A New Sun Rises Over the Old Land: A Novel of Sihanouk’s Cambodia
Winner: Association for Asian Studies (ASAA) A.L. Becker Southeast Asian Literature in Translation Prize
by Suon Sorin (Translated by Roger Nelson)
A New Sun Rises Over the Old Land traces the story of Sam, a young man who leaves the countryside for the capital after the death of his parents. Once there he is exposed to the hardships and injustice of the city’s capitalist society. All Sam wants to do is earn an honest wage for an honest day’s work, but he is constantly thwarted by those with money: his landlord, the woman from whom he rents his cyclo, factory bosses and politicians.
The city takes its toll on Sam and his wife, Soy, despite the kindness and generosity offered by their friends who are also only barely managing to scrape by. Sam’s humanity is denied him at every turn leading to the devastation of his small family and his surrender to temptation.
As the country develops and Sam’s fortunes change, he realises that while the life of a farmer is far from easy, it is one that has the potential to bring fulfilment and happiness.
First published in 1961, eight years after Cambodia gained independence from French colonial rule, A New Sun Rises Over the Old Land by Suon Sorin is an iconic work of modern Khmer literature. The novel—a singularly illuminating historical document of the new nation—offers a fresh view into a period of profound transformation in Cambodia and a region that was coming to know itself and to be known as “Southeast Asia.”
One of the first English translations of a modern Khmer novel from the decades between independence and the Khmer Rouge atrocities of the 1970s, the novel is accompanied by an extended introduction. In it, translator Nelson situates the author, Suon Sorin, in his historical and artistic context, and points to the novel’s value as literature, as well as a resource for students of Cambodia including art historians, urbanists, and regional specialists.
- South China Morning Post
-David Chandler, Emeritus Professor, Monash University
“a rare and precious glimpse of pre-Khmer Rouge literature...Roger Nelson’s formidable feat is testament to a deep respect towards the source material.”
- Farah Abdessamad, Asian Review of Books
“Nelson’s translation opens a door to modern Khmer literature, a world little-known and mysterious to those inside and beyond Cambodia. Of value to researchers and diasporic Khmers alike, A New Sun Rises Over the Old Land is tragedy as Khmer tragedy comes, entangled in class violence, national pride, and hope.”
-Prumsodun Ok, author, dancer and choreographer
Suon Sorin was born in 1930 in the Sangker district of Battambang, Cambodia. A New Sun Rises Over the Old Land is his only known work of fiction. He is believed to have died during the Khmer Rouge period.
Roger Nelson is an art historian specialized in Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art, and a curator at National Gallery Singapore.
Publication Year: 2019
168pp / 229 x 152mm, 2 images