Cambodia’s lost literary life

George Chigas

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Kambujasuriya reflects Cambodia’s political transition from colonial subject to independent nation. Photograph: Robert Starkweather

Kambujasuriya, Cambodia’s first Khmer-language literary journal, provides a unique insight into Cambodian intellectual activity during the middle fifty years of the twentieth century. The first twenty-five years of the century set the stage for a robust period of literary activity, while in the last twenty-five years it was brutally silenced. Yet, as the Cambodia of the twenty-first century continues to renew and reinvent itself in the aftermath of Democratic Kampuchea, Kambujasuriya provides a rich source of intellectual history for anyone interested in tracing the country’s previous iteration of renewal and self-discovery at the start of the twentieth century. Indeed, examining the events pertaining to Kambujasuriya may well help us to understand better the origin of contemporary Cambodia’s new generation of civil society activists.

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