Rollin' on the River…the Mekong River in French Indochina

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Mekong River travel adventure book released in its first English translation. Author George Groslier—quintessential witness to colonial Cambodia—describes his 2,000 km river journeys in 1929 French Indochina.

"Water and Light–A Travel Journal of the Cambodian Mekong", George Groslier, front cover, ISBN 9781934431870, adventure travel

"Water and Light–A Travel Journal of the Cambodian Mekong" by George Groslier. DatAsia Press, 2016.

This is travel adventure journalism at its best. Groslier’s keen eye for detail gives readers intimate—often surprisingly candid—descriptions...

In 1929, author and artist George Groslier set out by boat to inspect Buddhist pagodas along two-thousand kilometers of the Cambodian Mekong. Groslier—among the first French children born in 19th century Phnom Penh—spoke fluent Khmer and by then was recognized as a quintessential witness to colonial Cambodian life. Months later he returned with rare photos and a 600-page travel diary filled with first-person impressions.

As Groslier accurately pointed out in his original preface: “I could even claim that a tour like this will perhaps not be undertaken again anytime soon…if ever again…the old Cambodia has been so thoroughly upset by Western influence.” Indeed, such a journey was not, and could not be repeated. His experiences remain unique.

On February 4, 2016, "Water and Light–A Travel Journal of the Cambodian Mekong" appears in English translation for the first time, simultaneously commemorating the 129th anniversary of George Groslier’s birth. A basic version of his travelogue was previously published in French as "Eaux et Lumières" to coincide with the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition.

Groslier dedicated his life to the arts of Cambodia, founding both the country’s National Museum and School of Fine Arts. Tragically, only weeks before the end of World War II, Groslier died in a prison camp under Japanese torture. Following his murder, Groslier’s entire catalog of eighteen rare books about Southeast Asia fell into obscurity.

In 2008, historian Kent Davis—a self-described “literary archaeologist”— began working with the author’s daughter, Nicole Groslier Rea, to revive her father’s legacy and to restore his creative works that had disappeared more than half a century earlier. In his role as editor at DatAsia Press, Davis comments “This is travel adventure journalism at its best. Groslier’s keen eye for detail gives readers intimate—often surprisingly candid—descriptions of the people who inherited their art, history and traditions from the great Khmer Empire that once ruled Southeast Asia.”

In his foreword for the new full-color edition, French literary expert Prof. Henri Copin writes “George Groslier was a man whose pen could stroke that singular balance between things he saw, encountered, and felt, within his own dreams embodied by the foreign land he explored. These pages carry exceptional weight in their literary depiction of Cambodia.”

"Water and Light–A Travel Journal of the Cambodian Mekong" by George Groslier was edited by Kent Davis, with foreword by Henri Copin, and literary translation by Pedro Rodríguez. The book features more than 70 hand-tinted illustrations, including Groslier’s original photos; appendix articles by Paul Boudet, Dr. Paul Cravath and Solang Uk; and the complete original French text. First Edition. Florida, USA: DatAsia Press, 2016. Published simultaneously in the UK and USA. ISBN 1934431877. US$34.95.

Four other George Groslier titles are available in English from DatAsia Press: "Cambodian Dancers–Ancient and Modern" (2011); "In the Shadow of Angkor–Unknown Temples of Ancient Cambodia" (2014); "Return to Clay–A Romance of Colonial Cambodia" (2014); and Road of the Strong–A Romance of Colonial Cambodia (mid-2016).

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Kent Davis

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