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‘A Woman of Angkor’ Imagines Historic Era

The cover of the "A Woman of Angkor"
The cover of the "A Woman of Angkor"
A Woman of Angkor,” by retired American journalist John Burgess, took a decade to write. But Burgess’s love of the period started much earlier: he first visited the Angkor complex in 1969.

Burgess, a former foreign correspondent and editor for the Washington Post, told VOA Khmer at a recent book reading in Washington that the temples have captivated him ever since.

“I would love for Angkor to become better known in the world,” he said. “In the Western world, we all grow up knowing about ancient Egypt, ancient Greece and ancient Rome. The Angkor civilization is very much the equal of those civilizations in terms of glorious and grandiose construction and arts, and yet almost nobody in this country knows about Angkor.”

The novel tells the story of a beautiful woman with a secret, who witnesses the building of Angkor Wat, its rise and internal violence there.

David Summers, a retired foreign service officer who attended the book reading, said he had visited Angkor Wat himself, and recognized some of its mystery. “I had these questions,” he said. “Who lived there? Who made this?”

“A Woman of Angkor” tells a story that helps answer those questions, he said.

Lay Polin, who also attended the reading, said she wanted to buy a copy but found them sold out. However, she said looked forward to reading the novel.

Burgess is the author of “Stories in Stone: The Sdok Kok Thom Inscription and the Enigma of Khmer History,” which gives the history of a remote Khmer temple situated in Thailand.