Monsoon Country by Pira Sudham
The novel that caused Pira Sudham to be nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Much like Pira's own life it follows a poor farmer's son from the North-East to Bangkok and as an overseas student in England. In this novel you will get an insider's view of poverty and corruption in Thailand's poorest area, the Esarn. Starting in 1954 and ending in 1980 it covers a period of of immense change in Thailand, the clash of Western and Thai values, the student movement and the military repression of the 1970's.
From Monsoon Country - Liberty is a foreign word, found on a coin a foreigner dropped in the palm of my hand, but it has taken me years to fully understand its meaning; it has taken the death of Rit, a fair boy from the North; it has taken the disappearance of Kumjai. Liberty! When I go to England there will surely be more words to understand and remember. It seems that each new word takes me farther afield, always away from Napo.
Bangkok 2002 Mahanaga Edition
A true voice from Esarn
If you wish to understand Thailand's poor North-East region, Esarn, you should read the novels and short stories by Pira Sudham. Considered Thailand's leading English language writer, he was nominated for the 1990 Nobel prize for literature.
Born to poor farming family in Napo, Burirum province, in 1942, Pira traveled to Bangkok to become a temple boy, a servant to the monks, at the age of 14. He continued to study and won entrance to Thailand's top university, Chulalongkorn.
A New Zealand government scholarship started 12 years of travel from New Zealand, to Australian, Hong Kong and Europe. He never forgot the Esarn, with its' poverty and injustices and these became the background for his short stories and novels.
He now divides his time between England and Thailand's North-East where he runs a number of projects to help his fellow villagers.
Pira Sudham's own words -
"If I had not left my village then, I would have been subject, like most villagers, to the mercy of nature: floods, drought, disease, ignorance and scarcity. With endurance, I would have accepted them as my own fate, as something I cannot go against in this life"
Asked why he writes, he replies: "In my mind I carry memories of childhood, of life in villages, much as a pregnant woman carrying a child. Every day these images grow, and I know that one day I shall have to give birth to them through the medium of writing. Besides, I don't want people in our villages, so far removed from other peoples because of distance and poverty, to be born, suffer and to die in vain."
Pira Sudham signing books at the DCO office
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