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Manoa 16.1 (2004) 1-7

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Communicate, They Say

Translation from Khmer to French by Christophe Macquet and from French to English by Jean Toyama

It lasted for months. For months. Like a huge whirlwind in my head. I was hunted, persecuted. Some images came back repeatedly, suffocating my soul in an obsessive spiral. I saw...I saw mountains, many mountains, then, like a jewel case, a dense forest, a long necklace of intense green...I saw water stream out of the summits only to plummet in a radiance of light...I saw thousands of sprays of foam shimmer in the sun: I saw white, pure white, gleaming. I saw blues, reds, and then yellows...I saw a whole fauna breathing simultaneously in small groups: tigers, rhinoceros, and herds of axis,gaur, and wild zebra...I saw myriad birds filling the air with their beating wings, an explosion of color and piercing cries...Finally—and this was the most penetrating image—I saw in the distance, along the gorges that cut the flank of the mountains...the Khmer the apex of its glory and power...I saw the temple at Angkor dominating in all its splendor the city of Siem Reap, the royal capital, where almost two million souls were living...I saw the intrepid Khmer army come out of the temple walls to fight the enemy...I saw warriors so numerous that they covered the earth and masked the spread of the sky...

There were still other images. Many others. So many that it is impossible for me to describe them all. It was a continual unfolding, a fountain of light: it rained diamonds inside my skull; the most brilliant gems sprayed out of my head.

These marvels I would have wanted to arrange at the bottom of my soul, a kind of intimate treasure, a personal reserve that I could comfortably draw on as I slept. But in spite of their value, they brought nothing to me: no joy, not one ounce of happiness. These images, these shining forms were rather the expression of a painful conflict, of a bitter battle between two opposing realities: on the one hand, powerlessness, mediocrity, lowliness, the debris of the visible; and on the other, like a mountain, the immensity and the grandeur, the power and force of the invisible.

I won't go into detail; suffice it to say that at that time, the visible was me. Quite simply me, a Little Phnom Penher, insignificant secretary, lost in a miniscule business, which was itself lost among hundreds of others. And [End Page 1] the invisible, that was me too; it was this great treasure lodged in my very depths, this ideal in me that gave birth to fabulous visions.

The division was complete. Unfortunately. The energy that inhabited me—that extraordinary power—proved to be incapable of destroying my weakness. Eventually, I had to admit it. I was not its master but a kind of keeper. Nothing more. I guarded this treasure, and until my death, I would have neither right nor power to use it.

The day I understood I would never be anything but this absurd custodian, this useless concierge of a treasure hall, that I would always camp out in the antechamber of my ideal, the shock was terrible. Terrible. I collapsed within myself. All my hope vanished. I felt as if my legs had been cut off.

It was unbearable. So unbearable that one day, to console myself, I bared my soul to Sary, a colleague in my office, a pretty girl, approachable and smiling. I had always been a little in love with her. Of course, I didn't dare tell her about the images swirling in my head. I made her pity my fate, telling her of my anxiety, my sadness, my apathy, my sickening lack of decisiveness. I told her I was unhappy, rudderless, alone, much too alone and alienated from others.

She stared at me for a while. Intensely. Adorably. Then she said in a decisive tone, hammering every word, "You...


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