"There is a beast in all of us, but in Cambodia that beast is let out into the open," says Amit Gilboa of the country he calls a "fiction writer's dream". The Bangkok-based Gilboa's debut book, Off the Rails in Phnom Penh, is not a work of fiction, however, even though it reads like one. It is a racy, disturbing, fantastic, and sometimes funny account of the exploits of a motley group of expatriates in 1990's Phnom Penh, who spend their days visiting $2 brothels, eating ganja-topped pizzas, snorting heroin and shooting rockets at firing ranges. -- South China Morning Post, April 4, 1999. By Kavitha Rao
As a literary genre the travel narrative is often genteel to the point of yawn-inducing boredom. Maybe that's why first-time author Amit Gilboa's recent book, Off the Rails in Phnom Penh, is causing such a stir in Southeast Asia. Just one glance at the subtitle--"Into the Dark Heart of Guns, Girls, and Ganja"--tells you his hellish holiday in Cambodia will unfold more like a gonzo rant from Hunter S. Thompson than an erudite essay by Paul Theroux.
Gilboa spins a fascinating if somewhat fractured tale about a beautiful country whose people have been ravaged by decades of turmoil.
With its mix of random jottings, bizarre character sketches and diary entries, Gilboa's account plunges readers into the center of the Khmer storm. -- Time Magazine, February 1, 1999. By Jeffrey Ressner
The book is phenomenal. On a scale of the amount of muck raked it must come very high in the annals of reportage... The book...is by turns attractive, repulsive and frightening but never boring. I found it hard to put down, and will never forget it. -- The Nation, Bangkok, August 30, 1998. By Simon Johnstone
The debut work of young writer Amit Gilboa is a helter-skelter low-life travelogue through that neighboring madhouse named Phnom Penh. A book easy for old hands to dismiss as immature or nave, it's invigorating, exciting, packed full of fun and infectious youthful exuberance. -- Bangkok Metro Magazine, September 1998. By Ian Crawshaw
About the Author
Amit Gilboa was born in Israel, grew up in America, and currently lives in Bangkok. Over the past 10 years, he has studied in China, entrepreneured in Viet Nam, worked and researched in Cambodia, and written in Thailand, as well as working as a consultant in Washington, DC. Gilboa is fluent in Chinese, Khmer and Hebrew, and proficient in Thai and Vietnamese. While in Cambodia, Gilboa developed customer service training for Royal Air Cambodge, began a call-back partnership, and sold airline tickets, as well as teaching English and learning Khmer. In addition to his recent book about Cambodia, Gilboa has published numerous articles in North American magazines and newspapers. Gilboa is a 1991 graduate of Wesleyan University.