jeudi, janvier 17, 2008

Message to Sipar

News from Cambodia N° 0806-E


Khemara Jati
Montréal, Québec
January 15th, 2008

Following article posted by Khemara Jati « The library Mark Twain Library of Long Beach tries to buy books in Cambodian language » we received the message following by Sipar, with Hoc Sothik as President. We publish it below :

From: siparpp
Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2008 3:38 AM
Subject: Fw: Tr : Mark Twain : Cambodge aux livres

Nous avons reçu votre message par intermédiaire d'un réseau d'amis.
Le SIPAR a un grand plaisir de vous proposer ci-joint un catalogue des ouvrages édités en langue khmère et une plaquette résumant ses missions dans le cadre du développement de la lecture au Cambodge.

Pour nous contacter :
9 rue 21, Tonle Bassac, Chamcarmon- Phnom Penh
Tél : 023 212 407.
E-mail :
Site web:

Hok Sothik,
directeur du Sipar.

Pièces attachés : Plaquettes SIPAR Fr07 et Catalogues SIPAR Nov07.

We publish a very interesting paper wrote by Claude Lévi-Strauss « Conservation, constraint and culture » following our message to Sipar. In this paper Claude Lévi-Strauss, a great well known ethnologist, enlightens us his observations on the ways of perpetuating a culture, a writing, while facing invasion of the strong cultures. It is a very instructive article for us Cambodian, now confronting permanently with the invasion of the other cultures which are very powerful, among which those of our neighbors.

I / Situation géopolitique actuelle du Cambodge

Cambodia is located in the center of Southeast Asia, very important region, in the center of the conflicts of the major powers geostrategic interests, mainly the United States, China, Japan, France and now India. Cambodia is lining on the East and on the West by two neighbors who were able to benefit Western knowledge long time back thank to the ports allowing the first European since the beginning of the XVIth century. Which is not the case for Cambodia unfortunately. The first Cambodian seaport was in service only since 1969. More the colonial regime made everything for vietnamizing Cochinchina, then gradually Cambodia. How? Louis Malleret (read, the one who discover of Oc Eo thanks to the indications back by Cambodians of the region. Malleret left a very important statement, showing how France favoring the Vietnamese at the cost of Cambodians by a discrimination policy in favor of the Vietnamese language's education. In his statement Malleret explains how this discrimination allowed the Vietnamese to chase away Cambodians legally of Cochinchina from their ancestral lands. We shall return for more details on this question in another articles.

II / Social, financial and cultural situation of Cambodians.

Cambodia now is moving on a significant transfer. For the first time, in our history, the Cambodian women play a role more and more important for social and economic point of view. The Cambodian women now are pragmatic. They have an obligation to think about the future of their children instead of spending time complaining about the past. It is exactly what Raymond Aron is saying in his thesis:

« We often confuse the historic direction with the cult of the tradition or the taste of past. Really, for the individual as for the communities, the future is the first category. The old man who does not have more than souvenirs is also foreign to the history as the child absorbed in a present without memory. To know oneself as to know the collective evolution, the decisive act is the one who transcends the reality, who produces in what is not any more a kind of reality by giving a continuation and a goal. »
Raymond Aron
In « Introduction à la philosophie de l’histoire »,
Ed. Gallimard, 1er Ed. Paris 1938. Ed. Citée 1986, page 432

The Cambodian women are often in charge of the family alone and rule the business to support it. For the first time in our history more than half million workers, most of them are women, work in factories. Let us mention that these factories use, for the moment only the muscular force. These women workers work outside of foyer. They acquire then a big autonomy. More their salaries contribute to help and to maintain their family in the village. Be noted that the women workers save more money that men. They do not smoke and spend less in gadgets. The workers salaries are about 300 to 400 millions of US. Several hundreds of millions of US dollars are on the other hand sent or brought by Cambodians living abroad for their families in Cambodia and regarding the salaries of the Cambodians working in the NGO are a little less. All of this makes a billion of US dollars directly to the pockets of the Cambodians of Cambodia. This money contributes in a considerable proportion to the economic development of Cambodia. Also let us note that many young Cambodians while graduated from a great School and great Universities of North America and Europe and the other engineers and university professors of high-level, while retired help the country under NGO or schools to form technicians high level diploma, in particular in data processing in order to supply the technical staff of the industries level higher than the current textile factories.

