‘People can get a compulsion to fix the place. Cambodia can be seductive like that’

Debut author Maeve Galvin worked as a humanitarian for the UN and tells Tanya Sweeney how her new novel explores the 'saviour complex', and the lure of hedonism that can seduce many foreign aid workers.

As anyone who has been there knows, Cambodia is a bubbling mass of contradictions. Natural beauty and friendliness collide with grinding poverty and corruption, for a start. In Phnom Penh, piles of rubbish languish in the gutter next to skyscraper hotels with glossy cocktail bars. It attracts people for many reasons.

“Expats call Phnom Penh the ‘playpen’,” Maeve Galvin, who has worked in the country as a humanitarian, smiles. “It’s a very particular setting – for people with any kind of compulsion towards addiction or hedonism, it might not be a great place, especially if you have unlimited [financial] resources.”

There are, famously, the ‘sexpats’ who frequent Street 51; the backpackers and tourists, and then those who arrive into the country for humanitarian work. And even in the latter faction, there are divides.

In full: https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/book-reviews/people-can-get-a-compulsion-to-fix-the-place-cambodia-can-be-seductive-like-that-39152988.html

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