marcel barang

Blessed silence

In English on 31/12/2010 at 10:59 pm


All my life I’ve been blighted with too keen a hearing. I can’t stand loud noise. Ten years ago it must have been, a technician in a clinic checking my hearing in a soundproof box said I was in a class of my own. Alas, this is Thailand and the decibels are ringing at full blast day in day out.

But for these precious few days between one year and the next, I’m blessed: gone are the vans that holler their wares in our lanes; gone to sea or mountain retreats my moneyed townhouse neighbours; gone upcountry, as well, the contiguous slum neighbours, with the exception of that youngish bibulous couple whose mutual term of endearment is ai hia (you bastard! fuck you!) and whose newborn meowed its entire first month, but never mind them; even the blessed abbot of the nearby Wat Dao seems to have turned off his blasted Tannoy, and since Chang Daeng lost his second bid at leadership of the local chumchon (community), his is at half-blast. Now is the time for me to turn up the sound and listen to FIP broadcasting ‘You can’t always get what you want’ just now.

And did you notice something? There are stars in the Bangkok sky again! Another couple of days and the dust in the air will settle and I won’t have to wipe the place clean for maybe a day or two. With the added bonus of a nippy temperature that has me in jeans and socks and shoes in the daytime and under a blanket at night.

Ideal time to work, then, away from the madding din. I’ve spent the day translating a short story by Fa Poonvoralak, ‘The yellow house’. I’ll finish it next year in the afternoon. Last week, the author of The quietest school in the world (‘A literary UFO’) sent me by mail his latest two collections of short stories, seven in one, twenty-four in the other. So, I read them in the odd hours and, well, the thrill of that yellow house was more than what I felt over the others. I’ll offer it to Outlook – uh, I mean Brunch, since Outlook, I’m told in confidence, is to be phased out at the Bangkok Post come the new year. I wonder if ‘the aroma of love juices’ will pass mustard with that notoriously prudish bunch, but we’ll see.

Before that, I translated a 17 000 words long novella, Alphaville Hotel, by Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa, whom I discovered through his short story ‘A tale without a name’, published earlier in Chor Karrakeit, and intend to promote as an outstanding writer in the making, for all his maddening misspellings. So far as I know, Alphaville has only been published on the web. I’ve sent my translation of both stories to my editor at Le Seuil. Come what may.

And before that, there was the formatting and putting on line, as a pendant to 9 short stories – 2009, of ten of the best short stories I’ve translated this year: 10 short stories – 2010, available both at (which is being overhauled) and immaté, a surer haven. Same time next year, I’ll pitch eleven more under a separate jacket. And so on until the end of my time.

Well, this concludes the year, I guess.

PS: I wrote too fast: by 10:30pm, the monks are in chant again for the benefit of all within a mile’s span (Buddhist priest celebrating the Gregorian calendar? Or maybe it is to prevent the star-gazed tsunami in the South?). And bangers are intensifying. Time to close the windows.


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