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Remembering a phenomenon

TWENTY years ago today, amidst the beating rainstorm, Por Intarapalit silently passed away. For an author who was popular, whose prodigious volume of work had made the Thai people of all ages "laugh, cry, be entertained, be less lonesome and more excited", when he died, he died alone. There was not a single soul by his bedside. Even his beloved wife who had unfailingly shared his ill-fate was in the kitchen at that moment.

What an irony that was. In the end, no one had the honour of being able to pry into the debts of the last thought of that "people's writer", the term which distinguished writer Archin Panchaphan admits never having before used to describe any wordsmith. In the same vein, our "national poet", the late Sunthorn Phu, has also been called the "people's poet" of his generation.

To commemorate the second decade of Por Intrarapalit's death, the Literacy Club, the Bangkok Book Collectors Club and the Bangkok Bank's Music & Art Centre have co-organised a three-week programme of activities designed to enliven people's memory of this phenomenon of a writer. The programme, which started two weeks ago, involves mainly an exhibition of Por Intrarapalit's works and some discussions relating to the author.

The culmination of this memorable occasion is a slim publication which is given away as a memento. Simply entitled 20 Pee (The 20th Year), the book is a collection of articles written by various people who fondly and respectfully remember the man and his work, with the last section being a story by Por Intrarapalit himself taken from the celebrated comedy of the Phol, Nikorn, Kim-nguan series. The story which must have been read by his fans ages ago and most likely had lifted the readers' spirit is Prachathipatai (Democracy).

Dr Vichitvong na Pompetch, a well-known economist and writer, reminisces: "...Nearly 90 per cent of what I do today has been moulded from the reading of Por Intrarapalit's works, I must say. He influenced my thinking, my consciousness toward things be it science, history, the society or the Thainess of things. Everything. Even those which could be called "vices" like smoking and drinking. What I am now - standing here like this, talking in this manner - has been inspired by him ... For me he's an institution, a prophet..."

One of Thailand's prominent authors, Chatchai Visessuvanaphum or "Panomthien", recalls some of the classic expressions coined by Por Intrarapalit which are still in use today which he says reflect a historical background of society at various times without him realising it.

Writes "Panomthien", "These (expressions) are excellent references to the economic, political, commercial and financial situations of his time. We know what the country, even the world in general, was like because he used the daily life conditions as his instrument ... I remember the line from a dialogue in one of his stories written before the Second World War - 'What's wrong with you two, anyway? You fight all the time like the Jewish and the Arab people! It's been nearly 50 years and the fight still continues between these two peoples...", adds Panomthien.

"Khon Kai Fahn Poo Yingyai" (The great dreamseller) is an essay also included in this volume. Son Samira, the writer, simplifies it from Rerngchai Phuttaro's bestselling biography of Por Intrarapalit first published a few years ago and which is now in its third edition. Through it, you'll learn about the major contributions of this "dreamseller" to the Thai literary world which include not only comedy but also tragedy, novels and plays. Por's life was a magnificent epic itself. Starting as the son of an Army major and a student at the Military Cadet school with the likes of the late Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat as a classmate, he dropped out of school and tried to become a good ka rachkarn (civil servant). Not finding this to his liking he turned to business and failed, until he picked up his writing career and dedicated his life to it until his dying day.

In all, 20 Pee, is, as you can now imagine, a valuable little book. In fact, the volume resembles the nang-seu ngarn sop (books distributed at cremation ceremony which are both informal and personal and which are popular collectors's items). Por Intrarapalit's story Prachatipatai which is probably now hard to find, definitely enhances the publication's worth. One certainly doesn't have to look very far to understand what democracy Thai-style is.

Prachatipatai brings you rather close to reality as far as the method in which its exercised is concerned. The Khunying in the story one day went to a Hyde Park debate at Sanam Luang. The message concerning human rights, fraternity, liberty and the elitist sytem touched her soul. She decides she want to turn the whole household into a democratic experiment giving everybody the freedom to criticise. The servants and drivers get together every evening and speak up their minds. One week passes by and the Khunying decides to call it off, giving as a reason the fact that Hyde Park "hasn't benefited me in the least. On the contrary, it damages my reputation a great deal which, as a result, deframes me and decreases my authority..."

Sound familiar? The driver replies:"... I'd like to borrow Kuang's words (Kuang Apaiwong, former prime minister and founder ot the Democrat Party), that your idea of democracy is to lock us up in a big klong jar with you sitting on top of the lid...Being afraid that we would suffocate, you get up and open the lid for us to breathe, only afterwards to close the lid and sit on it again..."

The exhibition of Por Intrarapalit's works is on until the end of this month at the Music & Art Centre, Bangkok Bank Phan Fah branch building. The centre's director, former SEA Write Laureate Naovarat Pongspaibul says he thinks the event is too beneficial to close today as originally planned. Don't let this rare chance slip away unnoticed.

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.