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River of Time

Jon Swain



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01 August 1996
Between 1970 and 1975 Jon Swain, the English journalist portrayed in David Puttnam's film, The Killing Fields , lived in the lands of the Mekong river. This is his account of those years, and the way in which the tumultuous events affected his perceptions of life and death as Europe never could. He also describes the beauty of the Mekong landscape - the villages along its banks, surrounded by mangoes, bananas and coconuts, and the exquisite women, the odours of opium, and the region's other face - that of violence and corruption.
By:   Jon Swain
Imprint:   Vintage
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Edition:   New edition
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm,  Spine: 19mm
Weight:   213g
ISBN:   9780749320201
ISBN 10:   0749320206
Pages:   352
Publication Date:   01 August 1996
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  General/trade ,  Primary ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Jon Swain left Britain as a teenager. After a brief stint with the French Foreign Legion he became a journalist in Paris, but soon ended up in Vietnam and Cambodia. In five years as a young war reporter Swain lived moments of intensity and passion such as he had never known. He learnt something of life and death in Cambodia and Vietnam that he could never have perceived in Europe. He saw Indo-China in all its intoxicating beauty and saw, too, the violence and corruption of war, and was sickened by it. Motivated by a sense of close involvement with the Cambodian people he went back into Phnom Penh just before the fall of the city to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975. He was captured and was going to be executed. His life was saved by Dith Pran, the New York Times interpreter, a story told by the film The Killing Fields. In Indo-China Swain formed a passionate love affair with a French-Vietnamese girl. The demands of a war correspondent ran roughshod over his personal life and the relationship ended. This book is one reporter's attempt to make peace with a tumultuous past, to come to terms with his memories of fear, pain, and death, and to say adieu to the Indo-China he loved and the way of life that has gone for ever.

Reviews for River of Time

A British foreign correspondent's often stirring chronicle of his life and times covering the war in Indochina during the years 1970-75. Swain, an award-winning Sunday Times of London reporter, looks back at the most memorable moments of his life: his assignments in Phnom Penh and Saigon during the last five years of the American war in Indochina. He does so with a no-frills memoir that also contains, among other things, his trips back to Cambodia and Vietnam in the 1980s, and his three-month kidnapping by revolutionaries in Ethiopia in the late 1970s. The heart of the book, though, is Swain's white-hot recreation of the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge. Acting on an irresistible impulse, Swain scrambled aboard the last flight into Phnom Penh from Bangkok on April 12, 1975. Along with several other journalists, he witnessed the first weeks of the infamous Killing Fields, the holocaust waged by the Khmer Rouge against the Cambodian people. Swain's account of the insane forced evacuation of the entire population of refugee-swelled Phnom Penh is not for the faint of heart. He sets out in often gruesome detail what he calls the greatest caravan of human misery he saw in five years of war. Swain includes an account of his personal brush with death, after he and the American journalist Sidney Schanberg and the latter's Cambodian assistant, Dith Pran, were detained by guerillas and threatened with execution. Swain's version of that incident, and of Dith Pran's subsequent surrender to the Khmer Rouge, jibes with what Schanberg wrote in The Death and Life of Dith Pran (on which the movie The Killing Fields was based). Swain, Schanberg, and Pran lived through their Cambodian nightmare. But Swain also tells the stories of many others who perished along with hundreds of thousands of their fellow Cambodians. An accomplished memoir that will be remembered for its evocation of the horrors of the Cambodian Killing Fields. (Kirkus Reviews)

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