In parentheses

Philip Cornwel-Smith

Photograph: Typhoon Studio

Prabda Yoon is one of Thailand’s very few avant-garde heroes. Now forty-four, the writer and all-purpose creative hasn’t shed his reputation as an enfant terrible. The Sad Part Was is his brilliant first book in English, and it came out within months of his directorial debut art film, Motel Mist. Most tales in this darkly sardonic anthology are translated from his collection Kwam Na Ja Pen, which came out in 2000. The book won the 2002 SEA Write Award, Thailand’s top literary prize, shocking the country’s grandees.

Prabda is widely credited with popularising post-modern writing in Thailand. These short stories deconstruct Bangkok archetypes, often by using an absurd premise and his trademark experimentation with language. Thai is a language rich in wordplay. The social imperative to be indirect is enabled by the ambiguous ways that meaning can shift though tones, alternative spellings, complex rhymes and layers of imported vocabulary. Prabda toys further with punctuation and spacing, which are largely absent from the long strands of words in Thai writing.

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