We are working on an abridged version. It should come out in mid 2014. We are retaining every scene, every major speech, but reducing the detail, and dropping all the footnotes. It should be around 250-300 pages.
Some scenes improve with the compression. Here’s the working draft of the hilarious scene where Khun Phaen and his son make a tour of the Chiang Mai palace, inspecting the king’s ladies. Continue reading
Wat Takrai, Ayutthaya
Last week we visited Wat Takrai in Ayutthaya and noticed a shrine that we had missed on earlier visits. This is the first shrine to Wanthong we have found.
Wat Takrai lay north of Ayutthaya, across the river from the palace, behing Wat na Phramen, in an area probably popular for residence because of proximity to the palace. Close by was a large market that stretched along Sa Bua Canal. Khun Phaen’s family probably came from this area, and they move back there at the end of the tale. Wanthong is cremated in the wat. Continue reading
Acharn Choomsai Suwanchomphu is retiring as a teacher in Silpakorn University. To mark the occasion, a KCKP-themed event was held at the Sirinthorn Anthropology Centre on 18 September 2013.
Acharn Choomsai and her ppt
Acharn Choomsai is one of the pioneer researchers on KCKP in the modern era. Reading her thesis, and the partial copy of the Smith edition which she gave us, spurred us to research the history of the story. She has written several important articles on KCKP (in Thai), and her enthusiasm for the work is wonderful.
Her retirement event gathered many of the greats of Thai literary studies. Acharn Sakda Bannengphet, who wrote a thesis on KCKP in 1973, enthused about KCKP as a great work of realism with a capacity to inspire empathy like nothing else in Thai literature. Acharn Choomsai gave an intriguing talk about the Lao women in the tale. We talked about our Wat Ko edition, and the audience was very kind. Wo Winichaikun, a great popular novelist, scattered pearls during the coffee breaks.
The real fun then started. Acharn Choomsai’s students gave a performance of the great jealous quarrel between Wanthong and Laothong in the style of phleng choi.
This genre starts out being mildly facetious and then ascends into splendid bawdiness. The quarrel scene in the text is full of sexual innuendo already, but the cast added a few more levels. In the picture above, try spotting the Silpakorn University lecturer, the Thammasat University lecturer, and the officer in the Thai army.
Sujit Wongthes is writing a series of articles in Matichon Weekly on sepha, KCKP, and recitation. The series seems in part to have been provoked by us, but it’s also a return to topics on which he has written three books and on which he has new information. The series, begun on 24 May 2013, now has 18 articles and is not finished. Below is a summary of Sujit’s new arguments, omitting stuff which is reaffirming old material. Continue reading
Our Wat Ko edition is out.
Sujit Wongthes – poet, performer, writer, editor, essayist, iconoclast, etc. – is one of the most prominent public intellectuals today. He is also an enthusiast for KCKP, publishing a book on the poem in 2002. In May 2013, he started a new series of articles on KCKP in his regular column in Matichon Sutsapda, the leading weekly. Last week Silkworm sent him our Wat Ko edition, and his latest column, the 11th in the series, is a reaction to the Afterword. The article ends:
“Thanks to Achan Chris and Achan Pasuk for making an excellent and distinctive presentation of Khun Chang Khun Phaen that deserves widespread praise and encouragement because it advances beyond previous studies.”
From such a figure, this is praise indeed.
Sujit has a view of the poem’s history that is rather different from ours. He believes that the version we know today was fundamentally (re)written in the early Bangkok era. In this series of articles, he has presented this view with some ingenious arguments and new evidence. We’ll summarize the series once it reaches its conclusion.
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