Duanwad Pimwana is one of the preeminent voices in contemporary Thai literature. As enigmatic as she is celebrated, Pimwana is known for her incisive social observation. Having built her career initially as a journalist and short-story writer, she’s now published nine books in Thai, spanning a variety of genres. Two of these, the novel Bright and the short-story collection Arid Dreams, will be published by Two Lines Press and the Feminist Press respectively this April. Both texts were translated by Mui Poopoksakul.
Pimwana’s narratorial perspective is that of a fly on the wall, but one with a loud, pumping, mammalian heartbeat. She is a master of conveying the melancholy contradictions that characterize human existence. Her characters often frustrate the readers’ sympathy, blurring the boundaries between such facilities as “protagonist,” “antagonist,” and “supporting character.” We take on their coexistent hope and despair, accompanying them as they’re tossed to the mercy of chance and fortune.
In Bright, six-year-old Kampol Changsamran gets left behind by both of his parents when an episode of violence and infidelity drives them both to flee their village and reestablish their lives elsewhere with other partners. It’s sometimes easy to forget just how young little Kampol is; he steps into his newfound freedom with a sense of responsibility, resourcefulness, and wisdom that transcends his age. But in other moments, it’s all too clear that his maturity is a function of necessity. His dearest wish is to be once again embraced by the love and security of family. His neighbors, meanwhile, most of them hardly able to fill their own bellies, show a full spectrum of responses to their new collective charge.
This week, we’ve come across a spoil of literary riches! Big international names come to show in eastern USA, cultural collectives take full advantage of the historic wonders of Lebanon, and, in France, the académie Goncourt is always up to something. Our editors at the front are here to share the treasures.
Nina Perrotta, Assistant Blog Editor, reporting from the USA:
New York may be the undisputed publishing capital of the US, but the nearby city of Boston, just a few hours away by car, is also home to a thriving literary scene. Birthplace of the 19th century American Transcendentalism movement (notable members include Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Louisa May Alcott), Boston boasts one of the country’s richest literary traditions, and it remains a hub for writers and independent booksellers today.
Early last year, one of the city’s most prominent bookstores, the Brookline Booksmith, launched the Transnational Literature Series in partnership with Words Without Borders and the Forum Network. The series “focuses on books concerned with migration, displacement, and exile, with particular emphasis on works in translation,” and hosts conversations between writers and their translators. Previous Transnational Literature Series events have featured Ivana Bodrožić with translator Ellen Elias-Bursać, Olga Tokarczuk with translator Jennifer Croft, and Luljeta Lleshanaku with translator Ani Gjika.
I never had any luck, perhaps because I never thought of it, and it probably didn’t think of me. Yet something now lay at my feet. That it had to show up there was no mere contingency. I could have easily stepped over it or veered to the side. Somebody whisking about in the vicinity would have picked it up; he probably would have grinned and chalked it up to his lucky day. But I hadn’t moved aside, and as long as I stood in place and glanced calmly at it down by my feet, others could only steal a wistful glimpse. Some might have regretted walking a tad too fast; if they had been slower, they could have become its possessor. Some might have reasoned, siding with themselves, that they spotted it even before I did, but they were a step too slow. Regardless, I picked up the money, without concluding as of yet whether it was my luck or not.
That evening at the tail end of the monsoon season, I happened to walk by a crowded bus stop even though it was not on my way home and I had no purpose for taking that route. The money lay fallen behind a bus. When I bent down to pick it up, the hot air from the exhaust pipe spurted onto my face as I unfurled myself back to standing. A pair of eyes darted at me. Its owner walked toward me with a face painted with an uncertain smile. I knew his intentions immediately. While I myself was unsure of my status in relation to the money at that instant, one thing of which I was absolutely certain was: the man approaching was not the owner of the money—but he wanted to be.