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Posts Tagged ‘SEA Write shortlist’

Reading the fine print – 2

In English, Reading matters on 19/08/2012 at 3:25 pm

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When he handed me the new printout, Parbpim boss Khun Jok told me: ‘You definitely won’t like this novel,’ an assertion which made his generosity truly kingly.

Khun Jok was right. I did not like this novel one bit. If I’ve kept crying, it wasn’t over the print size but over the waste of paper, ink and printing savoir-faire.

This is how the novel starts:

When Krerk was confronted [sic – เผชิญ] with the sentence ‘Catch a man and put him in jail’, it resounded in his cranium. Of course, it created a weird picture beyond grasp for a life as devoid of thrills as his. This flash of thought at first had only the effect to make him frown for five seconds and then shrug and dismiss it from his brain, but actually, it wasn’t like that. Several days later…

Krerk is a motherless near genius who has dropped out just before the end of his medicine studies he made last twelve years, twice the usual span. Ten months later, his father dies, leaving him a fortune in real estate, including one derelict building in the middle of nowhere he undertakes to rebuild and provide with … a jail. One of his tenants in another building is a dwarf. He drugs him and puts him in jail. Why? Oh, just to humour that sentence resounding in his brain. He means no harm to the dwarf and will treat him lavishly well: he only wants to control a human life, find the true meaning of human freedom, equality, fraternity and all that jazz. ‘Since childhood he had always decided important things in life with a logic it was hard for anyone else to understand.’ Me neither.

Krerk has two close childhood friends, a man, Wichit, an architect who has just lost his wife to cancer, and a woman, Nut, a concept artist. Soon enough, he invites them over to introduce them to the dwarf in the cage. Do they wonder? No. Do they protest? No. In the name of friendship, they turn complicit and help him out. Wouldn’t you?

This is the kind of fiction that demands more than suspension of disbelief, even if you skim through its 440 pages (150,000 words at a rough guess) out of sheer curiosity to see how the charade ends.

The novel’s sluggish pace over the qualms and feelings of the few characters involved would be bearable, even enjoyable, if the style was outstanding, which isn’t the case. In interviews I read on the net, the author claims he has been influenced by DH Lawrence – if only! – and that he has made good use of his own emotions as detailed at length in his diary ‘to explore the dark side of man’: this I believe and I’m not buying.

I failed to identify with any of the characters, not even the dwarf who, after a period of incomprehension, despair and recrimination and a belated and failed attempt at a forceful getaway that leaves him delirious, becomes mentally retarded and will live happy and free forever in the open jail. Meanwhile, his guardian has got bored with the whole setup and taken himself for several months and seventy pages of tourism in Australia and, what do you know, is molested in a louche bar by … another dwarf, before being involved in a car crash in the Tasmanian desert and returning a month later to his building, as wise and normal as when he started – end of story.

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Reading the fine print – 1

In English, Reading matters on 17/08/2012 at 3:33 pm


As a paperback, The Dwarf by Wiphat Seethong is superbly produced: an elegant brown-black cover, blackened edges, and a model of binding. Full marks to the printer, Parbpim, whose trade I recommend without reservation. As it happens, I know Parbpim well.

Some three years ago, when I had thaifiction.com refurbished to sell my translations not only as e-books but also as paperbacks published on demand, a mutual friend addressed me to Parbpim, which conveniently happens to be a short motosai ride away from my place. Khun Jok, the youthful looking boss who seems to help out a whole stable of young writers, knew of my work and was eager to be of help. When I insisted that bindings should be at once flexible and strong enough to allow for paperbacks to be opened flat without leaves fleeing the coop, he presented me free of charge with one volume each of five of my translated novels and proved his mettle – adding however: ‘Khun Marcel, these are bound by hand; if you sell quite a few, it’ll have to be done with a machine and I can’t guarantee the same quality.’

I remember telling him then: ‘In other words, Khun Jok, you’re telling me I should sell as few copies as possible, thanks very much.’ Indeed, I sold less than a few: the notion of publishing paperbacks was dropped altogether, against my will (and this is why my website is hemiplegic: the paperback section of each page is frozen).

Meanwhile, Khun Jok has improved his trade: the copy of The Dwarf I bought is obviously not bound by hand but just as good as a hand job.

Two years ago, it was to Parbpim I turned to order five hardback copies of my translation of Kukrit Pramoj’s See Phaendin (Four Reigns) which I am forbidden to commercialise. Again, a superb job, which I was happy to pay for out of my own pocket.

