marcel barang

Une bouffée de jeunesse

In English on 12/06/2013 at 5:31 pm


They came with the rain last night, stayed with the pelting rain and left with the rain as it petered out almost three hours later: Master Siriworn, with family and friends. A breath of youthful air (men and women in their thirties, and the two-year-old son), a shower of laughs and words without malice in a relaxed, rambling, well-watered conversation.

They came with beer in cans and a few snacks I completed with specially bought unsalted almonds and slices of kolbász-like spicy sausage that looks like thin salami and tastes like chorizo. Kosin found it delicious and not at all spicy; but then, he is from Surin … and talks to his big brother Paiwarin in (rhyming?) Khmer when they are alone. He too is a poet, and a draughtsman with a distinctive style, good enough to catch if not the likeness at least the harshness of my face without my posing or even noticing his endeavour (he sat in a corner of the room, to my immediate left). His latest, fifth, volume of poems, published in March, has a title that says it all: This road leads to mummy’s heart.

Siriworn and Rueangkit, editor at their Pajonphai publishing house, were a study in contrast: the latter kept to his corner of the sofa, said few words and didn’t miss a thing; the former was all over the place, with a word or a gesture for everyone and three or four hands to handle his canned beer, riffle through books and take pictures with a real camera (how passé is that): I guess that’s how he gathers material for book covers. Either that or he’s working for the local FBI.

For spiritual consumption, when the six of them piled up into their car on their way to dinner with yet another poet on the other side of the river, they left with my blessings and a few kilos of back issues of the NYRB, LRB and TLS…

I understand it was in a Phra Arthit eatery that Kosin that same night drew this very good portrait of the man with the moustache.

Siriworn by Kosin Khao-ngam

Three days earlier, I’d had another two visitors: the hermit from Phetchaburi in person and his Bangkok good friend. Saneh and Yot were visiting their elders: they had just called on Arjin Panjaphan, 86, and it was my turn… Then too Yot killed time taking pictures of me as we spoke with some portable contraction contraption [thanks, Christopher!], iPhone or some such, which thankfully didn’t flash. It seems to be a virulent occupation among young people these days. I asked Yot why so many pictures; he said it was to keep them for when he writes his memoirs in old age.

Saneh kept apologising he hadn’t brought me a present. I never expect any, and least of all from him who has very little money to live on. (What, however, pleased me very much was Yot’s promise to help me get in touch with writers with little known pen names whose work I keep finding in Chor Karrakeit magazine whose records have allegedly been lost to the 2011 flood.) Nonetheless, Saneh took one of the three or four novels he had bought for himself and gave it to me. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Keep it, I’ve read it, I told him. A moment later, he excused himself and went out. He came back with a bagful of canned milk. I don’t drink this stuff. I forced him to take it with him when he left. It took me some time to figure out why the milk: when they arrived, I’d just finished repainting one of my rocking chairs, Yot asked me if I wore a mask when I painted and, one thing and another, I said that professional painters in France fought paint fumes by drinking milk. Ai Saneh, eui!

  1. I’ve been receiving your newletter for a while and reading your journey to get the visa. Little did I know that you were the translator of Thai classical fiction. My bad.

    I checked out your website this morning and had a deja vu that your name somehow reminded me of a book (Chart Korbjitti’s Mad Dogs and Co.) on Amazon of which my colleague blogged about months ago.

    Anyway, the translation section is very informative and I will spend more time reading your short stories.

  2. I guess it’s that time of the year then… Well cheer up and have a great one Marcel!

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