Kmoch Preay Asorakay

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Enough of love stories…for now. Let’s talk about ghosts. Have you ever been scared of ghosts, wondering if they’re real or not? If their existence makes you both scared and interested, here’s a book that you may want to read.

Republished by Sipar Publishing in 2018, “Kmoch Preay Asorakay” was written by acclaimed writer Chut Khai in 1973. With seven chapters inside the book, all the short horror stories do not only give readers goosebumps, but also a deeper knowledge on conspiracies, beliefs and spiritual practices and ceremonies that are rooted deeply in Cambodian tradition since time immemorial.

In most of the stories in “Kmoch Preay Asorakay”, the author uses himself as the main character to tell stories of his personal experiences. All the stories seem true and real as the author depicts social realities of Cambodia from 1945 until before the Khmer Rouge regime.

In the first chapter, the story revolves around the spirit of a father who still comes home and calls members of his family as if he’s still alive. But the soul does not bring people joy. He makes them enormously scared, instead. To expel the spirit from the house, the family invites a monk to chant and lead the spirit away. It is a norm in Cambodia to seek the help of monks if they think that their homes have ghosts or spirits inside.

In the second chapter, the book talks about an outbreak in 1945. The story is set in Kampong Cham province. People in the area do not believe that a disease has spread throughout the province and will harm their health. Because of the lack of scientific knowledge, people think that bad spirits are the ones making people ill and die. The epidemic has caused confusion among people as they have really no way to prove if the deaths are caused by spirits or an unknown illness. The story then leads to a monk that has been possessed by a ghost because of the latter’s hunger. This part of the story is a true reflection of the conflict on traditions during Pchum Ben.

Other chapters of the book contains stories about realistic and relevant scenarios in Cambodia, such as the consequences of pre-marital sex. In Cambodia, it is believed that the spirit of the ancestors will possess and harm a person’s life if he or she goes against tradition. The family has to hire a traditional healer who will tell them about the root cause of disease through the Arak possession ceremony. If the unmarried couple does not follow what has been set upon them, the person will die.

What I find most remarkable about the book – aside from the quality of the stories in each chapter – is the expert use of the Khmer language. The author uses words and phrases creatively, making each chapter worth the read.

The book also delves deep on how and why many people, even until now, believe in ghosts despite the absence of scientific and relevant proofs. Chut Khai gives a clear picture of how superstitions during epidemics may lead to more harms and deaths.

After reading the book, I questioned myself again and again if I really believe that ghosts do exist on Earth. I get scared of them, yes, but I have not personally seen traces of them.

There are more things that people in this generation will discover in this book. Brace yourself for a scary read.

Copies of “Kmoch Preay Asorakay” is available at Scholar Library.

Author: Chut Kai
Publication: Sun Heang Printing House,1973 / Sipar Publishing,2018

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