It’s difficult for Thai literature to have that aura that attracts the international literary industry, believes Thai author, filmmaker, and artist Prabda Yoon who will be speaking at a session ‘Finding a Voice’ on December 8 at the Goa Arts and Literature Festival 2018
CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ
- Your recent book ‘Moving Parts’ has a common theme of body parts. What inspired this idea?
The collection was serialised in a magazine and I thought it would be nice to have a concept that held the stories together. I was at the time fascinated by models of organs that were made for studies of the human anatomy and medical practices. The stories are actually about human emotions, and I thought that it might be interesting to convey human emotional messages through physical human parts.
- You are making your India debut with this festival. What have been your observations on how the Indian audience has taken to your works so far?
I had a nice session at St Xavier’s College in Mapusa with Jerry Pinto recently, and I thought the questions from the students were thoughtful, that some of them were genuinely interested in understanding the power of literature. I think that in general people who attend literary festivals do have at least some fascination with the art of the written words. I don’t think much about how my own works affect people. I am more interested in their conversations about literature in general, because I am also still learning about literature all the time.
- How familiar are you with Indian literature?
Unfortunately, I know only a handful of Indian authors, and most of them I know through their receptions in the west. The influences of Indian culture are very strong in Thailand, and we have many striking similarities in the arts. It’s a pity that contemporary Indian literature doesn’t get translated into Thai often. We have works by people like Arundhati Roy and Amitav Ghosh, of course, but those people get translated only because they became famous in the US or the UK. It would be great for the Thai people to be able to read more Indian literature that came directly from India.
- How do you feel Thai authors can create more interest worldwide for their works?
It’s difficult for Thai literature to have the kind of aura that attracts the international literary industry. We’re more known for our cuisine, beaches, and other, darker qualities. Good translators of Thai literature are also hard to come by. That may be the biggest obstacle. But things are starting to change a bit. In 2019 two books by the same Thai female author, Duanwad Pimwana, will be published in the US by two different publishing houses. That is a really big deal because, amazing as it may seem, it will be the first time that a contemporary Thai author who writes in Thai gets published and distributed commercially in the US. This is a very good sign.
In any case, I don’t think it’s the job of the writer to think about how to reach a worldwide interest. Writers should only write as well as they can and wait for their works to take them places. That’s how it happened with me anyway.
- Your recent film came out a few months ago. What prompted you to get into filmmaking? Have you ever considered making a film around your already published works?
I was always interested in filmmaking. In fact, as a kid I wanted to be a film director, not a writer. But I found that writing suited me better in many ways, and raising millions to make a film just always seemed unimaginable to me. However, I had written some screenplays for other people and was familiar with some people in the Thai film industry. Thailand is small, the creative communities usually mingle, or they can if they want to. A director approached me about one of my novels; he wanted to turn it into a movie. I wrote him a new story, just in case he would change his mind and use the new one instead. He didn’t. So I had this story around, and one day I sent it to a good friend who had just returned from her film studies in New York. We talked about it a bit and she found me a producer, who then found me a company to invest in the film. That’s how it happened. Not altogether planned but I was happy to have that opportunity.
And no, I have never wanted to turn my written stories into films. I prefer to write something new, or perhaps even work with other people’s stories.
- Having done translations of other works and had your works been translated too, do you ever feel that there are certain things that get lost in translation?
So many things get lost in translation, always, in any language. But that’s the challenge for the translator. We have to be hopeful that our translation will do the original work justice. Translating literature is an art.
- Would you consider translating your own works in future?
Not really. I am more eager to work on new things than to remake old works.
- Writing, graphic designing, art, filmmaking, music. You’ve been involved in a lot of art forms. Are there still other arts that you would love to experiment with?
Yes. I would love to learn to carve stone and make stone sculptures.
- What projects are you currently working on?
I am working on a nonfiction book about life in the city. I am about to shoot a short film. And I will start to research for my next novel soon.