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A proud birth

In Uncategorized on 15/10/2012 at 5:53 pm

Just to let the world know that Under a demented sky, my translation of Saneh Sangsuk’s latest novel, is now available online at and in a few hours will be at as well.

The baby weighs 108 pages all told and the first seven pages of text are free to read on the site (click Preview Reading). Otherwise, downloading the (printable) PDF version is only 150 baht away. If any problem , send a note to barang @

The cover picture I shamelessly borrowed from the printed Thai version. I hope permission to use it will be granted by its publishing house, Samanchon Books. Won’t you, Khun Vieng?

My thanks go to my long-suffering editor GB and to novelist Christopher New for assiduously polishing my English and of course to the author himself for taking the time to elucidate the most recondite or obscene formulations he uses.


State of the art

In English on 18/06/2012 at 8:54 pm

Yesterday, for the first anniversary of my bilingual blog featuring Thai short stories in English translation, the number of subscribers jumped to a round 200, and the number of visits reached 53,500. (Over 38,000 visits and 48 subscribers for this blog, which is two and a half years old.)

So far 27 short stories have been featured, and another three are in the pipeline: ‘Bangkok’ by Chart Korbjitti, whose French version you’ve just read here; ‘Mind your own business’ by Fon Fafang; and ‘I wish I were a skunk instead of you lot’ by Natthakarn Limsathaporn. (It’d be a good idea if the latter two authors contacted me as I need their permission to publish. Thanks in advance to any reader who could put them in touch with me – barang at – or vice versa.)

[So far, I’ve translated some eighty Thai short stories into English, not counting novellas. When I reach a round hundred, I have a dream of publishing them as one single volume of, say, a thousand pages. Any takers? A kinkier version would be to make a selection of just 69 of them: come on, Kensington Books, what d’ya say?]

Today’s nice surprise is that I’m being asked for permission to reproduce translations into French I made (for a lark and a need to keep my mother tongue tingling) of four songs by Leonard Cohen as part of a project book on the latter. Permission granted.

Last week’s nice surprise was that I was asked by a regional literary magazine for permission to republish my recent English translation of Win Lyovarin’s ‘Rainbow days’. Permission granted. I reckon that Nai Win, as the author of the short story, will also grant his.

Oh, I keep forgetting: some time ago the local branch of a Japanese literary agency announced a friendly takeover of my former production of Thai novels in translation, currently available from in e-book form, to get regional publishers interested. My only brief is to let them proceed. Obviously some people are planning ahead in the perspective of the ASEAN common market to be less than three years from now. A little bird tells me a Malaysian publisher might be interested.

Some other time, I’ll write about those Thai books that keep piling up on my desk, both those I’ve read and must review and those, more numerous, I have yet to tackle. Sigh. Perhaps I should take a few, long overdue, days’ rest by some undeluged, untsunamied seaside. Got an address, someone?


In English, Reading matters on 23/08/2011 at 8:45 pm


After hours of severe delivery pains, I have the pleasure to announce the birth today of a new series of bilingual e-books, with two titles from the same writer, Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa.
Both books are available at, which now enjoys the easy payment facilities of PayPal.
Both are priced cheaply, because what matters is not making lots of money, but that they are read widely.
Both are in unlocked PDF format, readable on most computer and e-reader screens. (Choose ‘View>Page Display>Two-up Continuous’ to have matching Thai and English pages.)
Both are testimonials of a major talent at the forefront of today’s Thai fiction writing. (Too bad he has such a mouthful of a name!)

A damaged utopia is Wiwat’s latest offering, a long short story whose vivid scenes layered across time and space are meant to intrigue, disconcert and provoke. An ‘Afterword’ culled from an email from the author to the translator provides further food for thought. (In homepage, you’ll find the work in the Short Stories window.)

Alphaville Hotel already existed in English, augmented with the previously penned short story ‘A tale without a name’. I’ve turned the novella into a bilingual text, dropping the short story.

PS: A last-minute glitch: I find that, because of the obsolete PDF Acrobat Reader used on the site, the option of ‘Two-up Continuous’ isn’t available – and this affects the Preview Reading of Alphaville Hotel (but not of A damaged utopia, which I had chanced to present on two columns of the same pages). I’ll attend to that tomorrow. Meanwhile, this doesn’t affect the downloaded full texts, if you have the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.

