVD of the Killing Fields just to see this astonishing man on... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
excellent account of the horrific events in Cambodia
Published 1 month ago by MR R P COLHOUN
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading especially if you have seen the film
I expected this book to be the same as the film but it isnt! It is the story of the people ruled by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, how Cambodia was destroyed and the fight for... Read more
Published 2 months ago by shashootwiggy
5.0 out of 5 stars What to say?
This is unbelievable. Man's inhumanity to man. Haing Ngor next life should be much better. This is another piece of history that should never be forgotten.
Published 3 months ago by Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most moving accounts I have ever read
This book changed my life - I read with horror the story of Haing S Ngor yet the most awful of all was that his wife died on 2nd June 1978. Reading that changed my life. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mrs. Sarah L. Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars How intelligence creates courage
It is difficult to realise that the horrors of the killing fields occurred in our lifetime. Haing Ngor's account of his survival is both clinical and deeply human. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Aoteoroa
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