Cambodian author Ouk Samnang’s name is a familiar one to many Khmer readers. Her long and prolific writing career has ensured that any bookstore or library you enter in the Kingdom will have at least one of her novels on their shelves.
Samnang is a member of the Khmer Writer’s Association and one of the few Cambodian women to write novels and poems to both popular and critical acclaim.
Born on January 15, 1954 in Phnom Penh, Ouk Samnang passed the exam to be a nurse and midwife in 1966 and began work at Phangangam maternity hospital. Though she was working, she continued her studies at the same time.
After the dark period of the Khmer Rouge and the civil war ended she returned to work as an intermediate nurse in the Cambodia-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh and she continued to work as an official at the Ministry of Health until her retirement in 2000. In her retirement she was elected as a commune councilor.
And, of course, throughout her life Samnang has been writing books. Her love of writing was born from her love of reading, as is often the case, and it led her to author a large body of work that includes poems and novels, especially those of the romantic variety.
“I was always most interested in writing novels. First, I love Khmer literature and I want to preserve Khmer culture and civilization for posterity and I focus mainly on writing using the spelling and grammar according to the Khmer dictionary of Samdech Chuon Nath because I want the next generation to know how to write without making so many mistakes like many do today.
“Our Cambodian novels today do not receive much attention from the younger generation. Khmer novels today are declining in readership due to the influx of foreign influence and new technologies, which have made many children forget about our culture and turn their attention to foreign cultures,” she added.
However, she said she would continue to write novels regardless and her work is still supported by many older readers and there’s a lot of it to choose from. She has 44 published works to her name of both poetry and novels.
Some of her most famous works – using the English translations of the titles – include Who is the Mother, The Love of Storms, The Flower Drops its Layers, The Sustainable Love, The Shelter of Misfortune, Women and the Right to Make Decisions, Remorse, The Tears of Crocodiles, Bitter Bee’s Honey , The Shocking Supper and The Charm of the Mekong River.
Some of her poems include my Slapaka, Looking Back and The One Side of Tragedy in the Pol Pot Regime.
“I call on the next generation of writers to write correctly according to Samdech Chuon Nath's dictionary and avoid rude words and obscene language. They should write to educate the next generation in society and not write just for the market,” Samnang stated.