PPS (Wed 1pm): Done.

Only good news

In English, Reading matters on 05/08/2011 at 8:53 pm

Interest in quality Thai fiction is sustained, folks. On Tuesday, less than fifty days after the launch, my new blog เรื่องสั้นไทย |thai to english fiction passed the 10 000 views mark and as of today has 32 subscribers (two-year-old this minute: 26 880 views; 33 subscribers).
That’s an average of 200 views a day, even though a new story comes up only on the stroke of midnight every other Friday. Four stories have been featured so far:
– Kanthorn Asornnam’s ‘Fresh Kills’;
– Atsiri Thammachoat’s ‘In the night of old age’;
– Jirat Chalermsanyakorn’s ‘Conversation’; and
– Arjin Panjaphan’s ‘The amulet, His Majesty, Father and Uncle’.
This Friday, a fifth one, Rueang-yoo’s ‘The house of death’, will come up.
Angkarn Kanlayanaphong’s fabled ‘The swallow’ is next, and then…
Oh, well, there are another thirty or so in the pipeline – I mean translated and awaiting formatting. But some of them I’ll keep for the next e-book end of year, 2011 – 11 Thai short stories, to carry on the series started two years ago (2009 – 9 Thai short stories and 2010 – 10 Thai short stories).
[I guess that by the time I am a hundred in 2045, I might have a little problem perpetuating that series.]

The good news of the day regarding that blog is twofold: first, an English reader, Peter Young, gave the blog and my website Thai fiction in translation a plug in his own weekly blog on fiction round the world, wittily entitled Unamerikan Activities, and even bought a book from Thai fiction; and second, for the first time a reader pinpointed an error I made about district names in Arjin’s piece, which I promptly corrected – it is not masochistic rejoicing in being upbraided when this translates into improvement in one’s work. I almost feel like wishing more errors were discovered than being showered with praise for my notorious excellence: compliments make me feel ill at ease.

More good news is that the existence of the Thai to English blog seems to attract young writers who volunteer their own copy for appraisal – if not outright translation. Only yesterday, a writer from the North-east, who goes by the pen name Phoo Kradart (Paper Crab Hill – ภู, not ปู), emailed me three of his stories. A glimpse at them reminded me of my first reaction last century when I heard my assistant Phongdeit tell me about that weird book written in block text: that was Saneh Sangsuk’s The white shadowThis paper crab also cavorts over text dunes without breakers.

But reading those pieces will have to wait: I’m still plodding through the SEA Write list of finalists. Six of the seven collections of short stories in competition are to be readily found in bookshops. The last one, Bandai Krajok (The glass staircase) by Wat Yuangkaeo seems to have been printed for the SEA Write selection committees only. Is this enough to qualify it for the prize?
But then, thanks to a good soul at the Bangkok Post, I was able to access a digital version of the original Ms, which I’m now reading as printout.

The Post has asked me to translate a short story by whoever wins the prize this year, as I did in the past couple of years. I’m willing to, but the esteemed newspaper had better pray the prize won’t go to at least five of the seven contenders whose notion of a short story is anything above 5 000 words. The only safe bet in this context would be Fa Poonvoralak, who seldom exceeds 3 000 words per fable.

Meanwhile, besides formatting more Thai to English short stories for the blog, I’m also busy with the next, bilingual e-book: Yuthopia Chamrut (Utopia in disarray/A damaged utopia – I can’t seem to make up my mind on the title) by Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa, Mr Filmsick himself, the author of Alphaville Hotel and ‘A tale without a name’ (see among other dazzling writings, as he has now kindly provided me with a revised Thai text as well as a key to understanding it.

This is how it starts:

A heart was found in a bookshop – a real human heart, a whole heart crusted with dry blood, discoloured and hardened, veering to reddish brown like an overripe rose apple fallen to the ground, a heart of unknown gender placed decoratively on a bookshelf over a book by Franz Kafka and between a book by Marguerite Duras and a book entitled Recent History.

Kafka? Duras? What’s the Thai world of fiction coming down to?

Walking wounded, hooray!

