marcel barang

The projector’s tales

In English, Reading matters on 22/12/2009 at 9:04 pm


Under an improbable title, an even more improbable book: a collection of six short stories by local writers, one side in Thai, the reverse side in … Thaiglish, except for the central story, by Prabda Yoon, who wrote it in decent enough English and then translated it into Thai.

Actually, that particular story, ‘Discontinuity at eight’, reads so well that I might revise my opinion on the modish writer, now that he seems to have gone over his adolescent infatuation with originality at all costs, churning up Thaiglishisms, creating alternative worlds and the like. Of course, there is still some of that here (the ‘discontinuity’ being three variations on the same, somewhat contrived situation, with the spices of voyeuristic sex and background murder added in to look cool in this time and age) but if he keeps writing this well and moves to more consistent themes, away from Win Lyovarin’s influence, maybe Prabda Yoon will be a writer to reckon with.

I started with that central story and progressively hop-scotched back towards the cover, a new experience altogether.

The next was Panu Trivej’s own amateurish translation of his Thai short story with the catchy title (in Thai) of ‘From the neck down’ rendered here as ‘From neck to toe’. Distracted by the weird mixture of Brooklyn gangsta slang and Thai nicknames, I didn’t understand much of the story. I’ll read it in Thai when I can spare the time, to see if it makes better sense. Ditto for most of the others.

Of the six, Kittiphol Sarakkanonda’s ‘Pinhole room’ was the one that made the most sense, even though, as usual with Kittiphol, it lacks scope and relies too much on symbols, the sin of the bookish ones.

The other three stories were in such atrocious English that there was no point in trying to go through them, including the zany ‘play’ by the current SEA Write Award laureate.

Perhaps he did a good job on the Thai side of things, but shame on same Kittiphol, the purported editor of the whole book, for allowing such gobbledygook to be printed at all: this is doing a disservice to everyone concerned, English readers and the six contributing authors, himself included. Enthusiasm is no excuse for incompetence.

Again, this book may satisfy a Thai readership, so long as they stick to Thai. But its English side is bound to put off even the most illiterate English reader, and in no way should be used by Thais to learn English – or vice versa. So please, Kittiphol my friend, don’t do it again. Husband your resources to produce, at a cost, truly valuable bilingual books.


A beautiful gem this morning in ‘The Write Stuff!’ syndicated column of the ‘Education’ section of the Bangkok Post: ‘And too means as well or also. For example, “They ate too much.”

Yes, dear Heather Vlach, and the moon is green too.

  1. (Catching up on some older posts.)

    I have to agree with you here. I haven’t read the Thai versions yet either, but the “English” is pretty terrible.

    I bought this book after 10 Decibel (one of the authors) recommended it to me. He introduced himself while I was browsing the booth where this book was being peddled at the National Book Fair last year.

    Of course, like most vendors at the book fair, his first reaction was to assume I can neither read Thai nor tell that the books are in Thai, and must be bumbling around hoping for a kind soul to point me towards the something–anything!–in English. He turned out to be a nice enough fellow. And that is the story of how I came to purchase The Projector’s Tales. Not that you asked.

  2. I’d written you asking for information on books by Prabda Yoon. You advised me to contact him directly. Taken aback, I replied “but I’ve never written to an Author before.” Ah, but I had just, and a very capable one. Thank You for being so gracious. Of course, In my search I’ve found some wonderful writing,so Thank You again, what a gift these pages are!

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