It took British writer and author J. K. Rowling 17 years to complete the Harry Potter fantasy series. One would say this is such a long journey. Her work, of course, grabs worldwide attention; she becomes of one the greatest writers living.
Here in Phnom Penh, Em Satya, a Cambodian novelist illustrator, has to wait 17 years to get his a romance comic book published; Bopha Battambang (or Flower of Battambang) is now available in print in Khmer language, as English and French version will be made available soon.
An evening of December 13 I was at a book launch at Meta-House, where some expats and local fellows enjoyed the graphic novel exhibition. It’s great, other than listening to elder Satya the illustrator talked about his long-awaited work, I also met some people I hope to.
In a country where reading is not highly motivated and not really considered as leisure and learning, writers find it hard to have their works marketable. And it’s hard to mention that all the works by present writers are not good enough. Same old thing is: Em Satya’s latest comic book is not published by any independent commercial publisher; rather, it’s supported by Our Books, a local non-profit organisation focused on the development of comic art.
Book and reading promotion and awareness are lacking in Cambodia. While history books and novels are popular amongst our surveyed population, it seems there is little familiarity with Cambodian titles and authors except for bestselling novelists and for a few novels printed during the 1940s-1960s.
Born in 1957 in Takeo province, Em Satya is one of several graphic illustrators in war-torn Cambodia, who can earn a living from his artistic works. His talent paid him to survive during the Khmer Rouge regime. Satya began working on Bopha Battambang in 1990 for his own leisure, and it was at the time that Cambodia were so influenced by Indian culture, specifically movies.
Throughout his career, he is mainly an illustrator. Resigned from his post at Ministry of Education, he has worked for local daily newspaper Raksmey Kampuchea, Cambodge Soir, and Magazine Mom and Mab. In 2000, after recovering from stroke, he started to work again with writer Pal Vannarirak, and later moved to Room to Read.
In 2006-2007 Em Satya completed his major work, Bopha Battambang.
In other part of the world, some top selling books are written on mobile phones. Guess where? It’s Japan. Justin Norrie of Sydney Morning Herald has the story: In Japan, cellular storytelling is all the rage.