When Puy Kea was a teenager, he often listened to his parents and teachers reciting the poetry of Krom Ngoy, known as the father of Khmer poetry.
Ngoy, who was born in 1864 and died in 1936, was considered a talented wordsmith and renowned for his skill playing the kse diev, a traditional one-stringed instrument.
The Bondam Krom Ngoy, a collection of Ngoy’s verse published by the Buddhist Institute, is considered a repository of Khmer wisdom. It contains all kinds of advice about how to lead a good life, for parents, children, married couples, workers and even monks.
But when Kea went to look for the book, the only copy he could find was at the Buddhist Institute in poor quality and written in Pali and Sanskrit.
“It was hard to read because of the paper and the language,” the journalist and academic said this week.
Concerned that Ngoy’s wisdom was going to waste, Kea decided to publish a new collection of the poet’s work himself, compiling and translating fragments into a 100-page tome.
“I spent more than a year researching and collecting documents from different publications, checking spellings and meanings because sometimes people wouldn’t understand what he meant,” Kea said.
“I love all of the advice and I want to share it,” he said added. “For example, his advice on education: ‘If you want [life] to be easy, study hard and money will run to you.’”
Kea said 10,000 copies of the new edition of Bondam Krom Ngoy have been printed, with about 4,000 to be donated to university, pagoda and school libraries, and the rest on sale for $3 at bookshops.
“Although some Cambodian children don’t have a culture of reading, I do hope that they start to read their favourite book like this poem book for pleasure,” he said.