Typeface Design for a book by Gloomphim House

I was commissioned by Gloomphim House, a Thai indie press, to design the cover for their book, วรรณกรรมดำดิ่ง (literally “literature takes a dive” or “literary dives”). The main request was to have a unique typeface for the title. I came up with this design, an effort to create a downward motion with a kind of “weathered surface” feel in the typeface.

The book is a collection of essays on various literary works, written by the award-winning critic Jirat Chalermsanyakon (จิรัฏฐ์ เฉลิมแสนยากร), who is also a talented fiction writer in his own right.

This is the cover design for the book:

George Orwell’s Selected Essays Cover

Here’s my cover design for the Thai translation of a collection of 22 essays by George Orwell. The book is published by Typhoon Studio this month. All essays were translated from English and French by Bancha Suwannanondha, who also translated Orwell’s Animal Farm, Burmese Days, and Down and Out in Paris and London for Typhoon Studio. Most of Orwell’s famous essays, such as “Books VS Cigarettes” and “Shooting an Elephant,” are included in the book.

The Thai title of the book is taken not from any of the essay titles but from the last sentence of “Literature and Totalitarianism,” in which Orwell writes: Whoever feels the value of literature, whoever sees the central part it plays in the development of human history, must also see the life and death necessity of resisting totalitarianism, whether it is imposed on us from without or from within. The title is “The Life and Death Necessity of Resisting Totalitarianism,” and the Thai is an almost exact translation.

I came up with two design directions for the cover and liked both. So we asked the readers to help and vote for the one they would like us to use. This is the winner.

And here is the other candidate:

The book is now available for order at Typhoon Studio Page or www.typhoonbooks.com.

(P): My Story Collection in Chinese

My first book translated into Chinese is available in Taiwan today, April 1st! It’s the same story collection that was translated into English as The Sad Part Was. This is all very exciting in itself, obviously, but there’s also something that sets this version of my story collection apart from the previous versions in other languages: the overall concept for the book.

The title, (P), is unusual. The publisher, Fever, told me they saw it as an abstract symbol, not a word. I was impressed with the decision to use this as the title as it felt so commercially risky. They say they are more interested in taking an approach that’s “different” rather than predictable. I really appreciate that spirit.

The design of the book is also abstract, using textured black paper and minimalistic elements to produce an object that is both elegant and mysterious to hold. The actual book slides out of a paper case with a cutout design that creates a subtle optical illusion. The whole package almost turns this collection into a conceptual art book.

(P) can be ordered online at these sites:

博客來:https://ppt.cc/f0PHox

讀冊:https://ppt.cc/f1bX8x

三民:https://ppt.cc/f3i1Nx

Or if you happen to be in Taiwan, you’ll find the book at the popular Eslite Bookstores, as well as at some independent bookstores.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I made this illustration for the new cover (second print-run) of the Thai translation (by Kong Pahurak) of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, published by Typhoon Books. The general intention was to make it look like a movie poster in a poppy symbolist style, or a panel from a weird graphic novel. It’s not a style of drawing I do very often, but I really wish I had an ongoing project that required this kind of work because it’s so enjoyable and satisfying.

เรื่องฝัน (Traumnovelle)

I remember feeling excited to see “Eyes Wide Shut”, the film that would become Stanley Kubrick’s swan song, when it was released in 1999. I also remember my disappointment after having seen it. But the film introduced me to Traumnovelle, the Arthur Schnitzler novella that inspired Kubrick. This small, somewhat overlooked gem became one of my favorite works of literature.

While I was overseeing international relations for the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand from 2013-17, I had the opportunity to visit some international book fairs annually. There was one book that always caught my eyes every time I stopped to browse at the Goethe Institut stand. (The Goethe Institut has a beautiful stand at probably every big international book fairs.) It was Jakob Hinrichs’ graphic interpretation of the Schnitzler masterpiece, also entitled Traumnovelle. I admired the artist’s visual sense, his lines, his use of colors, and the book was beautifully designed and produced. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that it included Schnitzler’s original German text in its entirety.

In 2016, when I was to curate a book-related exhibition for the second Bangkok Book Festival at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, Jakob Hinrichs’ graphic novel came to mind almost immediately. The Goethe Institut in Thailand was on board to support the show, and when Jakob was approached about it he accepted the idea with enthusiasm. The exhibition consisted of enlarged reproductions of selected pages from his book and Jakob, Berlin based, was invited to come to Bangkok and conduct a couple of workshops. Jakob and I became friends, and in less than a year later, when I was in Berlin for a second launch event of The Sad Part Was, Jakob invited me to visit his studio in Mitte.

Even after all that, I didn’t expect to be the one taking on the task of getting Jakob and Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle translated and published in Thailand. But here it is, the Thai language version of this beautiful graphic novel and great modern literature. Fee Asavesna, a one-time actress—she was the leading actress in Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s feature film debut “Fun Bar Karaoke”—and cultish celebrity in the Thai indie scene, did an impressive job for a first-time translator.

I am proud to have been involved in getting this book out in Thailand.

Visit the Typhoon Studio website if you want a copy of the Thai Traumnovelle!

เรื่องฝัน Cover

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

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Moving Parts

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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.

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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/

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