It is a great honor to be given the 2021 Arts and Culture Fukuoka Prize. I am honestly baffled by this, as I never think of what I do as worthy of any prestigious praise.
I am the ninth Thai recipient of the award, and completely amazed to find myself among such distinguished names as Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Nidhi Eoseewong, Pasuk Phongpaichit, Charnvit Kasetsiri. In this class, I am a clown at best, but a proud clown.
This is not a good year to celebrate personal accomplishments, as so many people are struggling and suffering. However, I must express my gratitude to the Fukuoka Prize, for seeing some value in my work, and congratulate Mr. Palagummi Sainath and Prof. Kishimoto Mio for their accomplishment. It is an honor to share the event with them.
I cannot stress enough the fact that I owe everything that’s positive in my career to everyone who has supported my work throughout the years. I am at heart deeply lazy, habitually drawn to silly and frivolous matters; it is only because I feel that my readers and viewers deserve better that I try my best to make things with some substance and continue to try. I hope sometimes I succeed at offering moments of delight to those who give me a chance.
Read more about the 2021 Fukuoka Prize laureates on the Fukuoka Prize official website. Details about the online ceremony (September 29) and the laureates’ public lectures should be available on the website.
I was introduced to José Luís Peixoto at a riverside hotel in Bangkok and we spoke over a buffet lunch. (The first personal thing I learned about Peixoto was that he’s crazy for buffets.)
There was a mutual connection between us right away, not only because of the obvious facts that we are both writers from the same generation, but because we seem to share a similar sense of wanderlust. Peixoto had been to Thailand before and even written a book about it. I had yet to visit Portugal, but I met him at a time when Portugal was for some reason constantly on my mind. I had for a long time romanticized about Portugal, particularly Lisbon, mostly by way of Fernando Pessoa’s writings, but it always felt like a such a faraway land, a place I might never have a chance to see for myself in this lifetime. Then I started to have a strong yearning to go there, just shortly before Peixoto turned up.
The first time I ever visited Portugal was in 2018, and it happened because of Peixoto’s recommendation. I participated in a literary festival that was organized as one of the healing programs for the communities that were devastated by the 2017 wildfires in central Portugal. It was an incredible opportunity, because I got to see much more of Portugal than I would’ve been able to as a tourist. The festival took me to rural parts of the country, very small towns and provincial communities. I was probably the first Thai person ever to set foot in many of those places. To put it another way, I had the chance to see and feel what Galveias would be like on my very first trip to Portugal.
Galveias is Peixoto’s hometown. When we discussed the possibility of translating his work into Thai, Peixoto suggested Galveias without hesitation. From what I gather, it’s not his most popular book in Portugal, but he wants his foreign readers to know what Portuguese culture in a place like Galveias is like, rather than to present yet again the already famous cities like Lisbon and Porto. To be honest, I didn’t really understand his choice until I was finally able to read Galveias. It’s an honest and charming book about Portugal that’s hard to come by in other languages. Thai people can easily find reading materials about Lisbon or Porto, but Galveias offers a rare glimpse into the heart of Portugal that has never been available to the Thai readers before. As editor, designer and publisher, I am proud to play a small role in bringing this book to Thailand.
I designed two covers for my novel Basement Moon (published in 2018), one for the regular edition and one as a jacket for the special, pre-order edition. The good people at the Archivist, the printing studio I’ve worked with many times, took on the task of turning the latter into a hand-pulled screen print edition.
In hindsight, the task was much more difficult than they’d anticipated. When they finally finished, during the two-month lockdown in Thailand, they told me that the process of printing this work was like a spiritual journey they persevered in tears.
I had the much easier task of inspection and signing the prints once they were done. Seventeen made the final batch. I was genuinely in awe of how beautiful and rich the colors were when I first saw the result. In a perverse way, I’m glad this was so hard to make.
If you are interested to learn more about the print, please visit the Archivist.