marcel barang

What flood?

In English on 18/10/2011 at 1:30 pm

Siriworn and Jadet came last night but Mother Ganga had better things to do than crashing in on the party.
Word had it, worldwide it seems, that Thailand was under water, that huge amounts of water were to engulf the capital which, as everyone knows, is sinking day in and year out to way below sea level; that they were leaving misery, destruction and deaths by the hundreds in their wake; that the melting of the polar caps and the moon gyrations were compelling the sea to rise and force-feed already engorged rivers; and that tropical storms would be the cherry on the lake.
Well, I’m glad to report this is all hogwash – a totally unfounded rumour: Thailand is not under water. I know: I live here and, despite sporadic drizzle and brief downpours, the streets around my house, including the lanes leading to the riverbank, dry up as usual as soon as the sun peeks in. What flood?
If further proof is needed, consider the royal barges. On Saturday and again on Sunday, with the tide purportedly at its highest and the runoff allegedly at its peak, would have they come out for practice as they indeed did to paddle and yodel while Bangkok drowned? Unthinkable. What flood?

So on Monday night, almost two hours late as they had last-minute shopping to do, my visitors arrived, as dry-footed as usual, obviously weary but triumphant after a harrowing fortnight at the book fair signing all those copies of Jadet’s winning collection of short stories published by Siriworn.
Have they really sold 15 000 copies so far? So claims Siriworn. I don’t believe him: where was his Benz? Even a non-SEA Write-winning publisher like Wiang has one.
I believe him, however, when he says that the book is being reprinted under a better cover: any new cover must be better than the one he first came up with.
While he tackled his Black Label bottle here and I went for Colin, the internationally famous pastis brand no one in Marseilles has heard of, I put Jadet to work right away, to elucidate what I didn’t understand in the couple of stories of his I’ve translated. Then it was Siriworn’s turn, and he kindly helped me further by reading a short story by Boonchit Fakmee under translation in order to explain to me who in it is saying what to whom. I told the two of them I wanted them to come over every month without fail: their help is priceless.

A rambling conversation on books and blogs and fellow pen pushers followed while we feasted on a variety of S&P sausages Siriworn had brought (along with a pricey bottle of red wine I had him take back as drinking wine gives me migraine and I don’t entertain enough or poshly enough to keep it). Also, some mozzarella and dry apricots I happened to possess. Thanks for the two crispy baguettes as well, brother! That’s what the Frenchman in me really strives thrives on [thanks, GB].

As usual, Siriworn fiddled with his camera, taking such worthy shots as of my new Tefal frying pan and the compulsory Jadet–Siriworn, Jadet–Marcel and Siriworn–Marcel say-cheeses (I want those, you hear, now that I’m growing a beard to finally look my age).

Among the scoops I gleaned was that Siriworn, now the proud father of a Guitar, was busy rewriting his last published novel: he hasn’t given up losing the SEA Write year after year. I guess he’s looking for an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. I told him about Poulidor’s popularity as the eternal second best; he was amused if not flattered. When they left under a light drizzle, I found that he had taken one of my disposable lighters and left me his.

As for Jadet, who throughout kept his beautiful mane under a woolen cap, he’s also busy on a novel, and the bad news is it’s, he says, an expansion on his Pluto story – the worst in his winning collection. He showed interest in my blogs and, later that night, registered as 72nd subscriber to the bilingual one and 33rd to this one. He’s obviously more at ease in English than Siriworn. I remember reading somewhere he once translated one of his stories into English ‘to compare himself with foreign writers’…

The biggest scoop of the day was that, though each of them is married, Jadet will not spend the first few days of November he is entitled to at The Oriental with his wife but with his friend and publisher Siriworn. It wasn’t for me to ask if they’d be also entitled to separate rooms or individual beds.

While we were deep into our chat, who calls but Chart Korbjitti from his distant redoubt in the hills of Pak Chong. He wanted to know if my house was flooded and kept repeating I should put all my books and papers beyond water reach. No, his house wasn’t flooded either. (See, what did I tell you? What flood?)

The funny thing is that, once my visitors had left and I checked the mail, here was a wordless email from Chart with an attached file: a three-thousand-word story of his on Bangkok. He never mentioned it while we talked on the phone. It took me some time to remember that, yes, I was supposed to translate it into French. I printed it out and read it right away: I found it good enough for another translation, into English, for the bilingual blog.
And so it goes on.

But now, for a last meal before yet another tooth of mine is extracted. As dentists over there are lackadaisical about appointment times, I’ll take along that collection of sci-fi stories Win Lyovarin kindly sent me the other day: something to get my remaining teeth into.

  1. Hmm. My retreat in Klongsamwa has (so far) been spared, and I’ve removed all the books to the first floor, just in case, while I’m back in the UK for a month. Although neighbours a few streets away haven’t been so lucky.

    that collection of sci-fi stories

    I’m interested… what collection would that be, then?

  2. It’s entitled เย็นฉ่ำน้ำค้างย้อย เยือกฟ้าพาหนาว (Yen Cham Narm Khang | Yoi Yueak Fa Pha Nao), a line from his beloved Sunthorn Phu. You can buy it from his site (

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