marcel barang

Reading notes 3/4

In English, Reading matters on 04/10/2018 at 5:15 pm

urudaA drop of nectar in the tears

[Yot Namwan Nai Yat Namta – Uruda Covin]

[หยดน้ำหวานในหยาดน้ำตา โดย อุรุดา โควินท์]

 

Her ten years of life with short-story writer extraordinaire Kanokphong Songsomphan, who in 2006 died at 40 of flu and lung infection, are Uruda Covin’s stock in trade, so I figure that going through the first paragraph of each chapter should be enough to scan through this 400-page latest novel of hers.

The paragraphs are usually short, and “you” here (“Phi” or big brother in the text) is Kanokphong, of course.

1 – I ask myself, where should I begin? And then I find it was too long before we met, it was very long before we loved each other.

2 – I didn’t answer the question, but turned my gaze towards those stars which sparkled more than on any other day [sic]. Khuang Khanun [a district of Pattalung Province]. You were born here. You grew up here. You were a thin but strong boy playing with your elder brother.

3 – Going back to your question, which I should indeed answer – was I fleeing from something or not?

4 – Your embrace made me feel unhappy, irritated with myself. I was thinking too much of you already, so what was the big deal with a meaningless embrace?

5 – The neighbour’s garden was a real garden, unlike your jungle version of one. You kept walking ahead amid the branches. My heart beat like a victory drum. A moment ago I still felt bad about Bang Sot, but that had run its course in your watery eyes. I took some big steps, it seems I walked faster once I was used to the shoes.

6 – I didn’t think I’d make you go back to writing. I’m neither a witch nor a fairy, not even an impressive human being, and you know best – writing doesn’t come up miraculously, even though we’d like to believe so, too much. It’d be lovely and easy if short stories sprouted out of relationships like trees.

7 – You invited me to come, it was you who spoke, but it’s almost as if you’ve forgotten, you act as if you didn’t speak. Is this what’s called being together?

8 – The period of the world football championship was my reward. A full month during which you didn’t scowl, you weren’t tense, you still made coffee and walked upstairs every morning, but you know what? Just your smile, and that day was another day.

9 – Because you were good at climbing trees, I told friends, I told everyone who asked about us, as if making a proclamation to the world.

10 – You looked relieved when I was about to leave. I took a deep breath, held back my tears until they ran deep into my lungs, my liver, my stomach, my blood, every part they would not come out of. You wouldn’t hear any request, complaint or haggling, or even any question.

11 – I think often about that night, how you touched me, how I responded. I remember the deep hurt I felt and then I remember – what released me from the will to possess you.

17 – I’m right here. Where is not as important as the view. I look back inside our house…

18 – “What if I ask to stay over for a few nights?” the young girl asked. “I came on the bus by myself.”

19 – “Literature makes us understand man and life better,” you told me. “Not everything. Not clearly, but at least better than if there was no literature.”

20 – Except writing, apart from that, you never make plans. Whatever you want to do you do. When you think of something, you do it at once and you make it look as if you had fun.

30 – You’re waiting for the English version of Phaendin Uen* to come out, aren’t you? I know you’re waiting. You’ve been focused on it since we began to be familiar with Peter. I use the word “familiar” because when he first came to see us to ask for permission to translate Phaendin Uen, you weren’t sure he could do it. After he stayed with us for a week, went up the mountain with us and went to Phatthalung with us, you had confidence in him.

[* Phaendin Uen (Another Land) is the collection of short stories that earned Kanokphong Songsomphan the SEA Write Award in 1996. The book has not been translated into any language.]

36 – The good news from Phraew Publishing has reached the village. My short story “Siadai Mue” (A waste of talent) has received the Nai-In Award. I’ve received an invitation card to attend the prize-giving ceremony.

38 – I don’t like to cut the stems of flowers. The flowers I keep I stick into vases or some container, just stick them in, without making plans, without imagination. I pile them up on the table, take a glass, put all the flowers into it. If it still looks too loose I pluck off leaves and stick some more in.

39 – “Were you happy when you were with Kanokphong?” Wat Rawi asks. He arrived yesterday. Where and how he slept I don’t know. He’s hungry. I invite him to go and look for something to eat around the lake. I’m not hungry but I’ve been attending the funeral for fifteen days, I’d like to see a vast expanse of water, I’d like to breathe in the great outdoors.

Jomthian 04.10.18

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