marcel barang

The month that wasn’t

In English, French on 07/04/2011 at 9:29 pm

We are back to normal seasonal heat, and still not a drop of rain, after rain-triggered landslides and floods killed half as many people in the South in a week as died by bullets last April and May in Bangkok, but mostly out of sight and anyway that’s nothing compared to the Japanese ordeal.
March, as far as I’m concerned, never happened – a succession of mostly sleepless nights and sluggish days which have resulted in nothing substantial.
Except for the renewal of the visa. By the way, I’m not liable to a quarter million baht fine through Immigration persecution: that’s for those who overstay their visas.  I’m told the penalty for not showing up every three months is ‘at most’ two thousand baht.
Which reminds me of this quaint practice of Thai courts: penalties are always stipulated as ‘not more than’ so much ‘and/or no longer than’ so many days or months or years in jail.  And amounts and duration are generally paltry, arguably encouraging misdemeanour and crime.
But back to the balance sheet.
The promised page of bilingual short fiction at manager.co.th is just that – ‘After Songkran’ is the latest I hear for its birth, reminding me it took only nine months to refurbish my website two years ago.
Speaking of which, thaifiction.com hasn’t sold a book since 21 February (two bites since, but no catch) and only that one since mid-November 2010. Immatériel.fr has sold a total of five since I posted the whole of my production there at the end of last year. Interest in Thai literature boggles the mind. Even friends at the office keep repeating ‘Youngsters don’t read books these days’ as a morale booster when they see me. How then not to feel obsolete and useless?
Besides, already two worthy authors who confuse literature and politics have refused to be published by manager.co.th, which got me thinking about finding an alternative platform, perhaps my own website for short stories, but a search for a satisfying format has led to nothing but gloom – all the more as my usual IT adviser chose the ides of Marsh to abscond into the monkhood for a month. Patience et longueur de temps…
On top of that, my choice of stories to translate has been unwise: twice I made complete first-draft translations of classic texts – anthology pieces, indeed – only to realise they were so shoddily written they didn’t deserve to see the English light of day: specifically, Suwat Worradilok’s 1990 ‘City under water’ (Mueang Tai Narm), a repetitive rant about evil urban goings-on that led a great city – guess which – to its comeuppance by sinking under water; and Khamphoon Boonthawee’s 1986 ‘My dignity’ (Saksee Khong Kha), a less disastrous if equally left-wing committed story about the hunt for Lao refugees crossing the Mekong river in those days, badly served by strange paragraph distribution, many awkward repetitions (jai nueng … tae eek jai nueng … tae eek jai nueng: on the one hand … on the other hand … on the third hand?) and other weaknesses.
On the other hand, Seinee Saowaphong’s 1986 ‘The lone sunflower’, a farcical charge against superstition, will join the queue for the phantom web page, as will Angkharn Kanlayanaphong’s brief and lyrical ‘The swallow’ (Nok Nang Aen) of the same year.
And on the third hand…
On the third hand, behind the scene, there are those songs I keep translating – those French songs you see here, and those, French or English, which I can’t seem to resist transmuting at LyricsTranslate when I’m not correcting other scriveners’ most glaring mistakes there. Wondering all along why I bother at all. Déformation professionnelle assurément.
One of the advantages of that particular site is the discovery amid reams of trash of the rare well crafted song, and – I can’t quite believe it of myself – one of the singers some of whose songs I find appealing is Carla Bruni, in particular her ‘Le toi de moi’ which strings idioms from start to finish: a light way with words, so feminine and so French, which I’ve always associated with the early emotions of reading Bonjour Tristesse in the late fifties. Oh, my.

Chronique télé (suite)

Parler de Bruni, Carla me fait penser à son époux vanté que je voyais hier soir plastronner en direct du Panthéon où « la France reconnaissante » ensevelissait le poète ampoulé de la négritude, Aimé Césaire, une seconde fois en surtout ne donnant pas suite à ses idées : les recenser, les louanger, les briquer avant leur mise en plaque (pour donner à un nain de la politique l’occasion d’entrer au Panthéon et de remonter dans les sondages abyssaux) était bien assez.
Des textes choisis, enchaînement de fulgurances poétiques et de galimatias pompeux ou pompette, j’ai presque tout saisi.
Du pensum scolaire sans surprise dont le mari actuel de Carla s’acquitta sans trop tiquer ni rigoler, je me demandai qui avait bien pu le lui écrire : les lieux communs étaient bien tournés.
J’ai surtout apprécié le ballet des caméras de la 2, du gros plan au détail qui tue (ces yeux hagards ici et là parmi les notables ; ces deux bourges à lunettes d’un certain âge qui dormaient sous la mitraille des vers antillais…) et, s’il ne faut retenir qu’une scène de ces splendeurs obscènes payées par le contribuable, ce serait lorsque, messe dite, les assis du régime se lèvent de leurs sièges pour se diriger vers la sortie. Noir de pingouins cernant le blanc des travées, grisaille floue des lambris tarabiscotés en arrière-plan : le Panthéon alors était beau.

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