Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - MY PHNOM PENH: Phina So, Writer

MY PHNOM PENH: Phina So, Writer

Phina So: researcher, writer, member of the Khmer literature collective.
Phina So: researcher, writer, member of the Khmer literature collective.

MY PHNOM PENH: Phina So, Writer

Phina So is a researcher, writer, a member of the Khmer literature collective, Slap Paka, and the head of the Women Writers Committee at PEN Cambodia. She is currently self-publishing a second anthology of short stories with a group of authors. This week, she spoke with Audrey Wilson on the city’s offerings for readers and writers of all kinds

Bookstores

Bookstores

For book shopping, I like to go to the International Book Center, which has a wide range of Khmer literature. There, you can find many traditional designs of Khmer novels, and there are more writers than anywhere else. Three or four shelves – I think that’s a lot! There are only a few bookstores that display Khmer novels; there’s the Peace Book Center, too. In these stores, around 30 per cent of the books are in Khmer. It shows that many writers keep publishing their works, even though they know there’s not much financial gain. But about half of the Khmer books are translated – I find that young people like to read translations more than Khmer novels.

Le Point Cafe

Le Point Cafe

Another place I like to go to write is a cafe called Le Point [#10 Street 208], near Norodom Boulevard. It’s very quiet, and very small. You can go while you’re waiting for your friends, and you can write. I like to meet my friends with whom I’ve co-published there – we discuss and decide what to do next. We communicate via Facebook most often, but we meet up once a month, or whenever we can. The cafe is a very nice space for that. It has a very relaxing atmosphere; and now we have become friends with the staff. Writers need more spaces like this.

National Library

National Library

The National Library near Wat Phnom is another good place: There you can find very old books. Most were collected before the Khmer Rouge time. But many young people – and even members of the intellectual community – do not know where the National Library is. I’ve spent a lot of time there during my research on generations of female writers, but I have no idea how many books there are. There are a lot of big shelves, but you can’t find anything easily. Of course I appreciate the existence of the building itself, and everything inside – but the government needs to put more resources into it, and let people know that it exists.

National Museum garden

National Museum GARDEN

My favourite place in Phnom Penh is the National Museum. I like to go inside – by the four big fish ponds and fresh frangipani – and sit and get inspiration. It is best to go early in the morning, because it is cool. Sometimes I just enjoy myself and sometimes I write – there aren’t any tables, but you can jot things down in a notebook. The other place is the Royal Palace – at the gardens in front. It’s nice to sit and watch people go around. I like the way the fine-arts students bring their materials and sit in the shade, and draw. We need more parks like this that allow you to just sit and think.

Bounchan Suksiri

Bounchan Suksiri

I work with many contemporary writers. One of my favourites, and another female writer, is Bounchan Suksiri (pictured right). Suksiri is a historical fiction writer, and she’s published six novels. The way she writes – it’s not just telling stories, but educating people about history. Besides her novels, she’s also published many articles on her website, Khmer Story Lovers. She collects proverbs and translations of Khmer sayings so that Cambodians and non-Cambodians can access them.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors

  • Vietnam told to remove border tents

    Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophoan has ordered local authorities to prohibit the construction of buildings in areas bordering Cambodia and to report any irregularities immediately. Recently, Vietnamese officials removed another seven tents from the border area with Cambodia. His remarks were made on Wednesday afternoon