Bang Luang

Bang Luang (บางลวง) is my new story collection in Thai. The five stories in the collection are unrelated, but they all take place in a town called Bang Luang. Bang is an old Thai word for “village” or “small town” (the Bang in Bangkok is the same word) and Luang means “to deceive,” “to mislead,” or “to defraud.” It’s an imaginary town, a place I made up and I have used it as the setting for most of my recent short fiction.

ช่วงสิบปีที่ผ่านมาผมเขียนเรื่องสั้นไม่มาก ส่วนใหญ่มักมีฉากเป็นเมืองในจินตนาการที่ชื่อ “บางลวง” แทนที่จะเป็นกรุงเทพฯหรือเมืองที่มีอยู่จริงอื่นๆ ผมพบว่าแม้จะเป็นเมืองในจินตนาการ “บางลวง” กลับกระตุ้นให้ผมเขียนถึงประเด็นที่มาจากโลกจริงมากขึ้นเรื่อยๆ และเมื่อไรที่คิดเขียนเรื่องสั้นก็จะอยากกลับไปใช้บางลวงเป็นฉากเสมอ ไม่ใช่เพราะความเป็นเมืองสมมติของมันทำให้เขียนลื่นไหล แต่เพราะมันทำให้ผมรู้สึกว่าพฤติกรรมและปัญหาต่างๆของมนุษย์ล้วนคาบเกี่ยวอยู่ในสองโลก และถึงที่สุดแล้วมนุษย์ก็ใช้ชีวิตในจินตนาการพอๆกับ (หรือสำหรับบางคนอาจมากกว่า) ที่เราใช้เวลาอยู่ในโลกจริง

44031593_1623798691060213_5249227493512052736_n

Moving Parts

Moving-Parts-Cover

After having been translated and published in English for the first time in 2017 with The Sad Part Was, I didn’t expect to have another book in English out so soon. But here it is!

Moving Parts is, once again, a short story collection from the early period of my writing life (the Thai edition, “ส่วนที่เคลื่อนไหว”, came out just a year or so after most of the stories in The Sad Part Was, which was around 2001), once again translated by Mui Poopuksakul and published by Tilted Axis Press.

Moving Parts came out in the UK on September 6th, and I was fortunate enough to have been able to travel to London for a cozy launch/talk together with Mui at Libreria Bookshop on that very day. The next day we took the train to Bristol for another good talk at Foyles. I was very excited and nervous at both events, even though we had gone through similar experiences with The Sad Part Was just a little over a year ago.

Moving Parts is a collection of unrelated 11 stories, each dealing with a “body part,” although the “parts” in some of the stories aren’t exactly real. All 11 stories were first published serially in a Thai magazine called LIPS, then as a paperback by the magazine’s publishing imprint Guy Marut Press. In Thailand, the collection has gone through 4 reprints to date. The latest edition is by Typhoon Books.

Asymptote, “the premier site for world literature in translation,” chose Moving Parts for their September Book Club Selection. The announcement was accompanied by Lindsay Semel’s generous review of the book. There is also a very nice interview with Mui Poopuksakul about translating the book and translating Thai literature in general on the site.

“Yoon’s masterful stories unfold the drama of modern life, with all the stylistic resonances of the miraculous.” Eka Kurniawan

 

Feste in Lacrime

The Sad Part Was, my book of stories translated to English and published by Tilted Axis Press in the UK,  is now available in Italian. It’s published by the Torino-based Add Editore. Feste in Lacrime, the Italian title, is taken from the title of one of the stories in the collection, “The Crying Parties” in English. The collection was translated by Luca Fusari, edited by Ilaria Benini, and illustrated by Alberto Fiocco. Add Editore has been making a wonderful effort to introduce more Asian literature and graphic novels to the attention of Italian readers. I am honored to be presented by them in Italy.

Basement Moon

It was a surprise even to myself, when I realized I hadn’t written a novel in almost 11 years. I enjoy working on a novel, but it always seems to me, whenever I start preparing myself to begin one, that there can never be enough time to finish it. On the other hand, I don’t think I’m the kind of writer who could spend years on a piece of writing. At least so far I don’t seem to be that kind of writer. I’m too fickle.

But I am also always contemplating stories that I want to develop into novels. Maybe because to be able to complete a novel feels so satisfying and rewarding that the urge for it never ceases to disturb my brain.

The original idea for Basement Moon was much more abstract than how it eventually turned out. The whole narrative was supposed to take place in a tiny underground bar and all the actions were to play out entirely through the characters’ inner dialogues. All the characters were supposed to be “artificial minds” that used human bodies as hosts. Sounds suspiciously similar to HBO’s “Westworld”, I know, but the idea came to me before the popular series began, and the actual story was not at all alike.