In English, French, Reading matters on 23/07/2011 at 7:38 pm


The cast’s cast away and I can walk again!
On eggs, as it were, keeping my feet flat, both encased in shoes at all times (except in bed, what d’ya think). I had to sign a discharge, and nothing pleased me more than surrendering the blighted crotches (got me money back, gov’nor).

The other bit of good news is that my website,, is walking again too – or rather, to be truthful, is finally working properly.
Now that the appallingly complicated PaySbuy payment system has been replaced by PayPal, ordering Thai fiction in English or French as e-books is easy as pie. You can even download those books yourself and leave it to me to count the money: there are four dozen books on offer.

Why this change wasn’t done earlier is entirely my fault: I shouldn’t have waited nearly two full years to write a memo to the powers that be showing that during that time, between 350 and 400 persons tried to buy our books and only 27 managed to go past the PaySbuy nightmare – and those who did and paid in foreign currency were further penalised by PaySbuy’s extortionate rates of exchange. Swift action followed as I’d thought was no longer to be: a case of น้อยใจ if ever there was one.

Et tout ceci écrit alors qu’il tombe des cordes depuis près de deux heures – c’est la saison des pluies en ce coin du monde – avec un œil sur le contre-la-montre pluvieux du jour. Cancellara, vous dites ? Mais non, patientez un peu. Demain, quel que soit le vainqueur, Schleck 1, Schleck 2, Evans knows who, pastis pour tous !

Mince, alors

In English, French on 01/06/2011 at 12:42 am

Je viens d’inventer une recette de cuisine.

Hachez un oignon, deux tomates, une ou deux ou trois gousses d’ail selon votre degré d’isolement de vos proches.
Découpez une demi-douzaine d’olives vertes en rondelles.
Salez, poivrez, ajoutez des herbes de Provence ou, à défaut, italiennes et une pincée de noix de muscade.
Mélangez le tout et faites cuire quelques minutes à feu doux dans une poêle nappée d’un soupçon d’huile d’olive, en touillant une fois ou deux avec une spatule (en bois ou en plastique doux, pour pas rayer la Tefal® madinfrance, tiens donc).
Quand ça commence à se liquéfier, rangez le mélange sur une moitié de la poêle et, sur l’autre moitié, déversez 250 grammes de porc haché premier choix (le moins de gras possible), toujours à feu doux, puis au bout d’une trentaine de secondes, quand la viande commence à « prendre », retournez-la et mélangez l’ensemble. Une fois homogène, le plat est prêt à servir.
Le tout prend une quinzaine de minutes, le temps d’un demi-verre de pastis.
Une grosse moitié avec deux tranches de pain complet grillé font un dîner. Le reste se mangera au déjeuner demain froid accompagné d’un brin de salade crue et de mozzarella, avant la mangue qui reste et le café.

I was about to write about this when an event unprecedented in the annals of caught me off-guard: after 44 days without a single order, I received one – from some enlightened reader in Singapore – for no fewer than 23 e-books. As the automatic dispatch buttons of the site don’t work, it took me no fewer than six emails to forward the books.

And, earlier, two more emails to send a merely five-page-long Thai short story for retyping: the new scanner turns each page into a jpg picture that can weigh several megabytes. Zipping such pictures proves too much trouble for everyone concerned, as the squeezed file is only lighter by something like five percent. With time to spare, I reformat the pictures to make them as light as impossible.
So, for longer texts, it’ll be back to making photocopies to be sent by mail or hand delivered…

Today could have been my birthday, which is still weeks away.

(Oh, by the way, it’s official: I’ve now spent more than half of my entire long life in Thailand, which, I regret to say, doesn’t make me half a Thai citizen, even honorary.)

In the morning, a special mail delivery brought me four books courtesy of the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (Ministry of), of which three valuable Thai novels in good English, especially Mala Khamchan’s The Fang of the Fire Tiger and Nippan’s Butterfly and Flowers. Way back in 1993, the latter almost made it into ‘the twenty best novels of thailand’.
OCAC, which is financed by taxpayers, is in the business of publishing books that can’t be sold but are given away. Contact them for free copies while stocks last.

Same OCAC is busy setting up an anthology in English of some forty of the best Thai short stories ever – yet different ones from those that always make it into anthologies or collections of Thai tales in English.
I’ve just been asked to contribute three translations to it, two I did last month under my own steam and one way back in the mid-90s. I only asked to be allowed to use them eventually in my e-book production.