On the other hand, by returning home in the village regularly, the workers spread information and knowledge from the city. At the same time new perspectives for other women living in the village is then open. So, in spite of the road condition, they return to village regularly keeping permanent connection with the cities and then with the outside world as well. A big majority of them are going to do everything so that their children grow with education. The women's emancipation in Cambodia is then on the big move. The development of a country and the fight against the diseases as the AIDS for example, depend greatly on the education and the women’s emancipation. It is also necessary to note that Cambodia is originally and traditionally a matriarchal country.

To strengthen these experiences, it would be necessary to guarantee, as a priority, the stability of the land, private property, more particularly that of the land by guarantying its inalienable for a while, at least for twenty years for example with a good service of the cadastre / land registry as well. Then stabilize the family by a good administration of the family status registry office which registers strictly the births, the marriages and the deathes.

Finally to strengthen all these acquisitions, to make them propser and finally to perenise them in the future, it is better to educate the whole people and not only a bunch of intellectuals. A good system of education is thus needed:

a/. Schooling all the children, in particular the girls, up to the secondary school, with the national language which is the fundamental base of the national cohesion.

b/. Have a good program to return our children proud of their country and of their past while preparing them for the scientific domains necessary for the current world.

c/. Use gradually the national language in Universities as in all the countries of our region, in particular our two big neighbors. Of course with one or two foreign languages. It is possible now to use the Cambodian language in the Universities of Law and Medicine. We have all means to materialize it. What is missing is a political will. For other disciplines only a small effort for using our language is need.

d/. Create a real Cambodia Institute of History, Archaeology and Geography, the fundamental bases of our national cohesion.

III / Of the fundamental importance of the national language in the world.

The beginning of the Nation France starts when François 1st decides to use the French language in the administration by his prescription of Villers-Cotterêts in 1539. Now the French language is one of the fundamental bases of the unity of France. It is interesting to see the importance of the World French-speaking (la Francophonie) in the cultural policy of France. It is better to see a little farther how France can defend the Francophonie otherwise in Cambodia.

Another base of our national unity is the History, our History placed in the context of the World's history of the world, the only way which can be understandable. On the other hand, it is necessary to write our history by taking into account the economy, the techniques, and the archaeological researches. It is what had tried to make it Bernard Philippe Groslier, who is regrettably dead at 60 years in 1986. He had the project to write a History of Cambodia since the prehistory. It is likely that there are documents concerning this project in archives, regrettably very difficult of access.

« As soon as she becomes aware of herself, a nation wants to justify her present by her past. Nothing proves better her existence than her history. This way, only the historians who create nations. »
Colette Beaune: « Naissance de la Nation France» (Birth of the Nation France)
Éd. Gallimard, Paris 1985, p. 9-10.

Of course, it is important that the young Cambodians feel a vocation for the history. For it, it is imperative to begin by learning historian's profession before dashing into the history of Cambodia. Later it is necessary to know the history of the world, before naking any approach to the History of Cambodia. We shall come back later on for more reasons by analyzing some Cambodia history books written by foreigners.

Many Cambodian intellectuals are retired at 60 years old. Nowadays, they are full of life a this age. Why do not use his / her activities to read and meditate on the problems of the history and on the history of the world, as well in English as in French. Then read theCambodia History books, especially the books of the authors who rarely or never evoked in Cambodia history books written by foreigners.

Let us return to our language. We quote some examples just to show how foreigners like the culture, the literature and the French language in the point to become member of the French Academy. Let us quote at first the case of François Cheng. Here is what he wrote in his book « Le Dit de Tanyi » :

« The works of Roman Roland and Gide, Jean Christophe, the life of Beethoven, the Pastoral Symphony had created in our country the desire to hear the western classical music. If the literature and the painting were more or less accessible to us by the translation and the reproduction, the music remained to us almost unknown, beside the one gleaned here and there of American films or old discs by accident. »
« Le Dit de Tianyi » by François Cheng, of the French Academy, Ed. Albin Michel, Paris 1998. In small format, page 97. The Western knowledge by the Chinese in the 1930s.

