Cambodia, crime, and history
|Andrew Nette (right) with your humble blogkeeper|
at Philadelphia's Noircon convention in 2014
First, the books on which the observations are based:
1) Phnom Penh Noir, edited by Christopher G. Moore
2) A History of Cambodia, by David Chandler
3) Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare, by Philip Short
4) Ghost Money, by Andrew Nette
5) The Pol Pot Regime, by Ben Kiernan
For one, at least two of the stories appear to include allusions, conscious or otherwise, to Casablanca. This makes sense; Casablanca was a refuge or a last stop for dubious sorts with agendas of their own from all over the world. So was Phnom Penh after Vietnam ousted the Khmer Rouge in 1979. Among the dubious sorts in Phnom Penh, living high amid the local squalor, were workers from non-governmental aid organizations. This is the heart of the first story in Phnom Penh Noir, by Roland Joffé. who directed The Killing Fields.
Second, orientation by landmark is less frequent than I expected in the stories set in Cambodia and written by foreigners, but it is nonetheless present. Without descending into travelogism, the stories will situate places in the story by their relation to major landmarks in a way I suspect native writers would not.
Third, the mutual enmity of Cambodians and Vietnamese, whose best-known manifestation in recent decades is probably Vietnam's 1979 invasion, may have its roots in conflict of countries that fell under the sway of Asia's two great ancient civilizations of India (Cambodia) and China (Vietnam).
Finally, to scramble the notions of native and foreigner, came "Broken Chains," a selection of rap poetry interspersed with biographical snippets in Phnom Penh Noir by Kosal Khiev, born in a Thai refugee camp, migrated to the United States as an infant, convicted of attempted murder, jailed for 14 years, then deported to Cambodia. Where does he belong?
While you ponder that question, here's Andrew Nette on Phnom Penh Noir and writing noir in Asia.
© Peter Rozovsky 2015