From Cambodia to Japan

A Cambodian Student Looks at Life in Two Different Worlds


No courage to read

I've come across the translated (Japanese) version of this book several times at the library. But I had no idea it is a national bestseller, a recipient of a 2001 book award, or that it has been translated into nine languages, including Khmer, until I came accross the author( Loung Ung)'s website the other day. All I knew about this book is that it is a horrible account of the writer's life during the Khmer Rough era.

Honestly, I never want to go through its content. It's not because I am not moved by its title, nor because I dislike such books.

It's because I lack the courage to read it. Growing up in Cambodia, I'm used to hearing stories of unbearable hardship, brutal killings, starvations and struggling during the murderous regime from all sort of people--- most frequently from my parents, my grandparents; and occasionally from my teachers, my friend's parents, people I know and I never know.

The stories have been told and retold to me since the time I was able to speak and understand Khmer. At home, my parents would often recount their horrible experiences during the Khmer Rough era (My mom lost one mother and eight of her 12 siblings, not to mention dozens of her relatives). At school, my teachers would tell their own accounts which were equally terrifying. In the school's text books ( at grade 2, 3 and 4) , there were written stories of the suffering of people and brutal killings with illustrated images, which were no less unpleasant and painful. In the media (National TV and well as Radio) back then, similar accounts were often widely broadcasted.

So sometimes I feel I have heard enough of these stories. It's unpleasant, sad and horrifying enough to have absorbed all these traumatized accounts in your head. It's time to move on, to read and to search for something else.

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4 Responses to “No courage to read”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    thanks for sharing this with us. it definitely dispelled some of my false notions that cambodian youth don't believe that the khmer rouge ever happened or that it isn't being taught in the cambodian education system.

    it's a good book, i read it awhile ago, and trying to read more about the khmer rouge era because i grew up never learning about it.  

  2. # Anonymous Anonymous

    It is a difference, a foreigner can never imaging, how it is to read this book with Khmer eyes and a Khmer hard. Lost at least one family member, how will never exchange his/her memory with you!
    But I wish it will become a theme in history classes in Cambodia, and than it is ab to you, to read more about it or have enough, but at least believe that has happened, what some khmer students do not.  

  3. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Yes i agree wih you that it's painful or possibly annoying to hear the same sad and horrible stories being mentioned again and again.

    But what we forget to look at is the there-after stories of the living people who survived the most atrocious era of the human civilization. There are many still living with fears and nightmares. The whole Khmer people have changed their way of thinking. The struggles to survive has removed the core of Khmer value (honesty) from khmer souls. We are battling with ourselves to seek new values that, so far havent been well defined and have been blurred by the West-Vs-East cultural conflicts.  

  4. # Blogger បញ្ញា

    Me too. I wont read the books describing life in Pol Pot era. We know all or most of the happenings. It is for foreigners to find out. But I prefer to read how why Pol Pot came to power...who are to be put the blame on.  

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