Works of François Cheng :

· « L’Ecriture poétique chinoise », Ed. Du Seuil, Paris 1977, 1996.
· « Vide et Plein, le Langage Pictural Chinois », Ed. du Seuil, Paris 1979, 1991
· « Cinq Méditations sur la Beauté » Ed. Albin Michel, Paris 2006
· « L’Eternité n’est pas de trop », Ed. Albin Michel, Paris 2002

François Cheng thus begins to know the French literature by translations. It is necessary to notice also that Cheng is a scholar of the Chinese culture as shown the books on the calligraphy, the painting and the chinese culture. The article of Claude Lévi-strauss below summarizes this amtter :

« A culture constituted during the centuries cannot evolve any more nor even to question about it, because we do not know any more what is it. »

And a little farther:

« Because we cannot decide where we shall go if we do not know ahead where we come from . »

And farther:

« There are here lessons that we can take advantage from them. The organization that the Unesco called the participants to the World Conference on the Cultural policies is also a creation: creation of the conditions the most favorable to the creation itself. The danger would be to believe is only a question of eliminating barriers, of releasing a spontaneity which would lavish inexhaustibly its wealth since it would not be any more hindered: as like, in order to create, first one should not learn ahead; as if, finally, the problem of the contemporary societies was not for some to look for, for the others to protect an implanting-root of traditions and disciplines which, negative and despicable towards the only systematic, expressing the fact that we never create that from something that it is necessary to know deeply and of which we have to be free first, it would be then able to oppose to it and exceed it.»

Another example comes from the Chinese Dai Sijie who wrote the novel that the title shows that she already read Balzac in a Chinese translation:

« Balzac et la petite tailleuse chinoise » written by Dai Sijie, Ed. Gallimard Paris 2000. This novel is later on adapted to the cinema. Later on she wrote : « Le Complexe de Di », Ed. Gallimard, Paris 2003.

Let us recall that before 1920, at least the following books were already translated into chinese :

· Thomas Huxley : « Evolution and Ethics » (translated in 1898)
· Adam Smith : « The Wealth of Nation » (translated in 1901)
· John Stuart Mill : « A System of Logic » (translated in 1902)
« On Liberty » (translated in 1903)
· Herbert Spencer : « Principles of Sociology »
· Montesquieu : « De l’Esprit des Lois » (translated in 1906)
· E. Jenks : « History of Politics »
· W. S. Jevons : « Logics »

In « Histoire du Parti Communiste Chinois, 1, des origines à la République Soviétique Chinoise », by J. Guillermaz, Ed. Petite Bibliothèque Payot, Paris 1975, page 31.

In « Mao » written by Philip Short, Ed. Owl Books, on 1999, Mao Tse Toung (in December 26th, 1893 to 9 sept. 1976) read and discussed with his professors and classmates the subjects of these books, Marxist books and Marxist papers by Chinese authors.

About the mathematics, the first translations dated since the XVIth century:

In « History of Chinese Mathematic » by Kiyosi Yabuuti, translated into Japanese by Kaoru Baba and Catherine Jami, Ed. Belin-Pour la Science, Paris 2000, pages 123 – 124 :

« In 1498 the Portuguese navigator Vasco de Gamma doubled the Cape of Good Hope and reaches Calicut in India, six years after the discovery of America by Christophe Colomb: it was the eleventh year under the reign of emperor Hongzhi of the Ming. At the beginning of the XVIth century the Portuguese crossed South China Sea starting from Goa, and based in Macao for the business with China and Japan. It was the first Europeans arrival to China (by the sea, before, there were maybe one or several messengers of Antonin le Pieux in the IIth century which money was found in its effigy at the Fou Nan port in Oc Eo. They used Arabic boutres to go to India, then Chinese junks whith stopover at Oc Eo).

« Among many missionaries taken up aboard the Portuguese vessels, the Jesuits had scholars' monks reputation. The Jesuit François Xavier arrived to Japan in 1549; he returned from there to Goa, then sailed towards China to evangelize it. However he was not able to get in, the country being closed. After him, Matteo Ricci (in chinese Li Madou) was the first one, in 1582, to be able to get into China where he succeeded to spread mission. He brought in his luggage objects of the European culture, where he had also introduced the scientific knowledge, all of this in order to gain the respect for the Chinese.

