Love and ambition in Angkor in the 1930s...
The novel Le Karma du conservateur ("The Karma of the Conservator") tells the story of a young French couple who come to live in Cambodia, he to work for the Conservation of Archaeological Heritage in Angkor, she to conduct ethnographic research in the villages. At first they appear the image of a perfect couple, yet, their relationship quickly deteriorates as their respective preoccupations drive them apart and a sick jealousy invades the young archaeologist Daniel. Between divergent ambitions and thwarted love, the affair turns tragic as Daniel is found dead in circumstances that remain mysterious. Throughout the story, rainy and dry seasons follow one another, while excavation campaigns on the site of the Angkor temples continue and Julie, increasingly close to the Cambodians, both notables and villagers, asserts herself in her profession and in her life choices. In a letter to Abel Reynaud, the conservator, she explains herself at length, alternating with Reynaud’s account of the events. Through these two points of view, a possible truth emerges for the reader.
" ... The story of the couple who disintegrates is not a novelty, but what makes this one particularly original is the Cambodian context at the time of the French Protectorate. ... "
" ... In this novel full of twists and turns, it is Abel Reynaud, curator at Angkor's Conservation and friend of the couple, who speaks and try to understand, analyze the facts, and find an explanation for the drama. Was Daniel the victim of an accident as the authorities suggest, or did he simply commit suicide?
I read this novel almost in one go, so much the reader that I am, was fascinated by the multiple facets of the story. ... "
Alain Forest is a historian and professor emeritus at the University of Paris 7 in the history of the Indochinese Peninsula. His work focuses on the history and anthropology of the Indochinese Peninsula, on religion and politics in the countries of Theravada Buddhism, as well as on relations between the West and Asia. He is the author of several works on the relations between Europeans and Southeast Asian societies and on Cambodia (history and society) including: Le Cambodge et la colonisation française (1897-1920) (l’Harmattan, 1978), Le Culte des génies protecteurs au Cambodge (l’Harmattan, 1992) et Histoire religieuse du Cambodge : un royaume d’enchantement (les Indes savantes, 2012). he also directed Le Cambodge contemporain (joint publishing of IRASEC and les Indes savantes, 2008). In Falcon, l’imposteur de Siam (les Indes savantes, 2010) – as in the present book – he gives free rein to his imagination as a novelist, while strongly basing it on historical facts, .