But enough compliments.

This impeccably produced paperback has a major drawback, at least for anyone wearing glasses: it is almost impossible to read because of the Lilliputian print. For Thai characters, 16 points is the standard size (as easy on the eye as 11 or 12 points for farang languages); 14 points is still okay, if a strain, for cheap paperbacks; but this volume is printed in what looks like 12 points or smaller!

I tried a dozen times to tackle the first page and each time after a couple of paragraphs my eyes started to water. After reading six of the seven shortlisted novels for the SEA Write Award this year, I wasn’t going to give up on this one – 440 pages of it to boot.

Last Friday, I went to Central Pinklao in search of some sort of a contraption that would enlarge characters by two or three over a whole page – a magnifying glass I already have, thank you, but try to read a novel that way… An internet search told me that what I was looking for was some sort of Fresnel lens. No such thing for sale here, it seems.

Coming back empty-handed and fuming, I suddenly thought of looking up who the printer of the book was. Parbpim! On the spur of the moment, I hailed a motosai. Khun Jok would be back on Tuesday, but I was made welcome by his staff. I asked whether I could be sent a digital copy of the book I could read on screen or print myself in an enlarged format. I was put in contact by phone with the editor of the book, whose introduction in Thai to this Thai novel begins with a gross insult to English and Roman Stoicism – the following purported quotation from Seneca: ‘Man is something scared to man’! A quick Google search would have told Ai Tong it’s ‘Man is something sacred for man’ (Homo, sacra res homini as a pendent to the more often quoted Homo homini lupus est)…

Anyway, on Tuesday morning I called Khun Jok. He told me to come by his place after six. When I arrived, he handed me a bound, brown-paper-covered trade book-sized volume: The Dwarf in a perfectly readable format he had his guys make just for me! I treated him to a Chinese dinner at the nearby Jade Garden.

This is the volume I’ve been plodding through ever since. And I haven’t stopped crying.

Second best

In English, Reading matters on 13/08/2012 at 11:17 pm

The nature of regret by Uthis Haemamool is an engrossing novel about a funeral. In fact, it purports to be a funeral book – and is, in more ways than the one statement on its last page. Funeral books are put together by the wealthier Thai families to sing the praises of the deceased, of his or her life and work, for distribution to those attending the cremation as mementos instead of the usual thingies. A collection of testimonials by nature, they can be forgivable packs of pious lies or they can be great compendiums of rare knowledge and thus are often sought after and collected. I own a few.

This novel works on the same principle: each of its twenty chapters (the twenty-first and last is a coda ‘one hundred days later’) is divided into two parts, with titles often at loggerheads … and as far-fetched or at least puzzling as they come (Chapter 1: ‘Making love with death | The future of the past’). The first part deals with the main plot; the second part tackles a variety of topics bearing on the plot to subvert it or give it more resonance: scenes of the past of various characters and their current social conditions; cameos of bit parts for local colour; lucubrations on the (mainstream) Thai romance novel; and lengthy historical developments dating back to the origins of the current Chakri (read ja.kree) dynasty.

The main plot covers the seven days of the funeral and cremation of the father of the main protagonist, Uthis [Uthit in the proper, Royal Academy sanctioned transliteration]. Uthis the protagonist is 27 (Uthis the author is 37). A former art student, he lives in Bangkok as an independent editor. As the novel begins, he’s in bed in a short-time motel with a found-again former girlfriend who’s now the wife of a much older, Army bigwig (‘Making love with death’ applies to her, I guess, poor girl). He has just accepted urgent work on two typescripts – a trendy South-Korean-style romance in the underworld and a chronicle on the short Thon Buri interlude between the fall of Ayudhya and the birth of Rattanakosin (i.e. Bangkok, the current Rama dynasty) – when a call from his younger brother upcountry informs him that their father has been run over by a ten-wheeler of the local cement factory he worked for all his life. As the elder son, Uthis goes back to Kaeng Khoi, the northeastern village he deserted five years earlier because he could no longer stand his father’s bullying, to preside over the funeral and, besides finding out exactly what happened to his father, deal with the factory owner, who is bound to offer token financial compensation to the family for the loss. Uthis’s connections with a friend in the popular press and more effectively through his one-time girlfriend with her Army bigwig husband will come in handy in this context.

