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Angkor to Year Zero and Beyond

November 2015

Image: Marine Ky, "Interventions / Saṅkhāra-Khandha: The Builder of Lives"(Detail) 2009-2013. Mixed-media with inks made from plants collected in France and mixed with iron.

Image: Marine Ky, “Interventions / Saṅkhāra-Khandha: The Builder of Lives”(Detail) 2009-2013. Mixed-media with inks made from plants collected in France and mixed with iron.

This month we present writing from Cambodia. In a departure from our usual contemporary focus, we’re offering a selection of texts ranging from twelfth-century poetry to twentieth-century song, outlining Cambodian history as revealed in its literature. Translated from Khmer, French, and Sanskrit, and complemented by mesmerizing audio recordings, the prose and poetry here bring this little known literary tradition to English. In work by two survivors of the Khmer Rouge, the great poet U Sam Oeur recalls his childhood during the Japanese occupation of the 1940s, and Soth Polin considers filial devotion and betrayal. Laura Jean McKay speaks with writer, musician, and artist Oum Sophany about her journals from the Khmer Rouge regime. Kham Pun Kimny comes clean on his love of the road, and poet Ukñā Suttantaprījā Ind (Oknha Sottanpreychea Oen) records a nineteenth-century pilgrimage to Angkor Wat. Pioneer woman Khmer poet Queen Indradevi eulogizes her sister and her king, while Cambodia’s first rap star busts a modern move. And the “Elvis of Cambodia,” Sinn Sisamouth, performs Kong Bunchhoeun’s ode to the Sangkae River. Guest editor Sharon May contributes an illuminating introduction.