On Friday evening 30th November 2012 there is a book launch at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. I will be the emcee and below are some of the comments I will make at the launch and want to share with you.
First to recognize:
Phnom Penh Noir is the anthology of fiction. For the first time a group of foreign and Cambodian authors have joined together to write stories set in Cambodia creating a bridge for the local and an international audience to travel over. An anthology such as this one is designed build a cultural bridge between communities.
Ten authors and artists who co-operated in this unusual project have come from around the world as well as from Cambodia to celebrate their participation in the making of Phnom Penh Noir.
I predict that in the future, we will look back at tonight as the beginning of new opportunities for Cambodian writers to reach an international audience.
Previous to Phnom Penh Noir, no one had tried to publish a collection of different voices, local and foreign. I took that as a challenge. Let’s follow the lives of Cambodians in the aftermath of The Killing Fields. While those events remain a powerful backdrop, what makes this collection of short fiction so compelling is to examine the contemporary lives and obstacles of people living and working in Phnom Penh.
The ghosts of Khmer Rouge period continue to haunt those living in the present—they say: “remember us and what happened here, what it meant and what it continues to mean.”
Phnom Penh Noir is a collection of stories and lyrics written as a testament to the people who survived the horror of those bleak days and to those born later, who have no direct memory of the past.
The stories in Phnom Penh Noir roam between these two communities, the old and the young, one remembering, one forgetting. And the stories come as well from the expat community living here.
The authors explore the tension between generations and between locals and outsiders. As readers, you become witnesses to these stories of the hearts and minds of people.
These Cambodia inspired stories are reflections about what we are capable of doing and the nature of forgetting and forgiveness. The authors in Phnom Penh Noir took up the challenge to make the lives of people in Cambodia understandable to others. And these stories make human conflict intelligible, accessible and memorable. How do we go about reconciling another person’s suffering and pain from the past with her pressure to find closure and move ahead?
That is a larger question writers ask whenever they turn to fiction to address the existential issues that underscore our stories and books.
For more information: www.phnompenhnoir.com