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OVERVIEW:
Modern Lao literature since 1975
Phoumi VongvichitAfter 1975 established authors such as Outhine Bounyavong, Dara Viravongs, Pakian Viravongs, Douangdeuane Viravongs and Seree Nilamay resumed their literary activities alongside revolutionary writers such as Phoumi Vongvichit, Souvanthone Bouphanouvong, Chanthy Deuansavanh, Khamlieng Phonsena and Theap Vongpakay. They have since been joined by a younger generation of writers.
Phoumi Vongvichit was appointed Acting President of the Lao PDR from 1986 to 1991 after Prince Souphannouvong was forced to step down from the Presidency for reasons of health. Phoumi is now perhaps best remembered for his Lao Grammar (1967), published in the revolutionary heartland of Houaphanh Province. However, he is also recognised as one of the leading modern Lao poets.
Chanthy DeuansavanhNovelist Chanthy Deuansavanh is currently Chairperson of the Lao Writers’ Association and former editor of its now-defunct monthly journal Xiengkhene Lao. Chanthy received the second SEAWrite Award in 1999 for his work Khang Khun Thi Pa Leuk ('Overnight in the Deep Forest').
Since the 1980s Khamlieng Phonsena has won numerous awards for novels such as Khwam Hak (‘Love’), Na Xong Muong ('Rice Field with Two Irrigation Canals’) and Chai Dieu Hak Dieu (‘One Heart, One Love’).
Theap Vongpakay, Pha Nhou XivitTheap Vongpakay (Dao Neua, b 1945) has also attracted acclaim for his novels Ngao Muon Muang (‘The District Sword’), Pit Adit (‘Poison of the Past’) and Kae Khai Sivit (Finding a Solution to Living’). In 2003 Theap received a SEAWrite Award for his first novel Pha Nhou Xivit ('Storm of Life').
Today Outhine Bounyavong remains Laos' best-known writer. He wrote four collections of short stories while working as a journalist, editor, and translator.
Outhine Bounyavong, Mother's BelovedA collection of Outhine's short stories, Mother’s Beloved: Stories from Laos (1999), was published in English by the University of Washington Press.
Under the pen name Dok Ked, Douangdeuane Viravongs, daughter of the late Maha Sila Viravongs and widow of Outhine Bounyavong, has published various poems and novels and transcribed numerous traditional stories, of which the best-known is Kam Pha Phi Noi ('The Little Orphan and the Spirit’). She has also authored the popular Lao textiles book Legends in the Weaving (2002).
dokkedlogoResearchers of Lao literature should contact the family bookshop Dokked Publishing Co Ltd in Vientiane and make arrangements to visit the Maha Sila Viravongs Library, an important repository of rare books and documents.
A native of Champassak Province, Dr Thongkham Onemanisone (b 1949) was the first Lao writer to receive the prestigious SEAWrite Award in 1998 for his work Pheua Hak Pheua Nang ('For Love for Her').
Thongkham Onemanisone (Tim Doling)Dr Thongkham's numerous other works include Phoum Pannya Sisawat ('Sisawat's Wisdom', 1997), Nithan Suphasit ('39 Moral Tales', 1997), Dhamma's Path Poems (2000), The Memory of SEAWrite Award Poems (2003) and Sharp, Decisive, Hot and Salty Poems (2004); the Lao Language Dictionary (1992) and Lao Language: Terms and Meanings (1997); contributions to various collections; and a great number of poems and articles featured in daily newspapers and magazines. Now retired from the post of Director of the Ministry of Information and Culture's Department of Literature and Mass Culture, Dr Thongkham is a founder member and former Chairperson of the Lao Writers’ Association; he currently works as a columnist for Van Athit Weekly, Wattanatham (Culture) Magazine and Vannasin Magazine.
Viset Savengseuksa (b 1953) is currently Deputy Chairperson of the Lao Writers’ Association. Known for his novels, he received a SEAWrite Award in 2002 for Nok Ieng Kita Khoay ('The Bird and the Water Buffalo').
Thongbay Phothisane 1Writer and journalist Thongbay Photisane (b 1960) won the SEAWrite Award in 2004 for the novel Ngua Kap Kien ('Cows and Carts’). One of a younger generation of novelists examining the social changes taking places in modern Lao society, Mr Thongbay has published three collections containing 20 short stories and over 50 poems. One of the short stories, Thi Pak Chai ('Heart's Refuge'), was translated into English and published in a collection of prize-winning ASEAN stories in 2001. Mr Thongbay is currently General Secretary of the Lao Writers’ Association and editor of Vannasin Magazine.
Born in Champassak, Bounthanong Somsaiphon (b 1953) has been a prolific writer of fiction, poetry, and songs since the mid 1970s and has played an active role as both editor and contributor to various Lao literary magazines. His insightful and often outspoken accounts of contemporary Lao society have attracted considerable acclaim.
Bounseun Sengmany, Short StoriesOther important younger-generation Lao writers include novelists Phieu Lavanh (Thidachanh, b 1954), Bounseun Songmany (b 1956), Damdouane Pomdouangsi (b 1958), Othong Khaminsou (Houngaloune Denvilay, b 1962) and Sengphouxay Inthavikham (b 1967).
Scholars active in the field of transcribing, editing and publishing traditional Lao literature under the auspices of agencies such as the Institute of Cultural Research (ICR) and the Ministry of Education include Houmphanh Rattanavong, Maha Boun Nhok, Pho Phuangsaba, Somsy Desakhamphou, Othong Khaminsou (Houngaloune Denvilay) and Samlid Buasisawat.
Established in 1991 by Dr Thongkham Onemanisone and the late Mr Souvanthone Bouphanouvong, the Lao Writers’ Association aims to promote the nation's literature, enhancing friendship amongst writers and protecting their rights, and facilitating international exchange. It currently has a membership of 100 writers. The Association previously published the literary magazine Xiengkhene Lao, but in recent years this publication has been discontinued.
Sinxay Weekly (1)Established in 1979, the monthly Vannasin Magazine aims to provide a forum for the development of Lao writing and to entertain and educate readers through poetry and short stories which focus on Lao traditional culture, reflecting the daily lives of Lao people and informing them of social problems. In 1999 the Vannasin office launched the Sinxay Weekly newspaper and in 2004 it launched the annual Sinxay National Writing Competition.
 
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The Laos Cultural Profile was created in partnership with the Ministry of Information and Culture of Laos with financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation
Date updated: 19 September 2005
 
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