Beloved writer Kong Bun Chhoeun dies

Kong Bun Chhoeun (October 18, 1939 – April 17, 2016) was a famous Khmer novelist and songwriter. He has been given the nick name “Master Poet of Songkae River” because most of his work is closely knitted to his birth place of Battambang. His writing career started in the early 1955. It was not until 1957 that he gained recognition and popularity after winning a literature prize for his work “Love Til The End”. His writing career came to a stand-still during the Khmer Rough era (1975-1979). Link source

Cambodian music, poetry, film and literature lovers are in mourning for the loss of Kong Bunchhoeun, who died on April 17, 2016, aged 76. Photo supplied

Audrey Wilson, The Phnom Penh Post
Mon, 18 April 2016

Prolific Cambodian songwriter, poet, filmmaker and author Kong Bunchhoeun passed away yesterday in Norway at the age of 76. His death was announced by his family on Facebook.

Bunchhoeun composed over 200 songs during the 1960s and 1970s, writing for “Golden Age” greats, including Sinn Sisamouth. Most of his work centred on his hometown of Battambang, earning him the sobriquet “Master Poet of Songkae River”.

For most Cambodians, Bunchhoeun is most recognisable as a songwriter. “His loss is a great loss for Cambodia,” said Seng Dara, a music researcher and radio host. “He composed songs for so many singers: Ros Sereysothea, Pen Ron, So Saveurn, Eng Nary.”

But Bunchhoeun also wrote poems and novels, beginning when Cambodian literature flourished under the patronage of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk. He survived the Khmer Rouge regime in part by taking a writing hiatus, according to Heng Sreang, the director of PEN Cambodia.

Even today, there is “no real record” of how many novels he may have written, Sreang said. And while he often remained out of the public eye, he at times became vocal on the page.

Bunchhoeun’s most well-known work of literature, The Destiny of Tat Marina, published in 2000, is a loosely fictionalised account of his niece Tat Marina’s affair with Svay Sitha, an undersecretary of state at the Council of Ministers, and the subsequent acid attack that left her suffering ghastly wounds. Marina identified Sitha’s wife, Khourn Sophal, as her attacker.

An arrest warrant for Sophal was signed, but she was never arrested. Bunchhoeun saw Marina’s story as an opportunity to speak out. “By highlighting the case of Tat Marina, we can hold up a mirror to the ills affecting Cambodian society,” he told the Post at the time.

It was the last book that Bunchhoeun would publish in the Kingdom. After receiving death threats, he sought asylum in Thailand and later in Norway, according to Sreang.

Bunchhoeun continued writing in self-exile, publishing at least 10 books from abroad, said Vong Socheata, a devotee of Khmer literature who counts the writer among her favourites.

“Less well known to most Cambodians are his novels written in the 1990s and early 2000s, but people who love novels love his work,” she said. “He touches on everything: philosophy, psychology, history.”

In the wake of Bunchhoeun’s death, many fans took to social media to express their grief. Among them, on Twitter, was film director Rithy Panh. Bunchhoeun counted filmmaking among his many modes of expression, Panh said, and some of his early novels were made into films after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime.

“We have lost one of our greatest authors, a remarkable poet and songwriter – and maybe the last contemporary one,” Panh wrote in an email.

Heng Sreang, of PEN Cambodia, noted the irony that he died outside of his home country.

“The sad thing is that Cambodia did not and has not taken care of its great writers. We have few surviving talented people – with little care from the government,” he said.

So Phina, head of PEN Cambodia’s women writers committee, said she hoped Cambodian writers might draw inspiration from his work.

She highlighted a particular poem, Chivit Ney Chivit (Life of My Life): “In my whole life, I don’t want anything more than freedom to write,” it reads.

He is survived by his wife, Uch Kolab, and three children.

Additional reporting by Kong Meta.

