Soth Polin

Penny Edwards

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Soth Polin in the 1970s. Photograph: Ulf Andersen

“There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other.”

Ernest Hemingway

L’Anarchiste, published in 1980 by the Cambodian writer Soth Polin, born 1943, flouts the mythology of la belle France and takes us to an entrepôt of broken dreams where the trauma of war haunts a Cambodian émigré, whose monologue comprises the second half of the novel. In Paris, weeks after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian taxi-driver Virak unburdens himself of a terrible secret. His audience is fresh road-kill: a young English tourist who is a victim of his distracted driving. Unlike other Europeans in the novel, who impose their own journalistic or ethnographic narratives on Cambodia, she cannot talk back.

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