marcel barang

Thai to English…

In English, Reading matters on 03/06/2010 at 9:48 pm


I’ve just gone through the (pre) final French version of Chart Korbjitti’s Phan Ma Ba, to be published in November by Asphalte-Editions, Paris, which runs to 140 000 words or, as the French have it, a little over one million signs. The French title has yet to be decided on.

I translated that novel into English at various times during the 1990s and published it (as an e-book) earlier this century under the title Mad Dogs & Co.

It might be instructive to compare the two translations from the Thai, over the first couple of pages, even in the absence of the original text. For this, I need two postings.

Here is the English version:


The sea at that time had turned pitch-black and glossy. Bulgy monsoon clouds blurred the sky above. Vicious blasts of wind pounced on the beach, relentlessly driving rain and waves to the shore. An army of huge waves, gloomy walls of coiled-up water, crashed thun­der­ously on the seafloor upon reaching the shore. Wave after wave crashed in a ceaseless, caroming cannonade, assaulting the beach and forcing it to recede, but the beach stayed put and refused to yield. Instead, they retreated in a sizzling slush of seawater, leaving behind white foam that smeared the sand with telltale signs of defeat, but still more impetu­ous waves came rolling in, doomed yet undaunted.
The sun had gone into hiding, as if it didn’t want to know what was raging on below.
There wasn’t a human soul in sight on the wide-open stretch of the beach, which was strewn with driftwood, torn nets, plastic bags, rotten fish and garbage swept up and thrown onto the sand, as if the sea meant to tell the beach it didn’t want any of this rubbish.
Three or four local dogs were foraging for food on the beach, undeterred by the raging downpour. The smallest of them stood gnawing at a dead fish while snarling at the other dogs and soon a war started under the pelting rain.
Way beyond the beach luxuriant rows of green coco­nut trees bowed low in terror of the wind. It was as if they were putting their last energies into a fight to sur­vive the monsoon and make it to the next dry season, when they would stand still, merely flicking the tips of their fronds as they played with the breeze.
Amid the shaking coconut trees a little hut nestled in a recess of the hill. It seemed to be trying to keep out of sight, but the wind and the rain were unrelenting. At times, violent gusts made its thatched roof flap.
A small red-earth track ran from the main road to the beach, parting neatly the long rows of coconut trees into two sections. In the hot season, this track was full of tourists of all nationalities, but now the rain was its only custom.
At a junction, down the better part of the track to the beach, was a large lean-to that had been turned into a food shop. Only the kitchen at the back had walls. The thatch of the roof had been covered with nets as protec­tion against the wind. The floor had been built at a slight­ly higher level than the road. A thick, dark-green awning was stretched across the side of the shop ex­posed to the rain, and the wind shook and slapped it deafeningly.
A short distance from the food shop was a small gift shop that sold souvenirs to tourists. It was so simple it looked more like an ordinary hut. On the red-earth land­ing in front of it, an ancient motorcycle stood basking in the rain, leaning on one side. Its paintwork was so flaky it was hard to see any trace of the original red.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: