by Chart Korbjitti
Category: Fiction / General
318 pages; ISBN: 974-91491-5-7
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: John Walsh
Fak is an innocent whose only desire is to enter into the monkhood. His work as the janitor of a school is exemplary and Fak displays all the virtues that could be asked of a young man. Fak’s life is interrupted by his father who brings a new wife into the tiny family home, a woman who appears to be “slightly deranged.” When his father subsequently dies not long afterwards, Fak is forced to decide what to do with this possibly autistic woman who is wont to take her clothes off in public and wander around the village without an apparent care in the world.
Fak’s decision to postpone his ordination to look after his young mother-in-law is misinterpreted by his neighbours and, trapped and frustrated, Fak succumbs to the dubius pleasures of rice whisky introduced to him by the undertaker during his father’s funeral. Fak’s subsequent deterioration, spiritual, mental and physical, is mirrored by the contempt with which he is treated by his fellow villagers and the opportunity they feel this provides for them to cheat him. This is not, then, an easy book to read.
The author, Chart Korbjitti, is one of the more well-known of the modern mainland Southeast Asian authors. His approach to Thai society is one of modernist realism that pays attention to the lives of the ordinary, small people and which is a comparatively recent innovation in the region. While the characters occasionally suffer from resembling symbols more than complex individuals, this is not an overwhelming fault as the interactions between them remain resolutely on the individual, human level.
This version of The Judgment, which was translated from the 1981 Thai version Khamphipharksa by Phongdeit Jiangphatthana-Kit and Marcel Barang, is a much-welcome addition to the rather narrow canon of Thai literature available in English. The translation is neat and unobtrusive – which is quite an achievement given the differences in construction and context between the two languages involved. Howling Books are to be commended for bringing this edition more conveniently into the public domain.
Recommended for any reader wishing to gain insight into Thai society and culture or who enjoys fiction in what is likely to be an unfamiliar environment.
John Walsh, Mahidol University International College, January 2004
Buy The Judgment at amazon.co.uk
Buy The Judgment at amazon.com