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Who's Soth Polin?

Soth Polin is a daring Cambodian novelist since the 1960s. He was also a Cambodian print journalists back. His novel, A Meaningless Life, was published in 1964. His other French novel “L’anarchiste” or The Anarchist was published in 1980.

Born in 1943 in Kompong Cham province, Soth Polin studied French literature and philosophy. The poet Nou Kan is his maternal great-grandfather, who was also a member of parliament (the Phnom Penh street 115 is named after him, Oknha Nou Kan Street). Back then he was given royal title as Oknha Vibol Reach Sena [Servant of the King] Nou Kan.

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A Meaningless Life, a Khmer-language novel by Soth Polin

Soth Polin became a philosophy teacher in the 1960s. In addition to publishing a French-Khmer dictionary, he authored several novels—some of them with sexually daring themes—that proved commercially successful. He’s also the founder of Nokor Thom, the daily newspaper, which was launched in in 1968.

Throughout his youth, Polin immersed himself in the classical literature of Cambodia as well as Western literature and philosophy His very first novel, A Meaningless Life, was strongly influenced by Nietzsche, Freud, and Sartre, as well as by Buddhism. It was an enormous success. Numerous novels, short stories, and philosophical tales followed, among them The Adventurer, Whatever You Order Me…I Will Do It, and The Death of Love. He was part of an active community of writers before the Khmer Rouge takeover. In the late 1960s, when he founded the newspaper and publishing house of Nokor Thom, he was a militant nationalist who was both anti-Sihanouk and anti-Communist. He used his publishing house to support the politics of Lon Nol before finally distancing himself and taking refuge in France in 1974. He worked in Paris as a taxi driver and later he and his two sons moved to America. He earns a living as a shuttle driver at the Long Beach Airport.

According to Khing Hoc Dy, a researcher with the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, ““Soth Polin brought in new ideas for Cambodian writers and well-informed readers.”

In an interview, Polin said he loves the poem composed by his maternal great-grandfather Nou Kan:
Anicha phka banan, klen khpong khpos
Loeu tae chhmuos, lous tae chhmieng, tieng tot toan
Sman bosbar, smeu bos bong, vong tevoan
Sthet choan, sthan chuor, chhar kama.

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