marcel barang

A very uneven writer

In English, Reading matters on 10/07/2011 at 10:23 pm


As I said, nothing like being grounded for catching up with reading. The first victim of this state of affairs? A woman writer, Prarthana Ratana, published by Woman Publisher last March. Khun Prarthana is the kind of woman who gives you the day and month of her birth (25 September) to be feted but is too coy to reveal her age. I guess she’s in her early twenties thirties forties.

Looking for pictures of her and her book on the net, I incidentally learn that hers is one of the 83 collections of short stories competing for this year’s SEA Write Award.
She won’t get it.

[PS: I wrote this before finding out that her book is not on the recently published list of 20 contenders left in the game.]

What got me to buy her book, arrestingly entitled, like her lead story, Refrain from servicing canines and politicians (Ngot Borrikarn Sunak Lae Nakkarnmueang), was a short story of hers in Chor Karrakeit, ‘The man who conversed in bird language’ (Chai Phoo Sonthana Pha-sa Nok), which I had earmarked for translation.
Rereading it here confirms that it is an excellent display of symbolism and fantasy as applied to the violent situation in the extreme South of this land, even though it isn’t so much the man that speaks the bird language as his bird being provided with a human tongue. Here, the events described, however surreal, speak of themselves, shocking in the contrast between playful dream and revolting reality, and leave a lasting powerful impression.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for the other stories in the book. Some of them are among the worst I’ve ever read; I just don’t understand what the author is trying to say, apart from titillating or trying to shock readers.
The lead one, like most of the others, smacks of immaturity: the writer writes to please herself and hectors us freely in commonplaces (show some respect to dogs: stop comparing politicians to them, and so on) that discredit whatever happy developments or turns of phrase she achieves.
Nonetheless, I’ll translate that one story.

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