Should I rejoice or cry?
Here they are on my desk: five hardback copies of Marcel Barang’s translation into English of See Phaendin, pace Kukrit Pramoj who, way back in 1994, had the arrogance to deny me permission to translate his novel and thus a citizen’s right to translate whatever he or she pleases, pace ML Visumitra Pramoj, his daughter and heir holding the rights to her father’s novel, who has – as is her right, however regrettable – denied me permission to publish it (see ‘Of guts and gutters’, 28 June), and pace that other member of the Pramoj extensive family, who reads this blog and in mid-July contacted me to help get my translation published if at all good, thus asked me for both paper and e-book versions, which I promptly provided, and since then apparently hasn’t found the time to assess them.
These five books, the printing of which I paid for out of my own pocket, I intend as gifts to selected persons, are clearly marked as ‘complimentary copies’ and – some consolation – will gain value as time passes as collector’s items.
Next year Thai society will celebrate with pump and circumstance the hundredth anniversary of MR Kukrit Pramoj’s birth. Might it not be a good idea to find a way to bring his most famous novel to the attention of the world in an authentic translation rather than the adaptation it has had to make do with until now?
The same day brings news of the SEA Write Award going this year to Zakariya Amataya, a fine choice. This will only increase traffic on my blog: as the word spread on something called Facebook that I was now putting Thai poets to the question and had the temerity to distil some of their tears, in the last few days traffic has doubled and then trebled and it now looks like fa bor kan (the sky is no limit), as old Khamsing would say! Those lovers of literature who wish me well say that some worthy publisher out there might in the process become interested in my production and print or reprint those Thai Modern Classics and other novels which deserve a wider distribution than the one thaifiction.com can provide. What a great idea!
This being said, pity poor Siriworn Kaewkan, who more than deserves that SEA Write accolade denied to him for half a dozen years now, whether as a poet, a short story writer or a novelist. His consolation is that quite a few of the best writers never got the Nobel. But obviously, this year is not his day.