The day also brought news from dear friends in the EU who’ve been very much on my mind lately: one is fighting cancer, the other minding a variety of animals and charities with a deft foot but ailing bones.

And much of that day was spent 1) putting the finishing touches to Uthen Wongjanda’s ‘Weeds’ and Laweng Panjasunthorn’s ‘Death is just a dream’, now that my English editor has worked her rigid magic on them, and 2) trying yet again to rein in the mustang of HTML formatting: one false move and you bite the dust, only to start all over again.
Can anyone tell me how to indent the first line of a paragraph without disturbing the space between paragraphs? The answer is probably in a part of the code writing I have no access to.

Anyway, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel before the end of the light. And tomorrow – that is today – is another day. Goodnight.

Christmas in May

In English on 07/05/2011 at 7:46 pm

Last night I got an email from, where three dozen Thai novels and collections of short stories as translated by me are on sale as e-books in PDF format. is offering to have these PDFs get ‘the Apple treatment’: they’ll be turned into cider ePubs, free of charge, for sale exclusively by Apple Store for two months, after which I’ll be free to place those ePubs on any sales platform – included of course.
Merci Xavier ! Merci Élisa !
I’m glad has adjudged my production as deserving of such a treat, perhaps because current sales are no real indication of its quality: since the end of December last year, has sold eight titles to five customers. This compares with five titles sold to three customers by during the same period.
Actually, the comparison is invidious: the use of PaySbuy makes it inordinately difficult for would-be readers to purchase books from it takes real dedication or luck to get through that payment system: the latest purchase, on 3 May, was achieved after five unsuccessful attempts; the previous one, on 18 April, at first try.
Unfortunately, my humble request to switch to PayPal (which and everyone else in the world uses) has fallen on deaf ears, under the fallacious pretext that ‘the PayPal code is too complex to set up’.
If and when the Apple deal takes place, no doubt sales will skyrocket.
If so, I may consider recompensing myself with an iPad.

On another front, the latest I hear is that the fortnightly Thai-English web page of short fiction at is at the formatting stage – a matter of … did you say days?
Nah. Maybe – touch wood or Bakelite – a few weeks? Remember: it only took nine months of pregnancy by the same team to reformat
Beggars can’t be bosses.
In any case, my formatting is well advanced (half a dozen short stories and another two dozen translated and edited in the pipeline); typists of the Thai texts have been found; and payments to authors budgeted. Or so I’m told.

PS: On Friday afternoon, effusive Siriworn Kaewkan paid me a surprise visit, officially to offer me his latest production as writer and publisher, unofficially to down a few beers against my one glass of pastis. I provided the naem. He says he’s busy rewriting his latest, botched novel, โลกประหลาดในประวัติศาสตร์ความเศร้า – and many other things I’m not at liberty to report here. In turn, I told him about a Facebook initiative on short story collections competing for this year’s SEA Write Award, a useful gadget of instant Thai<>English (or any other language) translation on screen  – and many other things I’m not at liberty to report here.


In English, French, Reading matters on 16/01/2011 at 7:21 pm

Tok Kham Nueng

It went something like this:
– Hello, Pop? I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that within our back office everything is fine, all ‘teasers’ come up, whether in Explorer, Chrome or Firefox. The bad news is that there are only two people in the world able to read those teasers – you and me – because starting from the homepage they won’t show.
– Oh? Let me check. [Twenty seconds go by.] All right, refresh and try again.
– Wow! It works. What was wrong, then?
Tok Kham Nueng (One word missing).
That was all the explanation I got. But works again – well, almost: there’s only that small matter of changing the payment system to make it less of a mission impossible placing orders – and anyone can at least get the flavour of some of the last batch of short stories (Ten short stories 2010) as well as liberal excerpts of that fabulous novel, Four Reigns, the author before his death and now his heiress have kindly refused me permission to ‘translate’.

