Ten days ago, our Battambang Book Club reflected on the novel “In the Shadow of the Banyan” by Vaddey Ratner. We had an interesting and fruitful discussion on this Khmer novel in English about the tragedy that occurred in Cambodia once the Khmer Rouge took over Phnom Penh in April 1975.
In a curious twist of fate, we realized that this novel is not well known in Cambodia but is appreciated more for its literary quality abroad. For example, the novel is not available in a cheap version at the Russian market in Phnom Penh unlike most other significant books on Cambodian history.
Perhaps the genre of historical fiction is not considered as reliable as autobiographical accounts in re-discovering historical truth. This issue has come up also in my blogs on “The Memory Stones” and on “Milkman”. In the “Shadow of the Banyan” is nonetheless a wonderful work of art for a number of reasons.