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The Arthor who sold dreams
A WRITER, some say, is a "dream seller". Like any other trade, whether or not one prospers depends on what sort of dream and how one goes about selling it.
Throughout his entire life that "important institution" of Thai literature, Por Intarapalit, lived under the notion of his dreams, possibly more earnestly than most of those of his generation and certainly more devoutly than all but a few of today's writers.
But what good is a dream, you may wonder, especially nowadays when it can only be considered as a luxury, something that few can afford. In a biography entitled Por Intarapalit - Cheevit Khong Khon Khai Fahn (Por Intarapalit - Life of a Dream Seller), auther Rerngchai Bhudaroh proves not only that this literary master had thousands of dreams but that he also expertly manipulated them. Through the 228 dramatic novels he wrote. Through the 92-episode, all-time blockbuster comedy series, Phol, Nikorn, Kim-nguan. Through the over a hundred renowned adventure stories of Sua-dum, Sua-bai and the like. Even through fantasy series for children, Superman Klae (Klae, the Superman).
In this superb biography Rerngchai Bhudaroh attempts to demonstrate the greatness of Por Intarapalit, both as a writer and as a person. Indeed, this is the most descriptive document on the author whose 30 years of life as a dream seller have made him "immortal" in the opinion of readers of all generations. Not one reader regardless of age can say he's never heard of Por Intarapalit despite the fact that he died 19 years ago. Whether or not one has read any of his prodigious output, many of the expressions coined by him are still in use today. Much of his foresightedness regarding the moral and social values of our society and his keen enthusiasm for the technological world have proved beyond mere desultory dreams.
The most charming aspect of this biography, which incidentally is the second printing, is the author's writing style. Rerngchai can really familiarise his readers with Por Intarapalit so that you feel completely acquainted with his life and his work. Why he chose to work on a biography of this great writer to start with shows his motivation.
Obviously, no one decides to write a biography without first being truly inspired by the subject itself. the author's first encounter with the master when he was still in secondary school in 1964 was most impressionable. "...the sound of the typewriter keys hitting the paper was the first thing that made me feel I was on my way to meet a professional writer", recalls the author who adds that the pictures of a writer that he mentally created were not there. What he saw after having passed through the wooden fence was rather old and small wooden house with a narrow veranda. "At the end of this veranda sat an aged and skinny man who wore spectacles. He was wearing only a pair of Chinese trousers, bare from the waist up. A cigarette was hanging from his lips, and with both hands he was studiously drumming on the typewriter. A fan was rotating on the corner of the desk..."
The author recalls the time the master spared for "this meaningless schoolboy who could be of no use to him". After that he became a regular weekend visitor as his house was only "a couple of bus stops" away from the old man's, and also because of his later acquaintance with Por's grandson who was his age and with the writer's wife who sold books at a bookstand at the South-bound bus terminal in Thonburi.
Through personal contacts, plus enumerative research and interviews with several of Por Intarapalit's friends and relatives, Rerngchai turned out a marvellous momento. The book also provides brief backgrounds on the state of society, politics and literature at the time, thus making it easier for the readers to be able to analyse the writer and his works better. Most evident was the situations reflected in his Phol, Nikorn, Kim-nguan series.
Some critices have said one of the reasons why this comedy doesn't "die" was because the writer managed to fit these main characters in with the events taking place in Thailand, however changing. When Thailand was fighting the war in Indochina, specifically the "Koh Charng" incident in 1941 when the Thai Navy faced the French patrol ship resulting in a large number of deaths on the Thai side, Phol, Nikorn, Kim-nguan also went to war. The Second World War was also used as a topic for this series, so were the Free Thai (Seri Thai) Movement, the era of "Listen to the leader, the nation is safe" (Prime Minister P. Pipulsongkram), including scientific subjects going back through time. And throughout the span of his writing career, Por's trick was to keep adding on more major characters.
Perhaps the line drawn between comedy and tragedy is wafer-thin. Maybe because both need the same amount of sensitivity (He used to admit that although his works were full of humour, his real life was very sad). Por Intarapalit's series of Sua-dum, the legendary outlaw who's the "enemy of the corrupt and hero of the poor", underlines the writer's sensitivity. Writes the author, "This novel shook the literary world...Por presented his views in fighting those people who were selfish by using Sua-dum as the outlaw create justice for society and Sua-bai to take revenge on the corrupt civil servants, rob the rich merchants whose affluence was gain from exploiting the poor and then he used the money to help the underprivileged..." Anyway, the Sua-dum series sold like hotcakes and became so successful that the writer was "warned" by the lawmen. Eventually, it had to end.
Not all of Por's nature was benevolent. Of course, he had a few unpleasant aspects as with any human being. He enjoyed the "good" life style now and then. When he reached the height of his fame he was considered well to do but his wealth declined because he was a very generous spender and enjoyed having his friends' company. During the last stage of his life, Por suffered from chronic diabetes. He died at the age of 58 in 1968, one evening in the month of September during a thunderstorm, "as if the sky also wanted to shed tears for the great loss to the Thai literacy world", writes Rerngchai.
Dr. Vichitvong Na Pompetch in his article included at the beginning of the book, describes the loss of Por Intrarapalit as like "losing a precious gem, losing a friend of letters, but most of all, Thai society lost an important institution which nothing could replace..."
Next time when yor hear some slang words like chouey (old-fashioned), yim haeng haeng (dry smile), or yiap clutch, khao gear (step on the clutch and put in gear), think of Por for it was he who gave life to such expressions. Best of all, the next time you hear one of Por's inserts into our language, go to the nearest bookshop and buy this book. It's illustrated with the covers from many of Por's books, a real trip down memory lane for anybody over 30. And for youngsters, it's a great introduction to the dream seller par excellence.
All contents in this web site are intended for private use and educational purpose only. Our main objectives are to promote SamGler to cyberspace surfers and to memorize Por Intalapalit, one of the greatest writers in Thai fiction history.