The SEA Write Award short list is out. Out of fifteen titles, six have survived, one per publishing house, Commoner, Public Opinion, Writer, Die, Domestic Cat and Venturesome (oops! Sorry, wrong track. I mean: Samanchon, Matichon, Writer, Juti, Maeo Barn and PajonPhai). The selection is as expected, give or take a Rewat Panpipat.
Five out of the six collections have stories I find worth translating.
No Sea in Melaka by Jadet Kamjorndet: the first story ‘In small pieces’ will feature in my bilingual blog in two weeks’ time. It’s extra short, and quite unlike the rest of the book, which for some reason looks at the world-to-be … in 2022. Jadet may yet find that there’s no SEA Write in Melaka – until that date?
Rueang-Phom-Lao (Stories-I-tell) by dash-it-all Chamlong Fangchonlachit has the veteran writer at his inveterate best. Never been as much present in his own stories as here; must have to do with the onset of old age, though the Ligor Ovate is only sixty.
Sa-marn Sa-man (Ordinary evil) by Uthis Haemamool, who likes tintinnabulation with his beer: seven of the eight stories here have double-barrelled titles like this one. I’ve already told the author one of his stories about integration (‘Buranakarn Buranakon’) will figure in my end-of-year anthology.
Suea Kin Khon (Tiger eats man) by Sakhorn Phoolsuk. Such an arresting title, don’t you think. I wonder what made him choose it, as none of the eight stories here is thus entitled [PS: This isn’t right: there is a story entitled ‘Tiger eats man at Doolapeur’.]. One of the stories, ‘The woman kite’, I translated soon after its publication in Chor Karrakeit (in 2011 – Eleven Thai short stories). I’m still reading this book and may yet choose some other story from it.
In that same anthology of mine is ‘When I received the Nobel Prize for Literature’ by Boonchit Fakme who now that he is docteur en loi has given up his childishly provocative ways and uses his real name again of Kla Samudavanija [pronounced of course sa.mu.ta.wa.nit] in Ying Sao Lae Rueang UEn (The young woman and other stories).
And then, there is Asorraphit Lae Rueang UEn UEn (Venom and other stories) by the Janus Bifrons of Thai letters, Saneh Daen-aran Saengthong Sangsuk.
I’m dazed. Because it’s obvious to me I’ll have to translate from it at least two more stories, perhaps three, them being so damn good: ‘Fan Khang’ (The unfinished dream), ‘Methun Sang Yok’ (Sex bonds) and, written ten years ago and over thirty tightly typed pages long, ‘A poem should not mean but be’ – a delightful musing that meanders majestically between an ars poetica and a lethal beating by way of Tagore and fleeting memories of quiet times.