marcel barang

Weather report

In English on 23/02/2011 at 8:33 pm

Three nights ago, I closed the bedroom window and turned on the air-con. Yesterday afternoon, the first storm of the year – three and a half drops under much rumbling – made the end of this year’s tepid season official.
Oh heck, I must get that upstairs backdoor replaced before slanting rain finishes lashing it to shreds. That, or a thick plastic sheet pinned to it outside – foin de l’élégance !
The creepers need cropping – every other month or so. They grow faster than my hair, which thins out and recedes while they thicken and spread.
The resident ghost won’t move away: the water pump runs of itself a dozen times a day, all taps turned off, yet the water bill is still the same, whatever the season, whether or not I water the plants. The consensus is that there must be some leak underground, not big enough to show anywhere. A suspect wet spot at a corner of the back garden had me digging the earth just now: nothing to report.

All this to avoid mentioning the approaching nightmare in broad daylight of visa renewal early next week. For a month now, Personnel have been gathering the mountain of documents needed for that purpose. This one farang employee is giving these three staffers more work than the hundreds of (Thai) employees of the company put together.
(One good thing is that they found that I, now past 65, am entitled to a substantial rebate in income tax. Every year I’ve had to fork out a couple thousand baht to balance accounts and get that payment slip from the income tax people Immigration insists upon. This year, a few tens of thousands of baht are being returned to me, fancy that! On the other hand, now past 65, there goes my collective insurance coverage – my own decision: the cost of a yearly examination to quality for this saintly scheme outweighs the advantages it might offer. I guess I’ll have to pay my own way to old age and death.)
I wonder whether I’ll be treated this year to the same nonsense as I was last year concerning my non-reporting myself to authorities every three months. You know, that regulation in the books for over twenty years Immigration has rediscovered now that they have that spacious new abode allowing for this new department, instead of, say, moving those pen pushers en masse to man immigration counters at the airport, where fast passport processing is surely more of a national priority than treating already visa-granted ‘non-residents’ as potential criminals.
Last year, two officials suggested to me to disregard the regulation until I went out of the country and got the three-month clock ticking as of my return (cf. ‘A day in history’, 27.2.2010). Well, I did arm myself with a re-entry visa just in case, but I haven’t left home for the whole year (not even on a holiday out of town). So, where does this leave me? We shall see.
Meanwhile, the routine goes on: dusting and waxing, doing the monthly washing and shopping, blogging on and off, translating songs for a lark, watching (too much) TV, copy-editing Gavroche, reading Thai short stories (ten to twenty as a rule of thumb to find one I deem worth translating), and also, yes, translating the odd one.
The latest two: ‘Conversation’, which the author, young Jirat Chalermsanyakorn, emailed me even before publication, and which still needs work; and ‘When I received the Nobel Prize for Literature’, by Boonchit Fakme, the deliberately rude-sounding (if perfectly alright in Thai) pen name of Kla Samudavanij.

Which reminds me.
Since the Bangkok Post in its shrinkage no longer has room for translated Thai short stories and prefers instead to splash on ‘book reviews’ of farang potboilers by the unsinkable B (for Penultimate) Trink, I’ve decided to do a favour to my boss, Sondhi Limthongkul, by working for him and he has wearily agreed: soon the website will have a new page featuring Thai short stories in translation – Thai on the left, English on the right, either text readable from top to bottom or paragraph per paragraph, and assorted in the right margin of comments on translation problems and solutions. (Cf. ‘En avant-première | Preview’, 19/02/2011.)
I figure this should interest various kinds of readers: those who want to read good fiction; those Thais who are learning English; those foreigners who are learning Thai; and those of either breed who are particularly keen on translation techniques. This educational and literary project could be of interest to the powers that be in government or academe, whether or not they approve of the contents of the rest of the website.

But not so fast!
When I asked Boonchit Fakme for permission to publish my translation of his short story, he answered ‘you may display [sic] the short story in all the media in the world (website, blog, journal, etc.) except at Manager or ASTV’ (‘Vous pouvez exposer la nouvelle dans tous les médias dans le monde (site web, blog,journal etc) excepte chez Manager ou ASTV.’)
How’s that? ‘Personal and political reasons’ that have to do with this former contributor to Manager (in its Phoojatkuan section), son of a Manager senior editorialist, Chaisiri (with whom I happen to share the same – and only ‘smoking allowed’ – office at Barn Phra Arthit although we both mostly work from home these days), and currently pursuing law studies in France on a French scholarship, making public his personal and political immaturity. Resentment, discrimination and excommunication in the name of ‘human dignity, democracy and equality’ (‘de la dignité humaine de la démocratie et de l’égalité’)… Boonchit Fakme indeed!

The shape of things to come? I certainly hope not, but yes, I might have to contend with too many of those minds that, however talented, cannot differentiate between political and literary concerns.

  1. I can’t believe you gave up collective medical coverage at 65. Here in the U.S. the one good thing that happens when you reach 65 is the Medicare starts. Vive la difference!

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