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Khmer Civilization and Tradition (in English)Posted: 2009-10-01 22:53:53   Replies: 0
Khmer Literature (2)

Cambodian literature today
Most Cambodian writers cannot live on the proceeds of their writing. In recent years, well-known writers have turned their hand to writing for television and video, where the rewards are more certain. However some formal encouragement for novels and other creative writing does exist.
The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has a Directorate of Cultural Publications and Reading which offers various prizes and awards each year in rotation to encourage the submission of manuscripts: these are the Angkor Prize, the Preah Reach Samphear Prize, the Preah Suramarit Prize, the Queen Indradevi Prize and the Samdech Hun Sen Prize. A number of NGOs also offer awards for manuscripts.
In 1993, the Khmer Writers Association was re-established as an independent NGO by two of its former members. By 2002 the Association had a membership of almost 200, of which less than half were said to work full time as writers. The Association, under the leadership of You Bo, conducts training workshops for writers and runs literary competitions to encourage the submission of new manuscripts, through support from the Royal Palace (for the Preah Sihanouk Prize) and the Prime Minister (for the 7 January Prize). Currently in abeyance due to lack of funds, these two competitions ran for five successive years, garnering over 100 entries each time in the early years.
Through training workshops over the past decade, the Khmer Writers Association has successfully nurtured the development of a new generation of creative writers, including novelists Ouch Vutha, Uom Niroth, Hou Yath and Nget Sophorn and poets Sok Sothon, Pol Pisey, Uk Sau Bol, Eum Sarom, Som Sophierin and Hy Kim Siep. Emerging writers since 1999 include Yem Samna, Wa Samart, Un Sok Hieng, Phu Yaat and Saim Phuneary.
No longer able to organise literary competitions due to lack of funds, the Khmer Writers' Association has in recent years shifted its focus of training to include courses on how to write screenplays, and a number of former trainees have gone on to work with the Cambodian Television Network (CTN), the BBC World Service Trust and others.
At present new writing receives exposure mainly through small-scale self-publishing efforts generally print runs of one to two thousand copies, priced at 2,000-3,000 Riel each (50-75 US cents). Two recent verse-novels - Hy Kim Sieps Veasna Bopha Rungkruh (A Womans Misfortune) and Saim Phunearys Wopadek Sarey (Remorse) - were both published in this way. Unfortunately newspapers no longer provide space for fiction-writing, although Pracheaprey (Popular Magazine) has on occasion serialised work by leading writers.
Though more people are reading, the market is dominated by the pre-war classic novels, suggesting an ongoing nostalgia. At the time of writing, the vision of a classless society in Kolap Pailin (Rose of Pailin) is being serialised on radio, while the literature curriculum at high school and university still emphasises socialist themes of class struggle.

Ethnic minority literature
Ethnic minority literature is oral in nature. The Jarai, Rhade and Pnong in particular preserve a rich corpus of epic poems which have been passed down from generation to generation through the ancient art of sung storytelling. Delivered during festivals and other special occasions by village elders who learned the ancient tales by heart, these poems serve to teach morality as well as to perpetuate the various proverbs, myths, legends and cosmology associated with each ethnic group.
Sadly this art form has died out in many areas, but it is still practiced in some remoter villages.

Reference: Cambodia Cultural Profile

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