Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Language, Innovation, Culture and Education 2016

Translating Memory: Politics, Rhetoric & Poetics of Loung Ung’s Testimonial Narrative First They Killed my Fathe

Naphatrapee Suntorntirnan

Assumption University, Thailand


This article aims at studying and analyzing the techniques of constructing story, with translation of memory into life-narrative; in Loung Ung’s testimonial narrative entitled First They Killed my Father: a daughter of Cambodian remembers. Politically, while being resident in the U.S.A., the book was written in English language to portray the author’s childhood experience of living and surviving under the Khmer Rouge Regime to audiences in worldwide stage. This study founded that life-testimony is a sub-genre of life writing or memoirs, which helps translation and reinterpretation of traumatic experience of the author towards the act of remembrance. Clinging to the genre, the author positioned herself as the agency, the ‘I’ subject/narrator who ‘actually’ witnessed the nightmarish situations. Intertwining with the official national history of Cambodia, the author depicted the circumstances by focusing collectively on the lives of herself and her family members, and bringing their long lost voices be memorialized again. However, even though the story was written as “scriptotherapy,” poetically in narration and description, literary devices were rhetorically exercised to evoke sympathy in intimate sphere and in emotionally cathartic prevailing.


Testimony, Khmer Rouge, Memory, Trauma, Narratives

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