Soth Polin was born in 1943 in Kompong Cham province to a middle-class, intellectual family that spoke French and Khmer. His great-grandfather was the poet Nou Kan. Throughout his youth, he immersed himself in the classical literature of Cambodia as well as the literature and philosophy of the West. His first novel, A Meaningless Life, was strongly influenced by Nietzsche, Freud, and Sartre, as well as by Buddhism. Numerous novels, short stories and philosophical tales followed, among them The Adventurer, Whatever You Order Me . . . I Will Do It, and The Death of Love.
Soth Polin was part of a vibrant community of writers and intellectuals before the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1975. In the late 1960s, he founded the newspaper and publishing house of Nokor Thom, which published many of the contemporary authors of his day, most of whom would perish during the Khmer Rouge regime. In 1974, he left Cambodia and took refuge in France. He worked as a taxi driver, published a French-Khmer dictionary, translated Cambodian songs, and published his novel The Anarchist in French, which was reprinted in 2011. He also wrote “The Diabolic Sweetness of Pol Pot,” an article for Le Monde, about his experiences being taught French literature by Pol Pot in a school in 1957. Soth Polin later moved with his two sons to the U.S. West Coast, where he wrote the novel The Widow of LA and several serialized stories for Khmer newspapers.