The return of the black sheep to the family pen is thus the pretext for a thorough, contrasted and often gratifyingly mystifying investigation of conflicting relations between fathers and sons and between siblings – present (Uthis’s family), past (the brotherly rulers of Thon Buri) and … fictional (the pseudo brother and sister lovers of the Korean-flavoured novel under editing). But it is also much more than that: a deft psychological portrait of Uthis, whose past misdeeds, perennial delusions and current motivations are scathingly exposed, not least by himself; a questioning of the reliability of personal memories; a contrasted, and in many ways accurate, depiction of the alienation between country and city folks; an impressionistic denunciation of the ravages of mindless capitalism in the country; and an expose on how this country ticks – not to mention a prediction, to be read between the lines, of what the present state of affairs at the top portends for the future of this country: current political happenings are all the more powerfully evoked as they raise distant echoes here.

Three years ago, Uthis Haemamool won the SEA Write Award for his novel Lap Lae – Kaeng Khoi, in which the masterstroke was the two main characters turning out to be one and the same. Kaeng Khoi is again where the action is, but the schizophrenia has shifted to the structure, as we’ve seen. Since then, Uthis’s prose has become smoother, the dialogue throughout The nature of regret is superb, and I’ve derived more pleasure reading this novel than I did from the previous one.

Nonetheless, I have a couple of reservations about the whole enterprise. First, the imbrication of the various parts is sometimes forced: in Chapter 7, the cow expert’s question-and-answer interview rings false: who is interviewing him? And in Chapter 13, who is Uthit addressing with his repeated ‘You understand, don’t you?’ when he’s apparently talking to himself? Second, no doubt because I’m a slow reader in Thai and even more so in its high-falutin high language, I found the intricacies of the conflicting relations between the rulers of the Ayudhya/Thon Buri/Rattanakosin period that go on throughout pretty much the second half of the book far too long, even for the essential points they mean to score in the overall scheme of things: an over-squeezed lemon.

At this point, I still have to tackle the real ‘black sheep’ novel – Vipaj Srithong’s Dwarf, I’ll come back to it in due time if I manage to get through its Lilliputian printed squiggles – but I’ll venture that Uthis Haemamool’s novel will again earn the man the distinction, what with its postmodernist sophistication and appeal to Thai intellectuals, except that I believe the more lasting literary values are to be found in the linear if sulphurous, one-of-a-kind tale of Saneh Sangsuk’s Under a demented sky.

A composite tale

In English, Reading matters on 06/08/2012 at 6:03 pm

If it’s a pleasant enough read altogether, the first three dozen pages of Saiphin’s Scar are hard to cope with: we are introduced first to a tree with a Southern Thai name, lamphaeng (ต้นลำแพง), unknown to most Thais: on the Net, a few think it’s a lamphaen (ต้นลำแพน) or perhaps a kamphaeng (ต้นกำแพง) – and I’ve yet to find a picture of that tree that matches its description in the book as, basically, a tall tree whose branches suggest human hangings but which, curiously, is in these pages grown in pots. Lamphaeng is also the name of the older of two sisters, the other one being Saiphin, who may be the author of the book we are reading, whose title she took from a shadow-play tale performed by her absentee father. Help yourselves, dear readers, to a smorgasbord of symbols and shadows within shadows.

But to put things in order: the plot centres on three generations of women on an island (Koh Yo) at the mouth of the Songkhla Lake in southern Thailand. To simplify, there is Khun Nai (Madame) Thongtuk and her female servant Thongkhiao. Matron Thongtuk lives off the local Chinese tile factory inherited from her dead Hokkien husband, and rules the life of everyone around – a recurrent theme of the novel: others make us what we are. The khun nai first beds her servant then pushes her to sleep with a guest, a tough skipper who will die protecting the mansion from armed bandits. Of their brief acquaintance Lamphaeng is born. Two years later, at the matron’s instigation still, Thongkhiao has a one-night stand with a master shadow player and ends up pregnant with Saiphin. She will also be made beneficiary of the tile factory (which will progressively be run to the ground) and weaned away from her slavish subservience to her mistress, but at the cost of a bare life of muted madness. She teaches her daughters to speak with a crime novel entitled Thongsun kills her child

Daring Lamphaeng and bookish Saiphin grow up happy but fatherless. A great event in their lives will be the advent of menses. Soon it’s time to leave the island for school on the ‘continent’ – the ‘outside world’ ten miles away, I guess. Lamphaeng the rebel will leave school to explore her dead father’s risky background and will become a dancer, while Saiphin eventually will find her shadow puppet father and embark on her novel. Both girls have passing infatuations or affairs with an assortment of often bizarre males, from the one using coffins as boats and raising cobras and mongooses to the grotty boy whose sweat stinks so enticingly. When they happen to find suitable partners, those partners drown, are killed or disappear: another constant theme of the novel (the power of fate on individuals) along with the dismal sexual life of most characters, all the more striking as, when the author decides to turn erotic, his treatment is at once enticing, ironic and tender.