« In his young age this Italian Jesuit had studied at the famous Roman School, where Clavius, nicknamed the « Euclide of XVIth century », taught the astronomy and the mathematics - two subjects which were going to turn out very useful in his mission. Thanks to the eclipse of the moon observation, Ricci succeeded in calculating the longitude of China; he then published an entitled map of the world called complete map of all the countries of the earth, and taught the theory of the Earth sphericity. His reputation was then gained with the Chinese scholars. With their assistant he translated into Chinese some works of Clavius, known in China under the name of Mister Ding (As Clavius in Latin, Ding means "nail" in Chinese).

« From 1601, Ricci is authorized to settle down in Peking and allowed to create a mission there; Chinese scholars with the opening mind came then to associate with him. By means of high-ranking servant Xu Guangqi, he translated the first six books of the geometry elements, then were published in 1607. Jihe, who appears in the Chinese title (Jihe yuanben), is the phonetic transcription of geo; the chinese term (resumed later in Japanese) indicating the geometry comes moreover from this work.

« The translations were made from Latin version with Clavius comments of Euclide's Elements. Although this volume included fifteen books, only six first ones were then translated at the end of the Quing by Alexander Wylie and Li Shanlan. As seen, the type of Euclidian geometry was totally absent in the chinese mathematical tradition; therefore is it for this reason that Xu Guangqi pay a particular interest for him. »

But Japan is the first Asian country which understands the importance of the knowledge and the western culture and begin, in 1868, to translate systematically all the papers and the important documents of the western civilization. It is only after its defeat in front of the Japanese armies equipped and entailed with the Westerner in 1895 and more particularly after the destruction of the Russian fleet in Tsushima battle, in 1905, that China understood the importance of the western knowledge acquisition.

However it is necessary to note that in Europe, czar Pierre 1st the Great (1672 - 1725) is the first Russian who understand that Russia needs to acquire the Western Europe knowledge, by translations, allowing Russia to confront triumphantly against his neighbor's power such as Sweden at the North, Poland on the West and Turkey in the South. It is him who created the port of Saint-Petersburg and the Russian fleet. His work is pursued by his successors particularly by Catherine II the Great (1729 - 1796). The great names of the music and the Russian literature date of this time. Let us call remind the memorable defeat of the Napoleon's Great Army during the withdrawal from Russia, the name of Berezina remains memorized by the French people. This Napoleonic defeat is the subject of Leon Tolstoï's novel (1828-1910) « War and Peace » often adapted to the cinema. After Waterloo, the Russian armies march in Paris. Pierre 1st the Great and his successors allowed numerous and very important western objects art exposed now in the Russian museums, in particular at Saint-Petersburg. Nowadays Russia, Japan and China are among most major powers of the world.

IV / The situation of the national langue in Cambodia.

Now the national language is the administrative language. It is a very important step. But still our universities use the foreign languages as the vehicle languages. Why ? Because these universities are managed by foreign powers. And naturally they privilege the foreign languages. The foreigners finance the publications of dictionaries Cambodian-English and Cambodian-French. Their policy is to favor the translations of Cambodian texts and documents into English or into French. Now Cambodians need dictionary of the Cambodian language as that of Chuon Nath published in the 1960s and of good dictionaries English - Cambodian and French - Cambodian in order to facilitate the translations of the English and French books and documents into Cambodian. A dictionary of the Cambodian language has just been published in Cambodia base on Chuon Nath dictionary and by adding the new words using since the 1960s.

Regarding the translations, it is necessary to underline the numerous translations made before 1975 such as,