Bis repetita

I owe readers an apology and myself a rap over the knuckles. The other day, as I considered translating yet another song, ‘Born to run’ by Bruce Springsteen, I had the nagging feeling I had already worked on it. So I went through all the archives of this blog (there’s apparently no other way of tracing an entry or a title). No trace of ‘Born to run’ (yet I still remember I did puzzle out its ambiguities, or was it just in my head? Perhaps I should go easy on pastis…), but, uh, that ‘Hotel California’ I posted the other day I’d already posted six months earlier (‘On a dark desert highway’, 14.6.10)! Different renderings, mind you, with variations here and there. Placent? I hope.

Lyrics translation

That ‘Born to run’ search led to the discovery of a treasure trove of songs in translation, thousands of them, in all sorts of languages from all sorts of languages: Never mind that most singers and most songs are unknown to me, that quite a few are God-bent, and that – at least in the French-English and English-French registers – only a few translations near perfection while too many are faulty or pedestrian and invariably pockmarked with misprints. As I understand it, this site attracts as pastime a considerable number of (self-proclaimed) professional translators and, for those, there’s no excuse for gross spelling and other grammatical errors.
For a lark, I picked the first ‘English-French translation requested’, ‘Revival’, and when I was finished translating it realised it was some sort of daft gospel song (I hear the voice of one calling, prepare ye the way of the Lord. | And make His paths straight in the wilderness | And let your light shine in the darkness | And let your rain fall in the desert.): ‘His paths’? But then whose ‘light’? And whose ‘rain’? I posted my version nevertheless.
Then, to increase the challenge, I chose a song in quaint French to turn it into equally quirky English. It’s entitled ‘Nos travers’ by Audrey Gagnon and Bruno Labrie, and its great first lines (Quelques éclaboussures de verres | Nous portent sur l’éclat d’un fou rire) are cheapened by the next two (Quelquefois de tous nos impairs | Je devrais peut-être nous ralentir).

A few splashes from glasses
Carry us on the edge of the giggles
Sometimes with all our blunders
I should perhaps slow us down

All right, let’s leave it at that. You can always listen to the French version at

Bob Dylan et Bibiche

In English, French on 12/01/2011 at 8:38 pm


Damn those recurrent digital troubles! I babysat my IT whiz kid for two hours today and what works now within the back office setup through either Explorer, Google Chrome or Firefox still doesn’t work from the homepage of, which means that it still is impossible for visitors to the site to preview-read the latest two offerings (Alphaville Hotel and Four Reigns). The other ‘teaser’ files are fine – go figure.
And that’s to say nothing of digital troubles at home with the retooled laptop: a belated surprise visit by my wizard of a neighbour this evening has finally lifted the curse on its PDF files and reestablished the connection with the printer.

All right, enough of that nonsense. Let’s have a vintage Dylan song for a change. ‘Just like a woman’ has known many variations in words throughout the years. You’ll find the version I prefer at, but isn’t bad either: only different, a bit less coherent.

Just Like a Woman – Bob Dylan – 1966

Tout à fait comme une femme

Nobody feels any pain
Tonight as I stand inside the rain
Everybody knows that Baby’s got new clothes
But lately I see her ribbons and her bows
Have fallen from her curls

Personne ne ressent la moindre douleur
Ce soir alors que je suis debout sous la pluie
Tout le monde sait que Bibiche a des vêtements neufs
Mais ces derniers temps je vois que les rubans noués
À ses boucles de cheveux sont tombés

She takes just like a woman, yes she does
She makes love like a woman, yes she does
And then she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl

Elle accapare tout à fait comme une femme, oh ça oui
Elle fait l’amour comme une femme, oh ça oui
Et puis elle souffre tout à fait comme une femme
Mais elle craque tout à fait comme une gamine

Queen Mary, she’s my friend
Yes I believe I’ll go see her again
Nobody has to guess that Baby can’t be blessed
Till she sees finally that she’s like all the rest
With her fog, her amphetamine and her pearls

La reine Mary, c’est mon amie
Oui, je crois que je vais retourner la voir
Personne ne doit deviner que Bibiche ne peut être comblée
Tant qu’elle n’aura pas compris qu’elle est comme toutes les autres
Avec son brouillard, ses amphétamines et ses perles

She takes just like a woman, yes she does
She makes love like a woman, yes she does
And then she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl

