marcel barang

Only good news

In English, Reading matters on 05/08/2011 at 8:53 pm

Interest in quality Thai fiction is sustained, folks. On Tuesday, less than fifty days after the launch, my new blog เรื่องสั้นไทย |thai to english fiction passed the 10 000 views mark and as of today has 32 subscribers (two-year-old thaifiction.com this minute: 26 880 views; 33 subscribers).
That’s an average of 200 views a day, even though a new story comes up only on the stroke of midnight every other Friday. Four stories have been featured so far:
– Kanthorn Asornnam’s ‘Fresh Kills’;
– Atsiri Thammachoat’s ‘In the night of old age’;
– Jirat Chalermsanyakorn’s ‘Conversation’; and
– Arjin Panjaphan’s ‘The amulet, His Majesty, Father and Uncle’.
This Friday, a fifth one, Rueang-yoo’s ‘The house of death’, will come up.
Angkarn Kanlayanaphong’s fabled ‘The swallow’ is next, and then…
Oh, well, there are another thirty or so in the pipeline – I mean translated and awaiting formatting. But some of them I’ll keep for the next e-book end of year, 2011 – 11 Thai short stories, to carry on the series started two years ago (2009 – 9 Thai short stories and 2010 – 10 Thai short stories).
[I guess that by the time I am a hundred in 2045, I might have a little problem perpetuating that series.]

The good news of the day regarding that blog is twofold: first, an English reader, Peter Young, gave the blog and my website Thai fiction in translation a plug in his own weekly blog on fiction round the world, wittily entitled Unamerikan Activities, and even bought a book from Thai fiction; and second, for the first time a reader pinpointed an error I made about district names in Arjin’s piece, which I promptly corrected – it is not masochistic rejoicing in being upbraided when this translates into improvement in one’s work. I almost feel like wishing more errors were discovered than being showered with praise for my notorious excellence: compliments make me feel ill at ease.

More good news is that the existence of the Thai to English blog seems to attract young writers who volunteer their own copy for appraisal – if not outright translation. Only yesterday, a writer from the North-east, who goes by the pen name Phoo Kradart (Paper Crab Hill – ภู, not ปู), emailed me three of his stories. A glimpse at them reminded me of my first reaction last century when I heard my assistant Phongdeit tell me about that weird book written in block text: that was Saneh Sangsuk’s The white shadowThis paper crab also cavorts over text dunes without breakers.

But reading those pieces will have to wait: I’m still plodding through the SEA Write list of finalists. Six of the seven collections of short stories in competition are to be readily found in bookshops. The last one, Bandai Krajok (The glass staircase) by Wat Yuangkaeo seems to have been printed for the SEA Write selection committees only. Is this enough to qualify it for the prize?
But then, thanks to a good soul at the Bangkok Post, I was able to access a digital version of the original Ms, which I’m now reading as printout.

The Post has asked me to translate a short story by whoever wins the prize this year, as I did in the past couple of years. I’m willing to, but the esteemed newspaper had better pray the prize won’t go to at least five of the seven contenders whose notion of a short story is anything above 5 000 words. The only safe bet in this context would be Fa Poonvoralak, who seldom exceeds 3 000 words per fable.

Meanwhile, besides formatting more Thai to English short stories for the blog, I’m also busy with the next, bilingual e-book: Yuthopia Chamrut (Utopia in disarray/A damaged utopia – I can’t seem to make up my mind on the title) by Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa, Mr Filmsick himself, the author of Alphaville Hotel and ‘A tale without a name’ (see thaifiction.com) among other dazzling writings, as he has now kindly provided me with a revised Thai text as well as a key to understanding it.

This is how it starts:

A heart was found in a bookshop – a real human heart, a whole heart crusted with dry blood, discoloured and hardened, veering to reddish brown like an overripe rose apple fallen to the ground, a heart of unknown gender placed decoratively on a bookshelf over a book by Franz Kafka and between a book by Marguerite Duras and a book entitled Recent History.

Kafka? Duras? What’s the Thai world of fiction coming down to?

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