A Pilgrimage to Angkor (Treasures from the Past)

The French travel writer and exotic novelist Pierre Loti (1850–1923), in his day the youngest member elected to the Academie Francaise, had dreamt of visiting the ruins of Angkor when, as a child, he came across illustrations of them among some papers belonging to his elder brother, who had served in Indochina in the navy. Loti, whose real name was Julien Viaud, was a full-time professional naval officer and was able to realize his childhood dream of going to Angkor in 1901 when his ship stayed some time in Indochinese waters.

Though the time he spent at Angkor was brief, he writes captivatingly about the glory of the temples and their magnificent reliefs hidden in the jungle. He was also able to visit a royal mausoleum built by King Norodom, and describes a reception given for him at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on his return journey to Saigon.

Loti’s book first appeared in French in 1912 and was translated into English the following year, with the inappropriate title Siam. Michael Smithies has revised this translation, adding footnotes and a new Introduction.

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