Enthousiasmes, recueillements et poemes khmers

by Mary Gerny-Marchal & Henri Marchal

Language : French

1945 - ADB Digital Documents | Courtesy of Angkor Village Library, Siem Reap - 106 pages - On-Demand Books Self-published in Paris, 200 copies only

Mary Gerny, the French spouse of famous architect and archaeologist Henri Marchal, was cruelly impacted by the couple's departure from Cambodia at the end of the 1930s, and by the years spent spent in occupied Paris during World War II.

After her death in 1945, Henri Marchal gathered 48 of her poems, dated from 1902 to 1937 and for the most part written in Cambodia, and published a private book (with decorative motives probably drawn by their daughter, Sappho Marchal), with only 200 copies printed.

In his Foreword, Henri Marchal notes that Mary had started to write poems in her young age -- she was 15 when her first poem was published --, and was particularly inspired by Cambodia, its history and people. He recalls that at a gala dinner offered to King Sisowath in Battambang in 1907, in celebration of the Crown of Cambodia finally reclaiming the Northern provinces from Siam, Mary's poem Danseuses Royales (Royal Dancers) was read aloud in Khmer by one guest, Charles Bellan. "The king was so impressed and moved that he immediately granted the author [Mary Gerny] the Muni Séraphon Decoration."

Along with pieces inspired by the Bible (Sara and Hagar), Greek mythology (Prometheus), or contemporary events ("A Call to the Russian People", written in 1917), the poetess devoted many verses to Angkor, the Khmer classical dance, and Cambodian folktales.

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Ex libris with Mary's portrait and some of her words, written in October 1904: "Le souvenir est le rêve du passé. Souviens toi!" [Remembrance is Past dreaming. Remember!]

ADB input: Henri Marchal took this opportunity to paid tribute to Mary Gerny's "constant help and support" in his work as Head of the Angkor Conservation, in gathering documentation, filing reports, photographying sites...