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Cambodia: Bloggers promote Khmer Literature

អក្សររលត់ ជាតិរលាយ អក្សរពណ្ណរាយ ជាតិថ្កើងថ្កាន
Aksar roluat jeat roleay Aksar ponnareay jeat thkeung  thkan.

“If letters disappear, the nation will disappear, if letters are brilliant, the nation is excellent.”

This is one of the prominent Cambodian proverbs used mostly in Cambodian literature classes from primary to higher education level. It is the most influential message that inspires the young generation to promote Khmer literature. Strikingly, young Cambodian bloggers have transformed this proverb into action by promoting the achievement of past generation authors as well as creating their own literature and developing talents through the publication of digital and hard-copy materials.

Established in 2007, Khmer Youth Writers is initiated by young authors who are talented in Cambodian literature with the purpose of promoting and improving Khmer literature and its market.  Many of the young team members have won in the National Khmer Literature Competition, which is annually organized by the Ministry of Education.

Also, they were further trained by literature associations like the Nou Hach Literary Association whose motto is to strengthen and promote Cambodian literature. Their publications have gained admiration from readers who are curious to know more about how to become talented authors.

Asked about his interest in writing and becoming a literature author, 26 year-old Chanphal Sok, who claims to be the oldest in the team (the average age in the group is between 19 to 22), replied in Khmer language:

ខ្ញុំ! ចាប់អារម្មណ៍ព្រោះយល់ថាជាសិល្បៈដែលមិនងាយនឹងធ្វើបាន ទាល់តែមនុស្សពូកែទើបអាចសរសេរស្នាដៃបាន
គិតថា មិនមែនមនុស្សគ្រប់គ្នាអាចអ្វើការងារនេះបានទេ បើខ្លួនឯងមាននិស្ស័យអាចទៅរួចគួរតែខំប្រឹង

I am interested in this work for the fact that literature is a difficult artistic task. Only few talented people can do so. With special talent in literature, I therefore want to become an author.

Sophal also expresses the significance of his team’s literature work on Khmer reader and the whole society:

ទីមួយ ខ្មែរមានអក្សរសិល្បអាន។ អប់រំតាមស្នាដៃនិពន្ធ។មនុស្សអាចសិក្សាពីសង្គមមួយតាមស្នាដៃអក្សរសិល្ប៍ ។ខ្ញុំសង្កេតឃើញថា បើប្រទេសណា មានអ្នកនិពន្ធពូកែច្រើនប្រទេសនោះក៏រីកចម្រើនដែរ ។ មនុស្សរៀនតាមសៀវភៅ បើមានសៀវភៅល្អច្រើនប្រាកដជាល្អ។

Firstly, Khmer readers can benefit from Cambodian literature. It can be used for educational purposes. People can understand a society through literature. I observe that a country is prosperous when there are many talented authors. People learn by reading books; therefore, it is great if there are many books published.

Some members who live in the provinces could not join the team meetings regularly. The internet facilitates instant communication in the group. Sophal considers blogs as great communication tools. “A blog is like our officewhich we can share and make our works widely visible,” said Sophal.

One of the initiators of this Khmer Youth Authors, Archphkai or Asteroid, in his profile gave a brief history of the group as the following:

«ក្រុមអ្នកនិពន្ធវ័យក្មេង»  ត្រូវបានបង្កើតឡើងដោយក្រុមសិស្សនិស្សិតមួយក្រុម  ក្រោយពីបាន ឆ្លងកាត់វគ្គសិក្សារឿងខ្លីនៅសមាគមអក្សរសិល្ប៍នូហាចរួចមក។ ក្រោយមកក្រុមនេះត្រូវបានដូរឈ្មោះជា «ក្រុមយុវអ្នកនិពន្ធខ្មែរ» វិញម្តង ដោយបានទទួលការផ្តល់យោបល់ពីអ្នកស្រីប៉ិចសង្វាវ៉ាន អ្នកនិពន្ធខ្មែរនៅប្រទេសបារាំង។

“Young Authors Group” is established by a group of students who took literature training course at Nou Hach Literary Association.  This group later changed its name to “Khmer Youth Authors” with the advice of Khmer author, Mrs. Pich Sanvavan.

Here are the links to the blogs of these young team members as well as literature authors who have written various short stories and poems: Archphkai, Boran, Chanphal Sok, Chetra, Khmeng Toch , Narath , Nimol

Notably, Cambodia is fortunate to have many scholars and authors who are talented in literature. These writers employ chbap, or didactic codes, Reuang Preng, or folktales, and novels, for example, in order to educate and reflect the reality of society during their lifetime. For instance, the most popular novels published during late 1930s, which have been used as main school texts are Phka Srapon or Faded Flower by Nou Hach, Sophat by Rim Gin and Koulap Pailin or Pailin Rose, by Nuk Thiem. These novels have film adaptations. Also within the period of 1950s to 1975, about 50 books per year were published (Nepote, Jacques and Khing Hoc Dy, “Literature and Society in Modern Cambodia,” 1981: 64).

However, much of Cambodian literary heritage was destroyed during the rule of Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979) when the National Library was maintained to raise pigs instead. It was estimated that about 80 percent of written works in Khmer were destroyed (read “A Building Full of Books” by Ledgerwood in Cultural Survival).

Cambodia lacks its own text materials, especially since the fall of the Khmer Rouge Regime. Hopefully, the inspiring works of young Cambodian authors will help reawaken the past golden era of Khmer literature.


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