Cambodian literary journal sees revival

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Written by Cecelia Marshall for The Phnom Penh Post

December 2nd, 2013

Cambodia’s only literary journal returned to print last weekend at the Cambodian Book Fair after a three-year hiatus. The 150-page volume contains short stories, poems and essays written by young Cambodian writers.

Teri Yamada, editor and co-founder of Nou Hach Literary Journal, said publishing the works of Cambodian writers validates their creativity. “It provides significance to their work, and to what they see and feel in this changing society,” said Yamada, adding that Cambodian literature has yet to fully recover from the cultural destruction of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Founded in 2002, Nou Hach halted production in 2010 due to a lack of funding and rampant piracy. But after raising money from both local and international donors in both Cambodia and the US, it resumed publication.

Yamada said that she aims to expose Cambodians to literature and inspire creativity, adding that Nou Hach is distributed to high school teachers to target young people.

The newest issue, said Yamada, comprises younger authors and bolder topics compared with previous years, with writers exploring issues ranging from corruption to sexism. The poem “I Repeat a Level” by Heng Oudom explores corruption in schools, while “A Daughter’s Tears” by Kao Sokchea tells the story of a young college-educated woman who unhappily agrees to an arranged marriage.

Yen Chheangly, whose poem “Strobe Lights” contrasts images of Phnom Penh’s high-powered club scene with urban poverty, said that the journal has helped him discover his muse.

“When I didn’t know how to write, I would see something sad or happy and I would have to keep that feeling to myself. Now I can use my heart words and spread it out.”

This is the first time Chheangly’s poetry has been published. For the past six years, he’s been developing his poetry skills with the help of Nou Hach’s free seminars and workshops that bring in foreign authors and academics.

Chheangly, whose poem won second prize in the Nou Hach’s poetry competition, said that he hopes that the journal is read both at home and abroad.

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