· Reatrei nimitt nai vassantarodov (A Midsummer Night's Dream of Shakespeare), 1968 by Hang Thun Hak with the collaboration of Kong Orn.
· Krou pèt bet mukh (The Doctor in Spite of Himself of Molière, translated by Peouv You Leng),
· Cinna of Pierre Corneille, translated by Vong Phoeung, P. Penh, Librairie Koh Kong, 1967.
· La Petite Fadette (vol. 1) (vol. 2) of George Sand, translated by Ko Youk Ho, Librairie, Khun Thai Sang, Kraceh, 1968.
· Tartuffe (The Hypocrite) of Molière, translated by Chan Mom Phavy under the title of Kamnanh kraov damra, P. Penh, Seng Nguon Huot, 1965,
· Ben Hur, translated by Mitt Sakhon, P. Penh, Librairie Banlii Bejr, 1967.
· Notre Dame of Paris, translated by Vong Phoeung, P. Penh, ed. Rasmei, 1967.
· Saramani of Roland Meyer translated by Chan Bophal, P. Penh, 1971, 2 vol.
· Animal Farm of George Orwell, translated by Pan Sothi under the title of Kal Nouss Pakdekvoat Muoy, P. Penh, 1972.
· « Le Cid » - Cinna - de Pierre Corneille with the collaboration of Im Ponn (1969).
· « Écrivains et expressions littéraires du Cambodge au XXè siècle » by Khing Hoc Dy, volume 2, Ed. L’Harmattan, Paris 1993. This book is published in Cambodia into Cambodian version.
· Snêha Muoy translated from Love Story of Erich Segal by Yi Chheang Eng, published by Nokor Thom, Phnom Penh June 1973 with the preface of Sgnuon Kathorn (Nokor Thom).
· Min Choss Samrong Ning Chivit from “L’Étranger” of Albert Camus, translated by Yi Chheang Eng, published by Nokor Thom, Phnom Penh.

On the other hand the Edition Apsara of Montreal published

· « Antigone » tragedy of Sophocle, translated by Putry Toth, Montréal 1995.
· « Ulysse » Epic of Homere, translated by Putry Toth, Montréal 1997
· « Krong Phnom Penh » A political history of Phnom Penh City, by Kèo Bounthoeun, Montréal 1995.

These books are now republished in Phnom Penh.

Since then, the translations of books and BD: « The Little Prince » of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, «Le Horla» of Guy de Maupassant and «Harry Potter» of Kathleen Rowling.

Why this extinction of the translations? In Cambodia, there is a wild war between the languages: French, English and Chinese including the languages of our neighbors.

Does this contempt of our language explains largely our difficulty to unite, to speak about the same language in all sectors of society of our country? Nevertheless our language is an indispensable base of our national cohesion.

Cambodian students arrive in France for training say that it is not easy to study in French. A lot of time is spent to learn French. It is not the case for the Vietnamese. Is it one of the reasons that make the French-Vietnamese Hospital of Prey Nokor better than the French-Cambodian Hospital, under the name of the illustrious scholar Calmette? Moreover are Cambodian professors needed to explain to the students the French medicine, aren’t they? Nevertheless in order to give better medical treatment to Cambodians the Cambodian language is necessary, isn’t it? Otherwise, the translators are then necessary. It is the same case regarding the Law.

Nevertheless Father François Ponchaud in his «Report of mission in Cambodia from 16 till 27 September 1990 » has concluded as follow :

« It is advisable for the Church to show itself watchful not to repeat certain errors of the past, while at the end of the XIXth and the beginning of the XXth century and in another context, the Church, being inspired by colonial plans, favored the Vietnamese settling in Cambodia. It was worth of being considered by the Cambodians as doubling foreigner, and by her previous history, and by her communities. The evangelisation of the Khmers was of this fact compromised during almost century. »

Ponchaud translated and published for the first time the Bible and other Christian books into Cambodian. Nevertheless according to François Cheng and Dai Sijie experiences, while reading books of the French authors translated into Chinese, both liked the literature and the French culture.

Does the translation into Cambodian goes on until nowadays ? From English, French as well as from Chinese ? For example "The Miserable" of Victor Hugo, "Carmen" of P. Mérimée, « The Lady in Camellias » of A. Dumas, Balzac etc.?

But so that the translation is easily accessible to the middle class Cambodian readers, the translation works done by Cambodians is wished. Because anyway, a translation it is always, in best an adaptation and in the worst a treason. Because it is a question of transposing one culture on the other one.

With all our great thanks for the Sipar's efforts to school the Cambodian children, in particular the most deprived and especially the Cambodian girls.

Khemara Jati
Montréal, Québec

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Annexe :

Below is Claude Lévi-Strauss's article on the importance of the relations between the cultures and to showing the complementarity between “allegiance to oneself”, and the necessity of “the opening to the others”, nevertheless often forced. On the other hand, an “opening to the others”, without the will to stay “faithful to oneself”, is not it a way of living as amnesic ? For people, to stay “faithful to oneself” is first of all to preserve the spoken and written language, indispensable base to develop her culture, for its evolution by exchanges with “the other cultures and for its perpetuity”.

To read more please go on: