Amazingly, given the fact that we weren’t able to publicise Jan Cornall’s Writing Workshop as well as we would have liked, 12 people turned up for her mini writing workshop and luncheon at Q&A Bookshop in Sihanoukville. Six local Khmers turned up, including a philosophy professor and a poetry prize winning student. A mixed bag of expats and tourists made up the barang contingent. It was a great group and a great workshop.
One of Jan’s reasons for visiting Sihanoukville was to go to the location sets of the 2008 film version of Marguerite Duras’ fascinating biography, The Sea Wall. Fortunately, Erika, of the Starfish Project, knew where it was, since she played as an extra in the film. The French produced film starred Isabelle Huppert and was directed by Cambodian Rithy Panh. I haven’t seen it, but the story sounds amazing. It’s about Duras’ mother’s attempts to grow rice in, I believe, the late 1920s. The problem was that her fields were flooded by sea water every year, ruining her crops. She then borrowed money from Indian lone sharks and hired Chinese labourers to build a sea wall. After a couple of failed attempts, she finally got a crop, only to have it stolen by her workers.
Anyway, check it out yourself or better yet, read the book. The house and restaurant that featured prominently in the film are located in Ream, only about an hour’s drive outside of Sihanoukville. We rented our neighbour’s car after the workshop and took her out there. It was a magical world: so close to Sihanoukville, but so isolated. Sopheak and I have been fantasising about getting the caretaker’s job at the house ever since.
As if that wasn’t enough for one day, afterwards, we went just up the road to Tuk Sap for our evening meal. It was perfect. We were the only customers and as the sun began to set, the gentle breeze, which had been keeping us cool, dropped and the water became as smooth as glass. It was the perfect ending to a great day.
I got so many great pictures yesterday, I think I’ll make a photo album of them.
We also talked with Jan about “my” book and how best to write it. She had the brilliant idea to let Sopheak tell the story in her own words and have me just write it down. I felt kind of dumb for not thinking of that myself, but like all good ideas, they are only obvious after they’re expressed. Having Sopheak be the author solves a lot of problems that have prevented me from getting started, one of them being the lack of authenticity of a third person account.
Now it’s time to get to work.