Facing the Torturer: Story of Khmer Rouge's chief jailer

François Bizot attempts to explain how Duch, the Khmer Rouge's head jailer during Cambodia's Killing Fields era, became a genocidist monster.

Facing the Torturer
François Bizot
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How does someone become a monster?

By any measure, Duch - the nom de guerre of the Khmer Rouge's head jailer during Cambodia's Killing Fields era - is an archetypal monster, a political zealot responsible for the systematic torture and murder of thousands of people, many of whom he knew were innocent.

François Bizot, a French researcher who for three months in 1971 was imprisoned, interrogated, befriended and then freed by Duch, becoming one of the few to be released from Khmer Rouge jails, would seem to be the perfect person to answer the question of causation.

Bizot has a wealth of material at his disposal, including visiting Duch in jail in 2009 awaiting trial for crimes against humanity.

All this makes Facing The Torturer such a disappointment since Bizot spends almost the entire book in a meandering stream of consciousness on how any one of us could be like Duch.Paradoxically, a transcript of Bizot's testimony to the trial forms an appendix and is pointedly more coherent than anything in the preceding pages to actually explain Duch's transformation into a monster.