May 11, 2007

The King's Last Song, by Geoff Ryman

A great king brings peace to a warring nation. Centuries later his writings will bring hope to those facing the heart-rending legacy of Cambodia’s recent history.

When archaeologists discover an ancient book written on gold leaves at Angkor Wat, everyone wants a piece of the action but the police, the Army and the UN are all outflanked when the precious artefact is stolen, and its guardian, Professor Luc Andrade, kidnapped along with it.
Luc’s love and respect for Cambodia have won him many friends, including ex-Khmer Rouge cadre Map and the young motoboy William. Determined to rescue the man their consider their mentor and recover the Golden Book, they form an unlikely bond. But William has no idea just how closely Map’s violent past affects him.
The Book contains the wisdom of King Jayavarman VII, the Buddhist ruler who united a war-torn Cambodia in the twelfth century. With his enlightened wife he created a kingdom that was a haven of prosperity and learning.
The King’s Last Song skilfully interweaves the ancient story of Cambodia’s greatest king with the modern tales of Luc, Map and William. It is an unforgettable and dazzling evocation of the spirit of a land and her peoples in all their beauty and tragedy.

“Love was still possible. Kindly love, alleviating love, love which warmed and elevated. Love which made sweat sweet, feet beautiful, grass into a soft bed. Love gave anyone with the capacity to be happy for others a moment of pleasure. Love gave hope to anyone with a particle of courage left. It gave anyone whose strength was not exhausted a reason to think that life could always offer something.”

“I canoe through that inundation of sadness now at the end of my days. I have canoed through all my other battles on that same lake of tears. For we are angels, we are demons, we can be anything we care to be, but when the blood dances, the blood spurts. And then tears follow.”

“Khla krap kón tha khla sampéah. If the tiger lies down quietly before you, don’t say it respects you.”

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