Wichayapat Piromsan won the BKKLIT Translation Prize 2018 (Fiction) for her translation of ‘The Girl Who Was Raped Through Her Earholes’ by Jidanun Lueangpiansamut – which you can read here. We caught up with Wichayapat and asked her a few questions about Thai literature, her inspirations, and being a translator.
BKKLIT Could you briefly tell us where you come from and why you started to translate Thai literature?
WP I was born in Bangkok and have spent most of my life here. What I found while reading Western literature is that when the word ‘Thai’ ever comes up in a book at all, it usually refers to food. If the word ‘Thailand’ ever comes up, it is never a destination nor a place where anything significant happens. I translate because I want to see the word ‘Thai’ and ‘Thailand’ in a different light in literature written in English.
BKKLIT What work of Thai literature would you love to see translated, and why?
WP The Mark (รอยประทับ) by Narumol Thepchai. This book is a perfect concoction of romance, drama, family saga, and history. The way it tells the tale of Siam brings me back to history lessons, only it’s more enjoyable and engaging. It could be the most underrated work of Thai literature. As opposed to Margaret Landon’s highly acclaimed Anna and The King of Siam, which is also a historical novel about Siam, I rarely hear anyone speak about it. The Mark deserves so much more than this and needs to be translated.
BKKLIT Why did you choose to translate Jidanun’s ‘The Girl Who Was Raped Through Her Earholes?’
WP The story leaves me ‘sweltering’. It just accurately paints the bleak picture of Bangkokians and their self-absorption. It holds a mirror up against me and reflects an ugly aspect of myself I had never seen before. Reading this story, I come to the brutal realisation that I could have been one of those people who ignore the narrator. People in big cities across the world need to read this.
BKKLIT What are the challenges faced by translators of Thai literature?
WP One would be to find a concise and subtle translation when ceremonies or customs that are specific to Southeast Asian culture crop up in a story while maintaining the fictional quality. Otherwise, a short story can easily turn into Thai Culture 101. Another would be the great challenge of competing for readers’ attention from across the world amidst the abundance of translated literature.
BKKLIT What do you plan to translate next?
WP I have no plan yet. But I would like to translate works by women writers. The world doesn’t appreciate women writers enough.