December 1, 2011

Thai Literature

Posted in Susan's Blog tagged , , , , , , , at 7:50 am by Susan

For my blog this month, I asked Thai scholar Verita Sriratana to recommend her pick of Thai writers. She has chosen three, well-known in Thailand not only for their literary impact but also for their engagement with Thai society and politics.

Naowarat Pongpaiboon (1940- )

‘Pongpaiboon is known for his poems written in traditional metre and rhyme scheme and full of beautiful assonance and alliteration. Circulated in daily newspapers and magazines, his political poems make him one of most influential poets in Thailand. Below is a sample of his work. The translations are mine (though I do regret not being able to capture or translate his perfect rhyming, assonance and alliteration).’

การเมือง (Karn Mueng) “Politics”

การเมืองไม่ใช่เรื่องธุรกิจ

Politics is not all about business

การเมืองไม่ใช่คิดแต่จะได้

Politics is not about wanting to gain

การเมืองไม่ใช่การค้ากำไร

Politics is not about profit-making

การเมืองไม่ใช่ใช้แต่เกมกล

Politics is not a game

การเมืองไม่ใช่บ้าแต่อำนาจ

Politics is not all about power

การเมืองไม่ใช่ศาสตร์แห่งเหตุผล

Politics is not logic

การเมืองไม่ใช่การกดขี่คน

Politics is not oppression

การเมืองไม่ใช่ตนใหญ่คนเดียว

Politics is not only about “me”

การเมืองไม่ใช่เรื่องของการเล่น

Politics is not a playground

การเมืองไม่ใช่เข่นกันด้วยเขี้ยว

Politics is not shredding each other into pieces

การเมืองไม่ใช่ตามกันกรูเกรียว

Politics is not about going with the flow

การเมืองไม่ใช่เลี้ยวไปลงคู

Politics is not about flowing down the drain

การเมืองต้องเป็นเรื่องการเสียสละ

Politics must be about sacrifice

การเมืองคือภาระของทุกผู้

Politics is everyone’s duty

การเมืองเรื่องส่วนรวมร่วมรับรู้

Politics is getting involved

การเมืองต้องต่อสู้เพื่อส่วนรวม

Politics must fight for the mass

การเมืองต้องมีธรรมเป็นเข็มทิศ

Politics must have “dharma”* as its compass

การเมืองต้องมีจิตสำนึกร่วม

Politics must have a common awareness

การเมืองต้องโปร่งใสไม่กำกวม

Politics must be transparent

การเมืองต้องท้นท่วมศรัทธาอุทิศ

Politics must be overflowed with people’s faith

การเมืองต้องเคารพความเห็นต่าง

Politics must respect different opinions

การเมืองต้องสรรค์สร้างเสรีสิทธิ์

Politics must create and uphold rights and freedom

การเมืองคืออำนาจขจัดพิษ

Politics is the power to purge poison

การเมืองคือชีวิตประชาชน !

Politics is the life of the people!

Thommayanti (1937- )

‘Thommayanti is a prolific and controversial woman writer whose historical romance novels have been adapted into numerous films, drama series, and musical theatre. Her most famous novels are คู่กรรม (Khu Kam) or Sunset at Chaophraya and ทวิภพ (Thawipob) or The Two Worlds. Khu Kam or Sunset at Chaophraya is about a Thai woman and a Japanese soldier who meet and fall in love during World War II in Thailand. Thawipob or The Two Worlds is about a woman living in the late twentieth century who travels through an old mirror back in time to the Siam of King Rama V era (mid to late nineteenth century). The novel depicts the time when Siam was turned into a buffer state between England and France, the two imperial powers vying for full authority over the South East Asian region. The most celebrated adaptation is the 2004 film The Siam Renaissance.’

Win Lyovarin (1956- )

‘Lyovarin is known for his novels and short story collections which are fresh and experimental in both content and style. In terms of theme, his eclectic works explore the grey area between science and superstition, between truth and falsehood in Thai society and politics. In terms of style, his graphic books are considered to be groundbreaking.  See this sample extracted from his short story collection หนึ่งวันเดียวกัน (Nng Wan Diaw Kan) or A Day in a Life published in 2001.’

* ‘Dharma (in Sanskrit) or Dhamma (in Pali) literally means “to fasten, to support, or to uphold.” In Hinduism, Dharma means “duty” according to one’s caste, class, and gender. For readers familiar with Plato’s concept of “virtue”, Dharma is similarly that which propels one to be “of use” – to realise one’s full potential for the good of the state. However, unlike “virtue” which tends to be defined by one’s state or society, Dharma is more of a spiritual concept. In the Upanishads, for example, Dharma is defined as the universal law issuing from Brahman (“God” or the universe’s unifying spirit) and therefore stands as a moral principle of the universe. It can also be referred to by the Sanskrit word Sat (Truth). One who lives according to Dharma also lives in harmony with Brahman. “Dharma” in Naowarat’s poem means more than “moral sense.” The word in a Thai context encompasses all of the above: a true understanding and awareness of “truth” or the law of the universe. Dharma, in laypeople’s terms, therefore means upholding “righteousness” in thoughts and actions so as to achieve harmony with self and nature.’

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