marcel barang

Farewell, Duang Jai

In English on 21/12/2010 at 4:47 pm


.This morning’s Bangkok Post tells me of the death early yesterday of Prathoomporn Vajrasthira [pr. wa.], a person in whose debt I am. Although I had only known her in the past three years – a time during which she made no mystery about fighting the cancer that killed her – I came to appreciate her dedication to Thai letters and willingness to stick her neck out for what she considered worthy causes. She was a retired international relations lecturer at Chula and, as such, helped mould generations of high civil servants and ‘her views were often featured in the media’ (Bangkok Post). In her younger days, she had been a celebrated romance writer under the pen name Duang Jai (Sweetheart), notably for a novel entitled Ratthamontree Ying (The woman minister). When I read about it in an old issue of Chor Karrakeit a couple of months ago, I called her up and asked for a copy, but illness must have prevented her from forwarding it.

She had contacted me in January 2008 following my interview with the Bangkok Post telling about my perennial visa and publishing troubles. She kindly offered to help me regarding my status here and, more importantly, over the fate of my translation of Kukrit Pramoj’s See Phaendin, Four Reigns, notably by convincing MR Kukrit’s daughter, ML Visumitra, who holds the rights to the novel, to give me permission to publish. Going through our exchange of emails, I find this:

On 12 August 2008:

Dear Ajarn Prathoomporn,

Here is a short sample of translations of Four Reigns by Tulachandra and by myself, as you requested last night.

Very early the next day, her answer was:

Dear Khun Marcel, this is my quick reply at this hour : how did you transplant the body and soul of SP into English so beautifully. I feel like having Mom K. talk to me slowly in Thai-accented English as I used to hear him years back. So beautiful and nostalgic indeed. I’ll try to find M.L. Visumitra and let her read the printout. Congratulations. BRGD, PV.

Her last email to me, on 13 July this year, read as follows:

Dear Khun Marcel, I have talked with Ambassador Tej Bunnag, Tulachandra’s son. His explanation : he has the copyright of only Tulachandra’s translated work of See Phandin, English version. His personal opinion was that it is acceptable to have several versions of any translated work. To his knowledge, there are already more than one versions of English translation of See Phan Din, one by a Japanese translator who gave lengthy and informative footnotes. In short, if anybody wants to do the translation from the original Thai version, he doesn’t need to be informed and in no position to give the permission or otherwise. I then called M.L. Visumitra several times to no avail, only advised to leave messages which was no need because my name and number would be shown by all means. No return call until now. I will try again. So this is the latest update to have you informed. Best regards. Prathoomporn

How can I not be grateful for all those efforts, fruitless though they were? That ‘Her last wishes were that there should be no flowers and no mourning colours’ (Bangkok Post) makes her all the more dear to my heavy heart. Farewell, Duang Jai.


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