marcel barang

From here to Nagasaki

In Uncategorized on 15/07/2011 at 8:24 pm


A 14th of July to remember: first outing on crutches to get my teeth fixed once again – stitches to be taken out for an implant on one side of the jaw, a filling to be redone on an upper molar on the other side. When your foot hurts, leg it to the dentist.
I got lucky: after hobbling over a mere hundred yards out of my cul-de-sac to the street, I hardly had to wait for a taxi, thus made it to the tooth factory with plenty of time to spare, so smoked a cigarette before availing myself of a wheelchair: nothing like a cast and crutches to give you first-class treatment in a private hospital.
I was gently carted to the lift, and my limping entrance in a place where thirty years of all too frequent visits have ensured that all the staff greets me by name was that of a war hero back from the battlefield. What fuss! I must have told at least six times how on a dark and stormy night down a treacherous staircase…
When I left a couple of hours later, again the wheelchair treatment, courtesy of a passing nurse, but as it started to drizzle I decided to wait out the rain by having lunch in situ and on the wheelchair. One more cigarette and I was wheeled to the new cafeteria for an inexpensive Thai meal. Once I had eaten, someone phoned to have someone else come over and push my wheelchair. As I moved it myself, people scrambled to open the door for me. Along the way, I was asked the standard ‘How do you like Thailand?’ which triggered the standard ‘I hate it, khraaap, I’ve no idea why I’ve spent half of my life here, khraaap’, with a straight face but a grin in the voice, of course.
A taxi took me back to my doorstep.

Meanwhile I had had time to go through the dozen pages of one of Siriworn Kaewkan’s stories in his latest collection entitled The Greatest Magic and Other Stories, printed twice earlier this year.
‘A succinct biography of the deer skin tanner family from Nagasaki’: the title says it all. The story tells of the rise and fall of … a deer skin tanner family from Nagasaki established in Siam: great riches, worldwide fame, infighting, errors of judgment, and the last heiress of the dynasty now living in impoverished seclusion in a house by the Chao Phraya river.
So what? I’m puzzled and disappointed.
Is this fact masquerading as fiction? If so, it needs more meat and rigour than are present here. This mildly dreamy piece wouldn’t make it into the business pages of a newspaper.
Is this fiction? This kind of endeavour was fashionable in Balzac or Flaubert times. Some kind of ‘splendour and misery of a tanner clan courtesan’, perhaps? Duh.
Where is the Siriworn that gave us A scattered world and ‘Ariya’s first voyage’?
Incidentally, may Siriworn the writer please tell the Siriworn that publishes him that there are at least two misprints in the story, on pages 177 (nao sao for nang sao) and 183 (hangsa-rimasap for hasang-harimasap).

Of course, here, the 14th of July is just the day before Asanha Puja (pronounced a-san-ha boo-cha), Buddhist Lent Day, when monks take residence in a temple for three months of steady rain – as a parade with brass and drums reminded me this morning.
Onward to the top of Aubisque as far as I’m unconcerned.


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