 


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ប្រវត្តិកវីនិពន្ធគង្គ-ប៊ុនឈឿន

Kong Bun Chhoeun (October 18, 1939 – April 17, 2016) was a famous Khmer novelist and songwriter. He has been given the nick name “Master Poet of Songkae River” because most of his work is closely knitted to his birth place of Battambang. His writing career started in the early 1955. It was not until 1957 that he gained recognition and popularity after winning a literature prize for his work “Love Til The End”. His writing career came to a stand-still during the Khmer Rough era (1975-1979).

His recent work is a book The Destiny of Marina, or Acid-Laced Vengeance, published in 2000. The book bares many similarities to the 1999 scandal of a karaoke singer who was attacked with acid by the jealous wife of a government official. The book details the problem of official impunity in Cambodia. After publication, Kong Bun Chhoeun received multiple death threats. In November 2000, he fled to Thailand. He was living in Norway until his death in 2016.

កវីម្ចាស់ស្ទឹងសង្កែ គង្គ ប៊ុនឈឿន កើតនៅថ្ងៃ ១៨ ខែតុលា ឆ្នាំ ១៩៣៩ នៅភូមិចំការសំរោង ឃុំចំការសំរោង ស្រុក បាត់ដំបង ខេត្តបាត់ដំបង ។ ឪពុកឈ្មោះ គង្គ ឈិនម្តាយឈ្មោះ ម៉រ ភឹង ។

លោកបានចូលប្រឡូកក្នុងវិស័យតែងនិពន្ឋ ចាប់តាំងពីកំឡុងឆ្នាំ ១៩៥៥ មក រហូតបានប្រលងជាប់លេខមួយ ជាលើកដំបូង នៅក្នុង ឱកាសមហោស្រពអក្សរសិល្ប៍មួយ នៅក្នុងខេត្តបាត់ដំបងក្នុងឆ្នាំ១៩៥៧ ក្នុងស្នាដៃឈ្មោះ ” ស្នេហាលុះអវសាន”។

លោកជាអ្នសរសេរកាសែត អ្នកនិពន្ឋ ប្រលោមលោកពាក្យរាយ ប្រលោមលោកពាក្យកាព្យ កំណាព្យ ចម្រៀង សេណារីយ៉ូភាពយន្ត ជាអ្នកដឹកនាំសម្តែង ជាអ្នកនិពន្ឋបទភ្លេង ដ៏ល្បីឈ្មោះម្នាក់។ ក្រៅពីនេះ លោកក៏ជាអ្នកគូរ គំនូរអប់រំផងដែរ។

នៅឆ្នាំ ២០០០ លោកជាអ្នកនិពន្ឋជនជាតិខ្មែរ ទី ២ បន្ទាប់ពី ឯកឧត្តម ពេជ្រ ទុំក្រវិល ដែលបានទទួលជ័យលាភី ស្នាដៃតែងនិពន្ឋក្របខ័ណ្ឌអាស៊ាន ។

លោកត្រូវបាន អ្នកនិពន្ឋខ្មែរទាំងឡាយ ចាត់ទុកជា អ្នកនិពន្ឋដ៏ឆ្នើមម្នាក់របស់កម្ពុជា ដែលបានបន្សល់ទុក នូវស្នាដៃផ្នែកតែងនិពន្ឋ យ៉ាងច្រើនសន្ធឹកសន្ធាប់ មានប្រលោមលោក និង ចម្រៀងសម័យដើម ដែលមាន អធិរាជសំឡេងមាស ស៊ិន ស៊ីសាមុត អ៊ឹង ណារី រស់ សេរីសុទ្ឋា ប៉ែន រ៉ន និង អ្នកចម្រៀងល្បីៗ ជាច្រើនរូបទៀត បានបកស្រាយ ហើយស្នាដៃទាំងអស់នោះ នៅតែ ស្ថិតក្នងមនោសញ្ចេតនា អ្នកអាន និងអ្នកស្តាប់រហូតមកដល់សព្ឋថ្ងៃនេះ ។

Posted on: April 21, 2016 11:03 pm