Iconic author’s lost book back in print after 50 years

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After being lost for nearly 50 years, a book of short stories collected by iconic Cambodian author Chute Kay, also known as “Cambodia’s Charles Dickens”, has been brought back to print.

Cambodian readers know Chute Kay for his masterpieces, including Khmouch Preay Asokay (Ghouls, Ghosts, and Other Infernal Creatures), a bestselling collection of ghost stories from 1973 published by Nokor Thom Publishing House, and later his memoirs such as A Young Boy in the French School, A Child of the Pagoda in French Times and A Sentimental Baby Buffle, all published in Cambodia by Sipar, an NGO that promotes reading in the country.

However, not many people know about Memay Pdey Bram (Widow of Five Husbands), although it was released in the same year as Khmouch Preay Asokay and also became a bestseller at that time. Indeed, most of the 4,000 original copies were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge era. Even Kay, who is now over 80 and lives in Paris, France, doesn’t have a copy.

Recently, however, an original copy was found in France by Kampu-Mera Editions, a Cambodia-based publishing house, who contacted the author for permission to publish a second edition.

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“I happily accepted,” Kay said. Khmer time in a telephone interview. “I am thrilled that the book can be alive and enjoyed by readers today.”

Memay Pdey Bram was released during a chaotic time in Cambodia, Kay recalls.

In 1973, although Kay was acting dean of the law school and head of the administration of the military tribunal, he was also writing for the anti-Sihanouk and anti-communist newspaper Nokor Thom, founded by Soth Polin, another famous Khmer writer. . .

“In 1973, Nokor Thom was closed, leaving many workers at its printing plant out of work,” he said. “To help them, I translated and wrote several books for publication, including Memay Pdey Bram.”

Kay is famous for his pioneering style of using ordinary vocabulary, including dialects and words considered crude and vulgar by many to tell his stories. He was also one of the first writers to incorporate Western literature like Robinson Crusoe and Dracula into his writing.

It’s all in Memay Pdey Bram, which contains nine humorous and satirical short stories written by Chuth Kay. The stories contain words, phrases and messages that modern people, especially women, may find offensive, but So Phina, editor of Kampu-Mera Publishing, claimed the book was a “product of its time” when it was first published.

“Many readers, especially feminists, may find it hard to believe that certain concepts or messages in the book aren’t offensive, but I think it actually reflects the mindset of people in the 70s,” she said.

“By publishing the second edition of the book, we hope to help readers learn and understand these aspects of the past.”

Phina added that her publishing house had been planning to publish old books for some time, but Memay Pdey Bram was the first project to come to fruition.

“Everyone knows that Uncle Chuth Kay wrote many books in his life, but many were lost,” she said. “We also want to keep old books so they don’t disappear forever.”

As time passes and his health deteriorates, especially after being infected with Covid-19 last year, Chuth Kay said he may not have much time left on Earth. , but he’s thrilled his legacy lives on.

“I am happy that Cambodians are reading again,” he said. “Like my other books, I hope this one will encourage more people to read and support Cambodian literature.”

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