Our KCKP won the Becker Translation Prize at the Association of Asian Studies. The award was announced at the Association’s annual conference in San Diego, California, on Friday 22 March 2013.
Screen at AAS during the prize announcement (thanks to Justin McDaniel)
This is a new prize for “an outstanding English translation of a work of Southeast Asian literature.” It’s named after A. L. Becker, a famous translator of Indonesian literature, and was first awarded last year, posthumously and without competition, to Huynh Sanh Thong, most famous for his translation of the Vietnamese classic, Tale of Kieu in 1973.
The paperback version has just come out. It has a new cover, but most readers would not detect any change in the text. In fact, we and Susan Offner at Silkworm spent over a year checking the text, and made over 600 corrections.
Most of these are amending the usage of commas, capitals, hyphens, italics, and other technical details. Some are minor improvements in the style of expression, without any change of meaning, for example “the more his heart was bursting” is changed to “the more he felt his heart was bursting.”
Around a hundred are additions or amendments to the footnotes based on new information we have discovered over the past two years.
We have sent the mss of our edition of the Wat Ko text, the pre-Damrong verion of KCKP, off to Silkworm. It should appear in October.
Editing the text was sometimes tricky. Our principle was to change as little as possible but this was not so easy. The text was composed before the spelling of Thai was standardized. But it?s also obvious that the Wat Ko volumes were a bit scrappily typeset, probably by a typesetter with an assistant reading aloud from a samut thai text. Whenever we found a word spelled differently from modern Thai spelling, we had to decide whether this was an accepted spelling variant before standardization, or a mistake by the typesetter (or by a copyist of the samut thai further back in the process). We evolved some rules of thumb for making these decisions, but in the end there was some subjective judgment.
On 24 May 2012, the ?Re-Reading Khun Chang Khun Phaen? exhibition that we helped to curate at the Jim Thompson Art Center last year was opened in the Suphanburi National Museum. We went for the official opening and a seminar.
KCKP exhibition at Suphanburi Museum
Muangsing Janchai is extending his series of murals on KCKP in the cloister at Wat Palelai in Suphanburi. He has put up about a dozen, and will add another ten or so in a few weeks.
Wanthong's cremation at Wat Takrai, Ayutthaya
We had a launch event at Chiang Mai University on 19 November 2010. We’ve just discovered that videos of the event are on YouTube. Here are the links. It’s mostly in Thai.
Tum Teav is a Cambodian classic. An English translation was published by George Chigas in 2005. There are many, many parallels with KCKP. This is a summary of the plot.
Tum and his friend Pech are young monks. When they go on a journey to sell baskets, a beautiful young girl, Teav, is captivated by Tum?s looks and chanting voice. She gives him her uppercloth. Tum and Pech return to their monastery and ask to disrobe. The abbot divines that Tum is in love so refuses. After pining for some time, Tum disrobes himself.
Meanwhile the governor of the province asks Teav?s mother for the hand of Teav for his son. The mother is keen but Teav refuses. Tum and Pech travel to Teav?s village. Tum and Teav secretly make love.
Tum and Pech are summoned by the king to be palace musicians. They travel home to say goodbye to Tum?s mother and the abbot, and then go to Lovek. The king gives Tum a noble title.
The king sends out search parties to find a concubine. They scour the country and eventually come upon Teav. She is taken by boat to the palace. When she is presented, the king summons Tum to sing. In the song, Tum tells the king that he and Teav are betrothed. The king is angry. He questions Teav who admits she and Tum have been lovers. The king decides to marry Tum and Teav. Continue reading
These stamps were issued for National Children?s Day in January 2011. The cuteness of the drawings is in line with much graphic work targeted at children, and hence not surprising. But what is being shown is baffling.
Stamps issued for National Children's Day 2011
In chapter 27, Khun Phaen is released after over a decade in jail so he can accompany his son to attack Chiang Mai. He declines the king?s offer to recruit an army, and instead asks for thirty-five of his fellow convicts to accompany him. In the older versions (Smith/Wat Ko), the king orders their release as if that is the normal way you man an army. The roll call that follows (in all versions, with slight variations) is rightly famous. Try reading it aloud.
An officer was sent to secure their release. The convicts were brought over and drawn up for inspection and roll call in front of Khun Phaen. Each gave testimony on his background in turn.
?My name is Ai-Phuk from Luk-kae. My wife?s name is I-Tae, sir. I was convicted for robbery, forcing the victims to dance a forest dance, and making I-Ma dance naked single-handed.?
?Next!? ?Ai-Mi from Ban Yilon, wife?s name I-Phon. I robbed Ta-Khiao, and stabbed I-Chang while she was pissing. She grimaced and fell down flat, slobbering.?
On 16 August, we appeared on TheBookShow on ABC radio in Australia, recorded in their Melbourne studio with Peter Mares. To listen, follow the link in the Externals panel on the right.
Peter Mares: Welcome to The Book Show on ABC Radio National. Peter Mares with you. Today, discovering an extraordinary work of Thai literature, a classic story of love and war, told and retold over centuries, and now available in English for the first time.
India has the Ramayana and the Mahabharata; China has the Journey to the West (often known in English as Monkey); Japan has the Tale of Genji; and Thailand has the epic Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen.
The story is believed to originate around 1600. In subsequent centuries it was performed in verse by storytellers, expanding in size with the telling and re-telling before being committed to print as one of the first works of Thai literature to appear in book form.
Now, The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen has been translated into English for the first time, by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit.
Chris Baker taught Asian history at Cambridge University and has lived in Thailand for more than 30 years. Pasuk Phongpaichit is professor of economics at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. And they’re both in Australia at the moment, so it’s a pleasure to have them join us on The Book Show on ABC Radio National.
Welcome to you both. Continue reading