marcel barang

Bulan Sastra

In English, Reading matters on 18/09/2016 at 9:45 pm

bulanThat’s the title of a superbly produced and edited anthology of short stories and poems by Thai and Indonesian writers published in three languages by the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC) of the Thai Ministry of Culture. I edited the English section. This 660-page-long trade book is available free of charge upon request to OCAC, whose mission is to distribute it to all manner of public libraries for the promotion of regional literature. Trust me, it’s a great gift.

Servez-vous, c’est gratuit

In French, Reading matters on 06/08/2016 at 7:54 pm

Edna_FerberQuand j’étais étudiant en lettres-langues du côté beurré de la Terre, il y a plus d’un demi-siècle, on me disait beaucoup de bien d’une plume américaine, Edna Ferber, qui allait mourir en 1968 à 83 ans et qui est depuis longtemps passée de mode. Ce fut une excellente nouvelliste, auteur de romans et de pièces de théâtre à succès. Un de ses premiers recueils de nouvelles, au titre délicieux qui résume bien son style, Buttered Side Down, paru en 1912, n’a jamais été traduit en français.

Affligé d’oisiveté forcée ces derniers mois, pour entretenir mes neurones j’ai entrepris de remédier à cet oubli impardonnable. Bien m’en a  pris. Car cette mutine chantre des humbles étonne ou fait sourire à tous les détours de phrase. La prose est à croquer, la malice exquise. Comme je ne doute pas que l’édition actuelle dans ses cinquante nuances de craie ait d’autres chattes à fouetter, j’ai décidé de mettre ce joyau de douze perles à la portée de n’importe quel pourceau qui en veut. Servez-vous, c’est gratuit. Suffit de demander à barang arobase mail point com.

No Englitch, please!

In English, Reading matters on 19/07/2016 at 11:04 am

If you had only the would-be-English poem introducing Part 1 of Rossanee Nurfarida’s first collection of Thai poems entitled Far away from our own homes, what would you make of this?
Only see own self in boat
Paddle none destiny
Maybe lost
In homelands we lost
Or in the one introducing Part 2, of this:
Both we passing
And owned empty space build a kingdom of melt suffering
I’m owned silence and tear drops hiding
But you?
Fear not, the answer is down below.
But then, the poem introducing Part 3 has no Thai version. In it you find “migratory birds well smiley” and “The lover every night stars mapping | Let the moon take North Star guiding | Up-down Sea tiding never know”. The reference to MH370 (the Malaysian Airlines flight lost at sea in March 2014) is clear enough, though not quite the ending: “How many sun set and rise | MH370 back a butterfly”.
Since there is no mention of a translator, one must assume Ms Rossanee penned those herself, more’s the pity. Why parade such mastery of pidgin? Fortunately, on the Thai side, she actually makes sense, sort of:
 
Lost in one’s homeland
 
No Zheng He’s fleet
No colonialist armada
Just someone lost
A little boat mast lost
Of no known nationality
Crossing a lake
 
No waves
No lotuses
No flock of Asian openbill storks
Fleeing the cold
Just a drifter without an aim
 
No sunshine
No parting line between night and day
Telling of dawn and dusk
Seeing oneself in the boat
As if adrift
Lost in one’s homeland
Homeland lost to one and all
 
The place frangipanis shade all day
 
Long time no see, hey, sea
But the sea remembers me
Asks the sea: you all right?
I smile
Answer I’m fine
 
You’re fine on a white piece of cloth
Eyes closed tight amid a scent of frankincense
Like it?
You don’t answer
Like it or not, you must lie there
Drowsy or not, you must sleep
Sleep forever
Waiting for the day of waking up in front of someone
Who one day might be me
Included on that white piece of cloth
Under the shade of frangipanis
they come and visit each Friday

 
Long time no meet
The sea asks the meaning of happiness
I am someone passing through
You are someone passing through
We each travel
And claim empty space to build a world
Where suffering melts down
Hiding teardrops
Lest the sea see them
 
You occupy a space that fits you
Lying on a white piece of cloth
I carefully kept a fine stitched five-piece fabric
For you to sleep comfortably
Intending to fold the bottom into a lotus
As a memento of our last meeting
 
The Yasin surah is read
Like a muttering from a distant land
Stuttering Arabic grammar
Faltering through the throat
Heard yet far from clear
Shahada whispered repeatedly
Soft as the wind at Maghrib time
The heart as light as a feather
Life as fragile as soapsuds
 
Under the frangipanis
Can you hear my voice?
The term ‘miss you’ has never faded
With the sound of the waves
It covers the place
Frangipanis shade all day