marcel barang

Posts Tagged ‘Bunluea Fund’

A sobering experience

In English on 04/09/2011 at 5:11 pm


That ASTV team did a very professional job of it: my interview, broadcast last night, wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared. Everything I wanted to say was there; everything I had fumbled or mumbled about was taken out.
My only obvious mistake, which couldn’t be corrected, was to misname as Bunluea Foundation (มูลนิธิ – munnithi) that bunch of literary parasites that – rightly giving their greed – call themselves Bunluea Fund (กองทุน – kong thun).

But what a shock it was to see myself on screen, to see myself as other people see me!
Looking at the inverted picture of oneself in a mirror is one thing; looking at oneself in usually flattering photographs is another: hair parting on the wrong side, how weird!
But an altogether different experience it is, and a sobering one, to see oneself breathing and moving and hear oneself speaking and snorting as others see and hear one.

What I saw was an old man I failed to recognise as me.
That man in a hardly legible black-and-white t-shirt, reclining on a chair as if he was stuck there, had a funny haircut (self-inflicted), a papier-mâché face and long, big bony hands emphasising the thinness of his forearms. Seeing him last night, I was reminded of a remark made by my beefy brother years ago: ‘You could do with bigger arms, you know.’ I was still reflecting on that later into the night watching Sylvester Stallone spending much of a film clinging to overhanging structures by sheer force of wrists.
Next life, I’ll go for pushups – and in this one, no more t-shirts in public.

I also heard that old man and his at times bizarre accent, not to mention those long gaps in his sentences when his freshly-Cafergot-fumigated mind was groping for the right word or expression: fluent enough for a farang but certainly not the genuine article. Ah well…

What struck me most was the chasm between this senior relative of sorts and the perception I have of myself. Let’s face it: inside, I’m still the young man I’ve always been, thirty years old going on ten. I still nurse projects for the next twenty years or so (while secretly hoping I won’t last that long or if I do let it be without turning senile) and enjoy the present moment more than I’ve ever done even in the exalted days when I plied the world for scoops and the odd air hostess.

Oh, sure: teeth missing, rusty hips, lingam gone into hibernation and the odd broken bone. Well, that’s par for the course. Or so I thought.
Now I know it also shows in the wrapping.
It’s finally dawned on me that when acquaintances at work greet me with ‘Oh, Khun Marcel, you haven’t changed!’ it’s to my attire that they all too truthfully refer: I need a new wardrobe, and a face-lift.


My phantom interview by TVThai

In English on 20/01/2011 at 3:21 pm

Just now, coming back from a trip to the Phra Chan (Moon) pier to purchase the latest and last issue of Chor Karrakeit, I stop at the entrance to my lane by the van selling vegetables thrice a week.
One of my neighbours exclaims, ‘Oh! I saw you on TV last night, I don’t remember which channel, something about translation, right?’
This is how I learn that my interview of two to three months ago by a team from TVThai’s ศิลป์สโมสร (Sin Samosorn – Art Club) has finally been aired.
Not a call, not an email to inform me beforehand (I never left the house yesterday). So very courteous and professional!

Four men had come to my house – a driver who kept out of the way outside, a cameraman, a young man who held the mike and the handsome presenter who asked the questions.  They had insisted on interviewing me in situ, so they could peek at my living conditions, at my books, at the pictures on my walls. We talked mainly on the front porch, me reclining in my favourite rocking chair. The recording took over one hour, for a broadcast of perhaps fifteen minutes of chatting spread out over the allotted half hour.
I talked freely about translation methods, Thai literature in general, how my translation of Four Reigns was denied existence and about the extortion racket of the Bunluea Fund over my translation of Thutiyawiseit. I wonder what they kept of what I told them.
Perhaps I’ll find out from the internet. Perhaps I’ll never know.
Thanks a lot, Chong Sarm!

