So a mug of coffee (sugar, no milk) each it was for Chart and Soi the other day on their way back to Pak Chong.
They told me that their long-suffering mangy dog, whom I knew well both ‘in person’ and through one of Chart’s short stories I translated for him, just died.
I told Chart: So now you can go back to writing, ahem. Him: Ah, but there is the rice… Me: What rice? Him: I’ve been planting rice, didn’t you know? I’ve even got a mini-mill to process it. Me: What’s the idea? Nostalgia? Misunderstood sufficiency economy? Him: Preparing for civil war.
We laughed. Then he turned serious: Do you think the red and yellow shirts…
One reason for his stopover was to discuss a point in my translation of his Ma Nao Loi Narm, Carrion floating by, which is one of my two labours of love for him that he has been ignoring for over a year but is now about to print under his Howling Books imprint for Thailand’s market – the other a selection of his best short stories of the last thirty years. He said he wrote it in such a way that the narrator could be either a man or a woman, using ‘khun’ throughout for ‘you’, which is the way the narrator talks to you nouveau roman-style about someone causing a car crash and suffering the consequences. Well, Thai has no gender agreement, but English (and probably any other Western language) has. I chose to make the driver a man. Can’t be helped: a case of ‘lost in translation’.
Another reason for the visit was to give me a copy of the latest (March 2008), twenty-third reprint of his mega-novel Phan Ma Ba (Mad Dogs & Co), of which I already had three previous prints: a budding publisher in France seems to be eager to have me retranslate it, this time from Thai into French.
A third reason had to do with an invitation for the two of us to go and pontificate in a symposium cum book fair in southern France in mid-October. We agreed the honour of Thai literature demanded that we attend. More on this later.