As constant flashbacks have told us about local seafaring banditry and seaport life, other developments will have for background the terrible political events of the 1970s – first in a subdued manner and then, to excess: the sixteen-page-long rambling of a ‘seer’ named Plort Theiwada (Pure angel? Free from angels?), addressing it isn’t even clear whom, about the (de)merits of democracy is totally over the top and mars an otherwise intricately and subtly built tale that hovers between adventure story, folklore documentary and psychological drama of varying depth.

But what about Saiphin’s scar of which so much is made here? First, there is the very real physical scar, when Lamphaeng, scared by an intruder real or imagined, ‘by accident in the dark’ knifes her sister deep in the shoulder. Then there is the mental scar, with its metaphysical dimension of course, the one every one of us suffers ‘by accidents in the dark’ during life’s wanderings (‘Life is going out and about never to return’ is one of the leitmotivs here). That, and the insistence that everything leads to nothingness, to void, a corny enough notion if it means decay and death, are what pass for the moral of this entertaining but far from uplifting tale.

…and a bit of a fraud

In English, Reading matters on 30/07/2012 at 6:42 pm


As for the fraud, Rueang Lao Nai Loak Luang Ta (A tale in an illusory world) by Pichetsak Popayak, about 120 pages long, is a collection of folk tales masquerading as a novel.

Judging by his bibliography, the author is a poet (four collections in the last ten years) and a writer of short stories (one collection, published last year). The initial ‘declaration’ by a mysterious ‘editorial team’ (no publisher registered) states this is one of nine works commissioned to ‘writers from different sub-districts’. Indeed the book is ‘printed and distributed by the Sub-district Administration Organisation of Bagdai in Surin province’, right by the Cambodian border – congratulations to the Bagdai SAO, then, for making it to the SEA Write shortlist.

The author’s foreword starts with last year’s floods, due to 1) deforestation and 2) dam building, predicts more of the same and pleads that ‘One thing we must do because no one can do it for us for sure is to delve deep into the expanse of our hearts and keep watching … the flowering in there’.

Then comes the prelude entitled ‘Before it became a tale’, a five-page elegy of a young woman in bliss (‘Her laughter quivers like a bell of dew.’) making flower garlands for her beloved big brother. When we come to the tale, the young woman is dead at seventeen, bitten by a snake; her brother is mad with grief, swears vengeance and turns into a full-time snake hunter. ‘Blood must be washed with blood. Fangs must be washed [sic – fought] with fangs. I shall wash [sic – clear] the land of all snakes. Wherever I am there must be no snakes. Wherever snakes are there must be no I’ – oops! Let’s change this to ‘Wherever snakes are I’ll show no mercy.’ From then on the snakes will play the role of the cows in the other book.

Again, by mid-book the plot changes course and tone: as the snake hunter ‘delves into the expanse’ of the jungle to reach the swamp that is rumoured to be the capital of snakes, the tale turns into a discussion of the pros and cons of life in the jungle, encounters with dangerous animals (elephants and bears essentially) and stone monuments and the various myths and tales attached to them, with past and present blithely mixed. Having kept watching ‘the flowering in there’, the mad hunter has sobered up (and caught his death). ‘On the way in I’ve used madness as my compass. On the way back I’ll use mindfulness as my compass.’ In the last chapter, as our reformed hero ‘takes the downstream boat of a lotus petal’, the moral is, Life has saving graces. Not all snakes are in parliament: they are crawling within us. Look for the silver lining. Life springs eternal…

According to the SEA Write selection panel, this is (in the Bangkok Post’s translation) ‘a novel that shows the human heart full of love and vengeance which ultimately leads to the termination of karma’. Whoever wrote this nonsensical sentence should go back to temple school to learn about Buddhist concepts if not the difference between a novel and a tourist information pamphlet compendium of folkloric myths.

PS – 01/08/2012: I finally found on the net the text of the SEA Write selection committee vaunting the merits of each of the seven shortlisted novels (my being unable to type Thai is a definite handicap).

