College of Arts and Sciences

History Professor Publishes Short Story in New England Review  

Headshot of Maxim Matusevich, Professor of HistoryProfessor Maxim Matusevich, Director of the Russian and East European Studies Program, has published "The Road to Battambang" in the New England Review, one of the nation's leading literary magazines.

Sponsored by Middlebury College, the New England Review has long been affiliated with the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, described by The New Yorker as "the oldest and most prestigious writers' conference in the country."

For Matusevich, the publication of "The Road to Battambang" follows his late 2017 publication of "Arthur or Night on Earth" in the famed literary journal, The Kenyon Review.

The story in the New England Review explores the life of a Cambodian refugee living a quiet, married, middle-class existence in France, who returns regularly to her native land and the scene of her imprisonment at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. 

Mme Rancourt is Cambodian but she has lived most of her life in France, where she moved in 1980, about a year after Vietnamese troops chased the remnants of the black-shirted Khmer Rouge army out of Phnom Penh. She is Cambodian but she is mostly French, and she is French in a peculiarly French way—in a light, understated, occasionally brooding, but inevitably elegant way. Her weightless tailored linen pantsuits are testimony to her style and easy understanding of the demands of a tropical climate. She looks fit and much younger than her fifty-seven years. When in Battambang she always stays at Le Pavillon, an old colonial hotel run by a French management company. There is a timeless feel about the hotel’s interior, or rather it feels like it’s always 1934—the coolness of the checkered black-and-white floor tiles, the whirring of phlegmatic ceiling fans, the friendly hotel dog resting by the mahogany reception desk, the clunky black rotary telephone. The doors to the rooms, solid wood and curved at the top like ovals, are painted white. Mme Rancourt’s room is on the second floor, facing the pool where a couple of elderly guests (French? Scandinavian?) are lounging in the shadow of an old mangotree. It’s always the same room, reserved months in advance. Olivia, the hotel manager, originally from Marseilles, will make sure that the room is available to her friend—they have known each other for years and once even vacationed together in Portugal. These days Olivia doesn’t have much time for travel. Le Pavillon has been featured in several guide books, and Anthony Bourdain once stayed here during one of his whirlwind tours of Southeast Asia. TripAdvisor ranks it as the #1 hotel in Battambang. More work (which Olivia performs cheerfully and without a complaint) is the price of success.

Read more of the excerpt from "The Road to Battambang" here.

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