The King revealed
Among the flurry of new NIAS titles appearing as the year hurtles to its end is something rather different – an alternative travel guide to a great Asian city: King Norodom’s Head: Phnom Penh Sights Beyond the Guidebooks by Steven W. Boswell. Targeting ordinary visitors and the specialist, thinking type of traveller, this fascinating guide deals with sights in and about Phnom Penh rarely dealt with in guidebooks and other works about the city.
However, the author – who has lived in Phnom Penh for many years – also had locals in mind when he wrote the book; they too should be interested in learning more about the quirky history of their home town. So it as proved, there being quite a lot of interest shown in the book (and already the author has had one typo pointed out to him by a keen local reader).
Recently, the Phnom Penh Post published a series of stories about the city based on Steve's book and now the Phnom Penh Weekly is weighing in with a humorous review by Philip Coggan. Here are some of the more serious bits of his review.
The story of Norodom’s statue and its head, and how the truth was uncovered, is just one of the fascinating tales in this collection. It’s like a box of chocolates, you can’t stop yourself. Each story is anchored to some physical artefact of the city, and each leads into a history you’d never have suspected. …
… and so we have this beautiful book, a labour of love from a gifted story-teller, written in a fluent and approachable style that wears its learning lightly. But make no mistake, there is real learning here, and no less a historian than David Chandler asked to be allowed to provide a foreword. Chandler sums up in these words: “For those living in the city and for people passing through, King Norodom’s Head … is bound to enrich their encounter.” I can only, and whole-heartedly, agree.
Because the main market for this book is in Phnom Penh and the surrounding Asian region, we printed the paperback in Thailand. (Even so, the cost of printing in colour is pretty steep and the reasonable price for the book makes it difficult to earn much on this title.) For customers elsewhere, it will be a few weeks yet before the paperback hits the bookstores. The hardback is available, however, as this was printed in the U.K.
Here is NIAS Press editor David Stuligross examining the first (hardback) copy of King Norodom’s Head to arrive at the press office. David put a mammoth effort into not just editing some great stories but also getting the crucial nitty-gritty background details right as well.
All in all, not a bad way to end the year – except there’s more to come (but that news isn’t for today).
- Feb. 29 2016
After a year of 48-hour days and frantic juggling, first copies of the printed volume of End of Empire: 100 Days in 1945 that Changed Asia and the World, edited by David P. Chandler, Robert Cribb and Li Narangoa, finally reached the NIAS Press office this morning.