Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Disappeared - Kim Echlin

As an intrepid traveller and a proud supporter or Canadian Lit, Kim Echlin's The Disappeared definitely appealed to me and it did not disappoint.

This is the story of Anne Greves, a Montrealer, who at sixteen, falls in love with Serey, an older Cambodian student who has been separated from his family because of Pol Pot. Eventually, Serey decides to return to Cambodia to try to find his family and Anne suffers the pain of losing her first lover. Although Anne tries to move on, she is unable to forget Serey and eventually goes to Cambodia and finds him. She finds more than just Serey -- she discovers not only the horror of Pol Pot's reign but also the indefatigable nature of the Cambodian people. Despite the terror they have been forced to endure, they guide Anne as she acclimatizes to this very different country.

One of the things that I liked about the novel, of course, were the settings in peaceful Canada as well as war ravaged Cambodia. I also liked the fact that the novel covered a significant part of the protagonist's life because we can see her as a young naive woman as well as a mature experienced woman who somehow has managed to preserve her love for her lover, Serey and her love for being in love.

Usually I am not very tolerant of what I perceive as a gratuitous and self-indulgent poetic style employed by some writers, however, perhaps because The Disappeared is not a seemingly unending piece of fiction, the poetic nature of Echlin's writing does not detract but actually effectively enriches the portrayal of the protagonist's sensitive and ingenuous nature. "I see your long silence as I see war, an urge to conquer. You used silence to guard your territory and told yourself you were protecting me. I was outside the wall, an intoxicating foreign land to occupy. I wondered what other secrets you guarded. Our disappeared were everywhere, irresistible, in waking, in sleeping, a reason for violence, a reason for forgiveness, destroying the peace we tried to possess, creeping between us as we dreamed, leaving us haunted by the knowledge that history is not redeemed by either peace or war but only fingered to shreds and left to our children. But I could not leave you, and I could not forget, and I did not know what to do, and always I loved you beyond love." p. 120

Would I read this again? Probably not. Did I enjoy it the first time? Definitely!


  1. I thought that The Disappeared was very powerful. I thought that Echlin handles the horrific subject matter well, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about the Cambodian genocides.

  2. A friend of mine traveled to Cambodia a few years back and based on her description, I don't think it gets much more different than Canada. This book sounds like it captures that quite well.

  3. I liked this book a lot but I didn't quite make it to love. I wished the book was more fleshed out than it was. Weighty subject for a thin book. The language was beautiful, though.
    Scrat, I have a question for you but can't find your email. I'm looking to interview regular guys (brief email Q&A) for the final week of my blog and you commented on my first post that your husband is a reader. Could you drop me a line if this is OK? b[dot]kienapple[at]gmail[dot]com Thanks!!

  4. I've been eyeing this one for awhile, based on your review I'm putting it on my (out of control) want to read list. Thanks ... I think ... ;)