Of guts and gutters

In English on 28/06/2010 at 10:33 pm

Seventeen years ago, I undertook to select, translate and publish the twenty best novels of Thailand under the label Thai Modern Classics.
One of those twenty was See Phaendin (Four Reigns) by Kukrit Pramoj.
So, prior to publication of my anthology (the 20 best novels of thailand, TMC, 1994 – revised edition 2008, see that started the TMC publishing programme, as I did with every author or their heirs, I sent the relevant chapter of it to MR Kukrit for permission to publish. Each chapter consisted of a biography of the author, a presentation of the story with substantial excerpts, and my own assessment of the work.
As a journalist during the previous decades, I had known MR Kukrit, indeed in the early days (1976) had been briefly his neighbour in Soi Praphinit and had witnessed his fabled residence being ransacked by drunken police officers, had interviewed him a couple of times and failed to please him and his dog Samsee.
To my consternation, the author had his secretary send me a short note in hemiplegic Thai denying me the right to translate his work on the grounds that my translation approach couldn’t possibly do justice to his work.

No need here to retrace the history of Thai Modern Classics, its premature demise in 1988 and resurrection in due time, but as a set of eBooks available on Suffice it to say that, by early 2009, having translated all but two of the twenty novels and having decided not to retranslate Nikhom Raiyawa’s Taling Soong Sung Nak (very well translated already by Richard C Lair under the title High Banks Heavy Logs) I was left with Four Reigns.
By then MR Kukrit was long dead.
As the yearly pilgrimage for visa renewal took me for the last time to Soi Suan Phlu in March 2009 I just sauntered over to Kukrit’s Heritage Home, as it is now called, and was lucky to find there its managing director, ML Rongrit Pramoj, who, in the course of a most pleasant conversation around his father and this book, declared himself wholly in favour of my translating the novel. He told me, though, that the copyright holder wasn’t him but his sister, ML Visumitra. He called her on his portable (she was in England that day) and I briefly talked to her, to the effect that she was concerned about possible complications given the existence of another book in English purporting to be a translation of See Phaendin, which was being reprinted.
That book, Four Reigns, by ‘Tulachandra’ (the pen name of a now deceased husband and wife team who were distant relatives of the author’s on his mother’s side) is, as I explained at length, an adaptation in English of Kukrit’s novel, written in their own style and at times quite at odds with the original. It is by no means the faithful literary translation such a masterpiece deserved and I proposed to undertake. I left and got to work.

Sometime in late November, having completed Book I (‘First Reign’, amounting to almost half of the entire work), I went to leave a copy for ML Rongrit and ML Visumitra at Kukrit’s Heritage Home, with a letter welcoming comment, suggestions and corrections. As the taxi neared the house a late season downpour blinded us. There were a few women in the reception pavilion. To my shame, I was racked with colic and had to use the loo. I was told to take my shoes and socks off and was provided with an umbrella: the loo was just beyond a cataract from adjacent gutterless eaves.

I went on with the translation of Books II, III and IV and rounds of checking against the Thai, English editing and, on June 14, with a printout of the 350,000-word-long translation ready in Word format, I called ML Rongrit.
I reminded him of our conversation of fifteen months earlier, told him I had completed the translation and would be happy to come over and give him a printout of it, and what did he think about Book I anyway?
What Book I? When? Never heard of it. He’d inquire about it. He did mention again the Tulachandra book objection and ended the conversation by saying he must consult with his sister.

That was two weeks ago.

Last week, I got fed up waiting for an answer. Mulling things over, I decided: to hell with the right to publish – let alone the right to translate, which is mine regardless. Maybe I’ll get it eventually. In the meantime, I’m going to format the book and get it printed, at my own expense, in just a few copies with the mention on the cover: ‘Complimentary copy – not for sale’.
I’ll drop one at Kukrit’s Heritage Home. I’ll reward my four editors with one each. I’ll give one to my boss, Sondhi Limthongkul, without whom I’d never have been able to translate not just Four Reigns but the whole TMC series anyway. Perhaps I’ll keep a copy to present at the October book fair to the Crown Princess, who has been known to complain that See Phaendin has never been properly translated. And I’ll keep a copy or two for me to gloat over and leave eventually to my daughter as keepsakes.
That’s what I was busy with these past few days: formatting 908 pages and a cover ready to go to print. Now you know.
Tomorrow, I’ll get in touch with the printer.

