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Reclusive author Tonsay in ‘ill health’

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Mao Samnang is one of the best-known novelists in Cambodia whose works have been published and distributed across the country. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Reclusive author Tonsay in ‘ill health’

One may have heard of an author called Tonsay, or Rabbit. Tonsay is the pen name of Mao Samnang, one of the best-known novelists in Cambodia whose works have been published and distributed across the country.

Recently, the author has become reclusive and has not been seen by her fellow authors.

Thon Thavry, author and director of the Life Book Publishing House which published several of Samnang's works in recent years, said on November 12 that she had not been appearing in public owing to ill health.

“She is unwell. We are not certain if she will continue to write,” Thavry said.

Thavry has been publishing Samnang’s work since 2019. Her Life Book catalogue includes “Broloam Chet” parts I and II, “Who is Tonsay?” “Shadow of the Promise” and this year’s “Nor Phea Lei”.

Thavry described “Nor Phea Lei” as a romantic novel that explores a protagonist with a confused heart.

She said the main character could not distinguish compassion from love. The character had to learn compassion and show an honest heart to earn another chance from her loved ones.

Born on February 7, 1959 in Sihanoukville, Samnang’s father Mao So was a teacher of Khmer literature, which is where she received her understanding of the written word.

At the age of 15, she learned how to compose novels. One year later, Cambodia was plunged into a civil war and she had no opportunity to write.

After the war, she began writing again in 1981. Her first novel, “Tears of Kriyana”, was incorporated into a dramatic monologue and broadcast on the radio.

As her fame grew, she continued to write under the Tonsay pseudonym, never revealing her true name to the public despite going on to write over 100 award-winning novels and short stories.

Several of her works were adapted into scripts and committed to film, including “Katanhuo” (2003), “The House Bought by Ghost” (2005), and “The Ghost Residence” (2006).

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