Pilgrimage to Angkor, Aby Pierre Loti
Translated by W. P. Baines & Michael Smithies
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.
His book first appeared in French in 1912, and was the following year translated into English, with the inappropriate title Siam. Loti's style was made to appear more wilfully archaic than the original and has long been unobtainable.
This translation has been revised by Michael Smithies, who has also written an introduction and footnotes to the work. Euayporn Kerdchouay has provided recent illustrations of the temples.