PS: On that same day, June 14, I called up Prof Nittaya Masawisut, after hunting her phone number, to find out what was happening about Thutiyawiseit and permission to publish by the Bunluea Fund now that the red storm is momentarily over. She told me they would meet on June 23 and let me know about the modalities of the contract. I’ve just realised today is June 28. If only I could afford a secretary!

Postnatal depression?

In English on 21/01/2010 at 8:10 pm


I finished translating See Phaendin (Four Reigns) on Saturday evening – altogether some 350,000 words over the past six months (not counting various other bits and chunks along the way, for Seksan, Fa, Sondhi, the Post, whoever else). I printed the last book and spent the whole of Sunday reading it pen in hand and then entering the corrections in the computer file, which I sent that night to Khun Na in Australia, for her to check my translation against the original line by line. Her answer the next morning: too much work for now, so can you wait? (This goes for Book 2 and Book 3 as well, on her desk since last year).

I’ve been in the doldrums since then.

I had woken up with a sore throat that graduated to a runny nose, constant sneezing, headache, and migraine on top of it yesterday, plus fever plus gloom.

Postnatal depression?

Quite simply, I’ve pushed myself a bit too hard, working too much, which means smoking too much and drinking too much, along with erratic sleeping patterns and sometimes strange self-rustled meals. So I’m paying for it. A slight drop in temperature and the bullied body can’t take the heat cold. Twice I postponed going over to the office to see the boss. I did so this morning. And am still sneezing, so ludicrously often and loud that I swear and laugh at myself by myself like a flea-bitten baboon in a cage.

I’ve cut down on fags and booze, taken appropriate leftover medicine, whiled away the hours with much reading (finishing that collection of Filipino short stories, reading again on a whim Don DeLillo’s White Noise, and much of Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace) and – being who I am, out of sheer habit really – even translated a ’Rong Wongsawan short story, ‘Kleepkaeo’ (1959): the Bangkok Post wants something by him for the anniversary of his death or whatever journo excuse; this is the only one of workable length I have; I don’t like it particularly except for its ‘jazzy’ style and am not even sure that the prudish Post [which insisted on ‘f*****g’ in that Chart Korbjitti story the other day] will accept its immorality. It’s about a womanizer whose wife pays for his flings yet is humbled by one of his lays: great stuff for a fam’ly paper, what.

Now is the time to delve into Thai short stories again. And as soon as I feel strong enough, make those important phone calls the prospect of which has added depth to my depression. Go out and buy stuff (new glasses, more shelves for more books, perhaps another computer) and have a tooth pulled out: that pricey crown was too pricey to last long; when three dentists take care of one tooth, you can expect its demise in short order (what’s the saying again: too many dentist spoil a bridge?).

And finish writing my will.

Yesterday’s mail

Lo and behold: an invitation on Sunday 7 Feb in late afternoon to a function at Chulalongkorn University. Who by? The ML Bunluea Theipphayasuwan Fund! Did you whisper Thutiyawiseit? An ongoing saga (see ‘Growing pains (3)’ and ‘Taking stock’).

Yesterday’s news

I’ve been a subscriber to the Bangkok Post, on, off and on again, for many years, and I often reflect with admiration on the wonder of having it delivered every single day (around 5:30 am) to my door, whether in the buff or rolled in a plastic sheet when it rains.

This morning, I had a surprise: what was rolled inside the blue box was its sister publication in Thai. I called the subscription department to inform them of the snafu. Sorry, sir, we’ll have the Post delivered to you in the early afternoon. No big deal.

Some time after 2pm, the usual biker came by, apologising profusely, explaining that this morning the presses were late (?!), handed me a copy of the Post and left.

It was yesterday’s copy.