The sentence quoted by Kong Rithdee in the Bangkok Post is this:  “เรื่องเล่าในโลกลวงตา” เป็นนวนิยายที่แสดงให้เห็นถึงภาวะจิตใจของมนุษย์ซึ่งเต็มไปด้วยความรักและ ความแค้น จนนำไปสู่หนทางของการต้องไปตัดกรรม เพื่อให้กรรมนั้นสิ้นสุด

This sentence is far from clear, in fact duplicitous in its use of กรรม (fate, karma), ตัดกรรม, literally ‘put an end to karma’, actually meaning ‘ending one’s life’, whereas เพื่อให้กรรมนั้นสิ้นสุด literally means ‘for that karma to end’, which is tautological. It requires interpretation and mine, in plain English, is this:

[A tale in an illusory world] is a novel that shows man’s state of mind as full of love and resentment to the point of seeking his own demise in order to put an end to his karma.

This leaves me wondering who should go back to temple school. Let the chips fall as they may.

A bit of a bore…

In English, Reading matters on 30/07/2012 at 6:34 pm

First thing Saturday, I went to buy the missing four novels of the SEA Write shortlist and found out I already had one of the four and thus owe an apology to its writer, Sakorn Poolsuk, who kindly sent it to me by mail last December along with his two previous novels. I meant to report on those two and had gone thirty pages into ‘Saipin’s scar’ when after-flood chores derailed that project. Partie remise.

The Nai-in bookshop chain is a darling to book lovers but their newly transferred from fifth to ground floor and expanded outlet at Central Pinklao is a shambles: it took three people ten minutes to find two of the three titles I was after – what with no SEA Write shortlisted books corner, former SEA Write winners lined up in the Kids Lit section, and so on.

Most of the rest of the weekend I wasted going through the slimmest two entrants, one a bit of a bore, the other a bit of a fraud.

Let’s start with the bore: Nai Roop Ngao (In the shadow) by Ngao Jan, less than 120 pages of text. Judging from the teeny picture provided with the bio (none on the net) in the last pages, chubby Ms Moon Shadow could be anything between fifteen and fifty years old. Her listed works cover the last seven years: two collections of short stories and no fewer than five novels. In the shadow is her fifth, crowned by last year’s Nai-in Award. You don’t say!

Unless you want to get intimate with all manner of cows, read the first five or six pages to know what the story is about and jump to page 65 when the action begins to gel as you’ll have expected all along.

What the story is about is implied at the turn of the first page: as villagers are wont to rumour, if father and son live alone and live one for the other, it isn’t that the mother drowned by accident but that she committed suicide because she was pregnant from her lover. The father is a man of few words who raises and sells cows he trusts better than he does women. When on page 8 ‘a young girl as small as’ the son makes a fleeting appearance, you know you’re headed for a tragic love triangle; too bad you have to wait for the second half of the book for a series of laughs at the absurd dialogue (when the scruffy little girl returns as a nurse giving the son a sergeant-major’s berating out of the blue) and will find out what’s really been going on only three pages from the end. Perhaps I read too fast, but the timeframe is weird and I’ve a strong suspicion that, on top of everything else, the father in the story is a paedophile. Check that for yourselves. Sure, the writing style is fluid with occasional curlicues, but how can a bovine soap like this be listed amongst the best Thai literature has had to offer in the past three years?

Murder in the dead of night

In English, Reading matters on 29/07/2012 at 4:00 pm

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Yes, I did it, officer. It happened last night.

You see, since I decided to go away on holidays for three weeks in September I’ve had this worry about that hole in my backyard ‘box’. It isn’t a box, actually, but a concrete encasement with a concrete lid (and a potted plant on top) built nearly two decades ago over the water drain in a corner of the yard: there’s a hole at floor level in one corner of it that can be stoppered to prevent floodwater surging out of the drain from flooding the yard. In ordinary times it’s through that hole that rainwater in the yard goes down the drain. Trouble is, when there’s a sudden downpour, as there are creepers all over the surrounding walls the dead leaves tend to block the hole, the water level in the yard rises within minutes and it would only take a twelve-centimetre rise for water to seep into the living room through the back door. It’s happened once, just last month in a freak storm, when I had failed to gather the leaves for a few days, confident in the primitive device I knocked together long ago: a band of plastic mesh in front of the hole, kept in place by two water-filled plastic bottles. The mesh stops the leaves from engorging the hole but allows water to flow through – well, in most cases… What if, during those three weeks of absence, a cluster of leaves…? The only thing I can think of is stuffing a towel at the bottom of the back door inside the living room before I leave as an extra precaution. Anyway, I worry about that hole.

