Cambodia Calling: A Memoir from the Frontlines of Doctors Without Borders

Richard Heinzl, Author . Wiley $26.95 (259p) ISBN 978-0-470-15325-3

Despite having all the elements of an absorbing drama—life and death in exotic locales, heroic doctors working in the shadow of the Khmer Rouge, corrupt officials and impoverished citizens—this intermittently atmospheric memoir never truly captivates. Heinzl, a Canadian physician who founded his country's chapter of Médecins Sans Frontières , starts his account with the experience that catalyzed his interest in the international humanitarian organization: in 1985, he abandoned a medical school elective in Kenya to see the war in Uganda. Jumping ahead six years, the disjointed narrative stitches together Heinzl's recollections of his first posting at a rudimentary hospital in war-ravaged Sisophon, Cambodia; his frustration with MSF politics and bureaucracy, and experiences as a bar rang or white foreigner. But in this dispassionate account, Heinzl never transcends his outsider status, nor does he seem to try. One of his biggest problems is how to spend his relative wealth—$50 per month, which brings longed-for luxuries like Cuban cigars all the way from Amsterdam. Among the most vivid scenes are Heinzl's early visit to Angkor Wat and his stay, against MSF policy, at a five-star hotel in Phnom Penh shortly before leaving Cambodia. When he burns out after six months, he doesn't seem to have earned his escape. Instead, Heinzl comes off as an intrepid traveler whose relief work is less a calling than a ticket to adventure. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/24/2007
Release date: 03/01/2008
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Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4434-2970-2
Open Ebook - 263 pages - 978-1-283-20294-7
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-470-73743-9
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-470-73953-2
Portable Document Format (PDF) - 270 pages - 978-0-470-15668-1
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