I don’t claim to be a Sci-Fi fan, as I have not consumed enough of the genre to earn the status. Strangely, however, I often come up with ideas that have some Sci-Fi elements in them. I think in my case I’m drawn more to the speculative part of the genre than the “science” part. I relate more to the Dick universe than the Asimov one, for instance. Or maybe not even the Dick. Maybe closer to Shirley Jackson’s.

Basement Moon is, in the end, a kind of philosophical Sci-Fi thriller set simultaneously in 2016 and 2069, and the story is told by a mysterious revolutionary artificial consciousness trying to bring down the international network of totalitarian regimes through literature and language, and time travel. G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday plays a big part in the narrative. So does Jack London’s The Star Rover, but to a much lesser degree. Both of these classics are virtually unknown in Thailand. I was somewhat worried about alluding to works that were so obscure to the Thai readers, but there were no better literature than these two to convey the messages I wanted to get across. The general idea for the story was also inspired by the spirits of Walt Whitman’s poetry.

I enjoyed the Basement Moon journey. I think it’s an unusual work, quite different from all of my previous fiction. The first print run was released in late March, in time for the 46th Bangkok Book Fair. The readers seemed to have welcomed it and the second print run followed in May. I am grateful for the warm reception, which was, to be honest, also a surprise.

I tell myself I’m not going to wait another decade to write the next novel.

Basement Moon (in the Thai language) can be ordered from Typhoon Studio.

Basement-Moon-Poster

BM2

The Sad Part Was

Thrilled beyond words to be translated by Mui Poopoksakul and published by Tilted Axis Press!

Winner of a PEN Translates! grant.

Selected as a ‘book to look out for in 2017’ by The Guardian and BuzzFeed Books.

In these witty, postmodern stories, Yoon riffs on pop culture, experiments with punctuation, flirts with sci-fi and, in a metafictional twist, mocks his own position as omnipotent author. Highly literary, his narratives offer an oblique reflection of contemporary Bangkok life, exploring the bewildering disjunct and oft-hilarious contradictions of a modernity that is at odds with many traditional Thai ideas on relationships, family, school and work.

http://www.tiltedaxispress.com/books/#/the-sad-part-was/

Sad-Part-Was-Cover

Someone from Nowhere

My second feature film, “Someone from Nowhere,” (“มา ณ ที่นี้” in Thai) has been officially selected to have its world premiere at the 30th Tokyo International Film Festival, which takes place from October 25 to November 3, in Tokyo. The film is in the Asian Future section along with 9 other titles from other Asian countries. This is very exciting, not only because Japan has been a meaningful place for me over the years in many ways but also because it will be the first time a film of mine gets theatrical screenings at an Asian film festival.

The film will have two screenings, both followed by a Q & A session with me, and perhaps the actors if they’re available. Please check the screening schedules and other information regarding the festival at their website.

Here is the Tokyo version of the poster:

SFN Poster Inter

And the official poster for Thailand:

SFN-Poster-2_Thai_Outlined

Essay Series in Genron Triannual

I didn’t know about Azuma Hiroki’s reputation in Japan—he is a well-known cultural critic who is popular as well as controversial—when I read the English translation of his General Will 2.0, published by Vertical. I found the book to be engaging and thought-provoking, and surprisingly a fun read. I was especially intrigued by his interpretation of Rousseau’s concept of the general will. The book made me want to learn more about Azuma’s ideas. I thought all I could do was wait for him to have more books translated into English.

But it turned out that in March, 2016, during my participation at the Tokyo International Literary Festival, I had the good fortune of being in a lively conversation with Azuma-san at his Genron Cafe. In that cozy space, we exchanged opinions on contemporary issues of Thailand and Japan, in front of a packed audience. I thought the session was quite stimulating. Azuma-san was very friendly and generous. After the talk, we went to eat and drink together at an izakaya restaurant. It was there that Azuma-san expressed his interest in reading the book-length essay I had recently published in Thailand called “ตื่นบนเตียงอื่น” (literally “waking up in a different bed”), a kind of philosophical travelogue about my stay on the mysterious and charming island in the Philippines called Siquijor.

The essay was eventually translated to Japanese by Sho Fukutomi and accepted for publication as a series in Azuma’s Genron Triannual, a journal of cultural criticisms and philosophical discourse. The first installment appeared in issue 4 which came out in November, 2016. I received issue 5 in the mail yesterday. It’s an incredible looking journal. I wish I could read Japanese.

It’s a great thrill to be published in Genron Triannual, and to be in a kind of collaboration with Azuma Hiroki and his team. Thanks to Sho-san. Also, thanks to the Japan Foundation for making the talk at Genron Cafe possible.

Genron