Sometime past 2:30 am, I’m doing my SEA Write Award self-imposed homework, reading this (in Thai, of course):

She lies there. The one that loves me. She lies there. Her dark green body bloated with the poison of a venomous snake. My very sister there. A body I’ve cherished and rocked and raised since its tootsies were the size of a clamshell.

I’m reading this when there are noises of some sort of fight between animals coming from the backyard. Must be some cat, so I hiss loud and clear. Silence, lasting seconds. Then a thud.

I switch on the backyard light, take the torch and go out to investigate.

I look around. Nothing. But then, looking down, I see this: a boa nearly as thick as my wrist is stuck in the hole of the ‘box’. It has knocked down both bottles and the mesh. How much of the head part is inside I’ve no idea but the leisurely contracting and swaying body part I can see is about a metre long. Blocking my hole! We shall see about that.

I go back inside, grab a hatchet and undertake to murder the bastard. A ghastly, gory labour. Repeated blows have the boa contort and force its way further through the hole. I grab its tail and am amazed by its power of traction. I finish the unpalatable job in hurried strikes then throw the length I’ve severed into the neighbours’ no-man’s-land. The other part is in the box or perhaps back inside the drain to bleed to death: I’ll be watching for lines of ants next. I hose out the blood, put bottles and mesh back in place, leave the light on, and resume reading.

She lies there. How could I be made to believe this is the one who loved me, a body I’ve cherished and rocked and raised no less than her parents have since she was born – and I was five?
We grew up together, sought food and shared the same dishes, starved in many drought seasons…

Enough. I can’t concentrate. More on that book later. Was it the same boa I had a close encounter with last year, so close I’d have died on the spot had it been a cobra? Why did I have to kill it? For being in my cups? For an intrusion into my privacy? For being challenged by what I was reading? For blocking the hole? Are these good enough mobiles? I write these lines to make peace with myself. The bloody slaughter I performed was upsetting enough. But that’s not it altogether: I feel guilty, not for killing a living creature (I’m no bleeding Buddhist; I do that all the time; we all do: mosquitoes, midges, ants, flies, cockroaches…) but for acting on an impulse, triggered by the ancestral fear I thought I had conquered: why, only the other morning when I opened the back door I found hanging down from its top joint a length of translucent snake skin, a regular event I dismiss as par for the season with the hope this was no viper but a mere grass snake renewing its wardrobe – it’s the price to pay for living in a cocoon of vines and creepers. Folk wisdom has it that I can expect a visit from the dead snake’s partner. Now that’s another comforting thought!

And then they were seven

In English, Reading matters on 27/07/2012 at 6:26 pm

Since, judging from their online versions, neither the Bangkok Post nor The Nation seem to bother to report it, you might as well learn it from me: the SEA Write shortlist was announced yesterday. This year, it consists of seven novels:

1) Khon Khrae (The Dwarf(s)) by Vipaj Srithong;

2) Diaodai Tai Fa Khlang ([Lonely] Under a demented sky) by Daen-aran Saengthong/Saneh Sangsuk;

3) Nai Roop Ngao (In the shadow) by Ngao Jan (‘shadow of the moon’: how is that for a pen name?);

4) Roi Phlae Khong Saiphin (Saiphin’s Scar) by Sakorn Poolsuk;

5) Rueang Lao Nai Loak Luangta (Tale from an illusory world) by Pichetsak Popayak;

6) Lak A-lai (The nature of regret) by Uthis Hemamool; and

7) Loak Pralart Nai Prawatsart Khwamsao (A strange world in the history of sadness) by Siriworn Kaewkan.

Of the seven, I’m familiar with three: Saneh Sangsuk’s Under a demented sky, which I’m in the process of translating (see previous postings); Siriworn’s Strange world…, whose two versions have left me unhappy; and Uthis’s Nature of regret (if that’s the right translation: อาลัย, a-lai, is usually a verb meaning ‘to miss (someone); long for (someone); grieve over the loss of’), which I’m currently reading: with the first 90 pages, I can see through the story but proceed cautiously: I could have said the same thing of Uthis’s previous novel and would have been utterly wrong.

I’m glad that the rumour about Saneh Sangsuk not making the shortlist was unfounded. So far, I’d wager his novella deserves the prize, but I have yet to finish reading Uthis’s novel and to buy and read the other four.