Monday, April 10, 2006

The Healing Pen

Can you think of an irony stranger than this: you're a writer, you get a job as a government censor ... and you're forced to ban your own books! This is what happened to Cambodian author Pal Vannarirak (left) when she found work with the Vietnamese-backed government - as a censor. But, she adds:
Because I knew the kinds of books I was hunting, I knew the kind of books I was not supposed to write. So I wrote them.
And then copied them by hand to sell door-to-door.

Geoff Ryman in the Guardian gives a fascinating glimpse into Cambodia's literary landscape 31 years after the Khymer Rouge genocide left only 300 intellectuals alive out of an estimated 38,000.

The writing community is working to reestablish itself, but faces many challenges. Professor Terry Shaffer Yamada, project coordinator of the Nou Hach literary journal lists them:
The first problem is venues to publish. Most newspapers and magazines will only publish your work if you pay them. Second, piracy. People will photocopy your book and sell it without your knowledge. There's no distribution system for books, no bookstore chains. Books are sold in outdoor stalls. We (Nou Hach) are the only literary journal for modern literature. Otherwise, you have to self-publish and try to figure out how to get it distributed.
But at least they now have programme about books and authors (with Vannarirak at the helm), which is more than we have here ...

And Ryman looks forward to the day when writers will be able to move beyond the pain of the past ...

I'm going to stick this quote from playwright Chhay Bora on my noticeboard:
A writer with the tip of his pen, can make the earth flip.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

like roti canai ? yup. Sometimes when I'm bored I like to make the earth flip.

__earth said...

Almost like Winston Smith except that Winston Smith isnt a writer. But hey, Ministry of Truth is far from fiction!

Anonymous said...

Is it ? I don't know. There's the truth, and then there's what people want to know and believe. We all have our ministers of truth.

lainieyeoh said...

interesting lady.

starlight said...

COPIED IT BY HAND???? oh my god. that it itself makes her a heroine.

dreamer idiot said...

Wow...great post, I learn loads from what you put up. It's like something like Russian Samidzat(?), right?

bibliobibuli said...

remarkable isn't it? i feel such a wimp in compariosn, so much opportunity, so little writing done ...

dreamer idiot - being fascinated by etymology, i googled and found it is more usually samizdat (though john pilger spells it as you do)... and it's actually a czech word comprising sam (self) and dat (to give, to make) ... and yes, the story gives a very good example ...

and putting up these posts is a learning experience for me too ...