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on 2 September 2017
Very informative.but a bit too much information.
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on 7 July 2009
Pol Pot - The History of a Nightmare by Phillip Short is a good book about one of the most disturbing and shocking incidents in the late 20th century. It does not just deal with the infamous period in which Pol Pot ruled Cambodia through fear and terror but also the history leading up to this event and how there was nothing inevitable about what eventually happened but instead it was the result of a long process of missed opportunities. It is a well-written book which has a nice pace and although in my opinion is not quite as good as the author's work on Mao it is still a worthwhile read. All in all a good book but the sheer number of names and the different alliases of many of the people mentioned can make it confusing at times.
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on 25 May 2012
The book is extremely well-written and detailed, providing a very good examination of Pol Pot's early life (despite the rarity of sources) and his journey from enthusiastic communist believer to modern monster. The struggle of the Cambodian people against first the French and then against their despotic monarchy is well-documented, as is the descent from victorious "liberators" to mass-murderers. A thoroughly good read which has filled huge gaps in my personal knowledge of the Cambodian story and as a recent visitor to the country, much of modern Cambodia makes more sense after reading this. Fully recommended
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on 1 October 2013
This is one of those stories which shakes a man trust in the human race.

The history of the communism taken to almost his ultimate conclusions is hunting.

It is interesting that Pol Pot adopted communism as a pragmatic way to make Campodia great. He actually believed in the superiority of communism as a social and economic system. And so he didn't bother to think how to implement it, but just went and did it. And so one of the most unequal system the world has ever seen was born.

The leaders were literally getting fatter while people died of hunger. It is interesting that you hear in many occasions that communism failed because it wasn't done right, some lingering capitalist relics were left, like money were still in use, and people still had something to trade, meaning small patches of private property still remained. In pol Pot's Campodia you couldn't even pick fallen fruits because it was an act of individualism. The result was mass starvation. The only thing which didn't make things a lot worse was that those guide lines weren't implement in all the countries at the same time.

Very interesting is the story of prince Sihanouk, the guy who paved the way for Pol Pot.

A very interesting read. A little dry at times, but it is not a novel.
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on 17 February 2015
For starts I would more call this book something like "The Rise and Fall of Communism in Cambodia" as it focuses just as much on Pol Pot's opposition as it does on Pol Pot. That being said, this is a fascinating insight in the Khumer Rouge and Pol Pot.

It's not light reading, not by a long shot but it's un-put-downable. It has clearly been meticulously researched and is in-depth while still being quite broad. It can get confusing as there are a lot of people, places, dates etc ut once you get your head around that the writing style just makes it so easy to read.

A must read book for anyone interested in Pol Pot, Cambodia or the Cold War.
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on 23 September 2015
Enthralling if sobering
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on 11 December 2015
Revealing book
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on 27 October 2006
Short combines academic rigour, meticulous research and easy-flowing prose to produce a biographical gem! What comes out is as much the biography of a nation people (the Khmer) as of Pol Pot... something Short clearly believes is as important, if not more so, than the politics and cold-war machinations which lead to the rise of the Khmer Rouge in the first place. There is a big cast of actors in this book, which makes it a tough read at times, but if you are looking for a serious and dispassionate study of a dictator and the horrors he set upon a whole nation, this is the one!
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on 25 July 2017
A deeply disturbing and detailed study of this terrible period of Cambodian history. The book gives a detailed and well explained exploration of how such a shocking period could happen.
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on 15 July 2005
Founded during the 1950s, the Khmer Rouge became infamous for their ruthless guerrilla fight against the Lon Nol regime and their murder of about two million people during their 1975-79 rule. Forced out of power in 1979 by the Vietnamese invasion the Khmer Rouge survived the 1980s with the help of Thailand and China. Following the Paris Agreement in 1991, it began to fade and following the death of Pol Pot in 1998 it practically ceased to exist.
This is what Philip Short's biography of Pol Pot is about. It is of course significantly more detailed than the above. Short follows Pol Pot from birth through school to Paris where the Khmer Rouge ideology was founded. And he is right, the similarities with the French Revolution and various aspects of Stalinism are indeed striking. The formation of the Khmer Rouge and their take-over of the country are again explained in detail, so is the gruesome 1975-79 period. When I read the book I occasionally felt that the structure of Cambodian society may have made it easier for the Khmer Rouge to gain power and hang on to it. The Khmer Rouge resistance period of the 1980s is well covered; so are the factors leading up to Pol Pot's arrest in 1997 and his end in 1998.
There are plenty of books on Pol Pot and various aspects of the Khmer Rouge rule. This should be one of the best.
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