Elle se sert tout à fait comme une femme, oui vraiment
Elle fait l’amour comme une femme, oui vraiment
Et puis elle souffre tout à fait comme une femme
Mais elle craque tout à fait comme une gamine

It was raining from the first
And I was dying there of thirst
So I came in here and your long-time curse hurts
But what’s worse is this pain in here
I can’t stay in here. Ain’t it clear that I just don’t fit?
Yes, I believe it’s time for us to quit
But when we meet again, introduced as friends
Please don’t let on that you knew me when
I was hungry and it was your world

Il pleuvait depuis le début
et je mourais de soif là dehors
Alors je suis entré et tes crampes récurrentes font mal
Mais le pire c’est la douleur ici dedans
Je ne peux pas rester ici. N’est-il pas évident
que ce n’est tout simplement pas ma place ?
Oui, je crois qu’il est temps qu’on se sépare
Quand on se rencontrera à nouveau
Amis pour la galerie
Je t’en prie ne dis pas que tu m’as connu quand
J’avais faim et que le monde était à toi

Ah, you take just like a woman, yes you do
You make love like a woman, yes you do
And then you ache just like a woman
But you break just like a little girl

Ah, tu te sers tout à fait comme une femme, oh oui alors
Tu fais l’amour comme une femme, oh oui vraiment
Et puis tu souffres tout à fait comme une femme
Mais tu fonds en larmes tout à fait comme une gosse

Blessed silence

In English on 31/12/2010 at 10:59 pm


All my life I’ve been blighted with too keen a hearing. I can’t stand loud noise. Ten years ago it must have been, a technician in a clinic checking my hearing in a soundproof box said I was in a class of my own. Alas, this is Thailand and the decibels are ringing at full blast day in day out.

But for these precious few days between one year and the next, I’m blessed: gone are the vans that holler their wares in our lanes; gone to sea or mountain retreats my moneyed townhouse neighbours; gone upcountry, as well, the contiguous slum neighbours, with the exception of that youngish bibulous couple whose mutual term of endearment is ai hia (you bastard! fuck you!) and whose newborn meowed its entire first month, but never mind them; even the blessed abbot of the nearby Wat Dao seems to have turned off his blasted Tannoy, and since Chang Daeng lost his second bid at leadership of the local chumchon (community), his is at half-blast. Now is the time for me to turn up the sound and listen to FIP broadcasting ‘You can’t always get what you want’ just now.

And did you notice something? There are stars in the Bangkok sky again! Another couple of days and the dust in the air will settle and I won’t have to wipe the place clean for maybe a day or two. With the added bonus of a nippy temperature that has me in jeans and socks and shoes in the daytime and under a blanket at night.

Ideal time to work, then, away from the madding din. I’ve spent the day translating a short story by Fa Poonvoralak, ‘The yellow house’. I’ll finish it next year in the afternoon. Last week, the author of The quietest school in the world (‘A literary UFO’) sent me by mail his latest two collections of short stories, seven in one, twenty-four in the other. So, I read them in the odd hours and, well, the thrill of that yellow house was more than what I felt over the others. I’ll offer it to Outlook – uh, I mean Brunch, since Outlook, I’m told in confidence, is to be phased out at the Bangkok Post come the new year. I wonder if ‘the aroma of love juices’ will pass mustard with that notoriously prudish bunch, but we’ll see.

Before that, I translated a 17 000 words long novella, Alphaville Hotel, by Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa, whom I discovered through his short story ‘A tale without a name’, published earlier in Chor Karrakeit, and intend to promote as an outstanding writer in the making, for all his maddening misspellings. So far as I know, Alphaville has only been published on the web. I’ve sent my translation of both stories to my editor at Le Seuil. Come what may.

And before that, there was the formatting and putting on line, as a pendant to 9 short stories – 2009, of ten of the best short stories I’ve translated this year: 10 short stories – 2010, available both at (which is being overhauled) and immaté, a surer haven. Same time next year, I’ll pitch eleven more under a separate jacket. And so on until the end of my time.

Well, this concludes the year, I guess.

PS: I wrote too fast: by 10:30pm, the monks are in chant again for the benefit of all within a mile’s span (Buddhist priest celebrating the Gregorian calendar? Or maybe it is to prevent the star-gazed tsunami in the South?). And bangers are intensifying. Time to close the windows.