In the Shadow of Angkor (2004)

In the Shadow of Angkor

  • Paperback: 236 pages
  • Publisher: University of Hawaii Press (May 31, 2004)
  • Language: English
Nearly two million people died in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 as a result of the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal regime. Cambodians who were educated, teachers, artists, and authors were among the first to be killed. One generation later, literature is re-emerging from the ashes. 22 photographs. 

This book was published in 2004, twenty-five years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. Apparently it’s the first collection of contemporary Cambodian writing to appear in English. It was intended partly to celebrate the rise of a new generation of Cambodian authors.

Included were 34 pieces by 22 writers. There were 8 short stories/a parable/a traditional tale and 4 poems. There were 7 interviews, 6 autobiographical short stories, 4 essays, 3 rap song lyrics, 1 excerpt from an autobiographical novel and 1 filmscript. The range of works sampled was one of the most notable things about the collection.

Nineteen of the writers selected were from Cambodia. The oldest were Maha Ghosananda (1929-2007), a revered Buddhist monk, and U Sam Oeur (1936-), who was described as the first modern Cambodian poet to break from traditional forms and experiment with free verse, influenced by Walt Whitman. There were also writers whose careers began before the Khmer Rouge period: Kong Bunchhoeun (1939-), Chuth Kay (1940-), Soth Polin (1943-), Hak Chhay Hok (1940-ca. 1975), and Khun Srun (1945-78).

The youngest writers were Cambodian-born Americans Loung Ung (1970-), known for her memoir First They Killed My Father (2000); Pollie Bith (ca. 1975-); and the rapper praCh (1979-). Others included the Cambodian-born, France-based filmmaker Rithy Panh (1964-) and two novelists still living in Cambodia: Pal Vannariraks and Mao Somnang (1959-). The latter was called one of the few novelists who could support herself solely through writing. Of all the writers included, 10 were women.