Book 11/196: Thailand
I bought ‘Many Lives’ while I was in Thailand as thus it serves as the Thai contribution to my reading the world project. It is written by a prominent Thai writer Kukrit Pramoj and translated by someone equally prominent, Meredith Borthwick. They shared a friendship and even the princess of Thailand meant that this book was important, in telling the story of Thailand to the world – it is a modern classic.
In this literary piece we follow the lives of 11 very different people, who all have one thing in common. They share fate in death, which is no spoiler in itself. In Thailand, where Buddhism is an important religion in many ways, the events leading up to these peoples’ shared death, is what the story is all about – what does death mean to the individual, and is it a justified death? Who will we meet, princes, bandits, doctors and daughters. How will they be known, when their bodies are all that remains.
I acquired this book when I was in Thailand in early 2017 and basically read it within two days, while at the beach. I didn’t get too much sun, because I could not put that book down. It had me immediately intrigued by the questions it posed, the story behind it and the reason for it coming together as it did. An accident occurs, people drown and we then trace the footsteps of some of these people and follow them up to their final moments, listening to their final thoughts and it is beautifully told.
All through the book, I was amazed at how it was catered to a non-Thai reader, without being too obvious about it, explaining titles, names and customs, making it seem very natural – and for me this worked especially perfect since I was right there when I read it, eating Thai food, listening to Thai people speak, seeing Buddhas all over the place. I suddenly, through this book got an even deeper look into the culture and thus it made it the perfect choice for my “read a book from every country” – challenge.
We follow 11 very different people with different outsets on life, different perspectives, circumstances, goals and personalities – each one is so intimately described and they instantly seem believable, yet not all of them likeable. This book depicts what is good and bad and okay in life, via short chapters, 11 lives and 1 death. It tells of a culture with deep roots, the afterlife, the religion and the modern take on the Thai culture as well as bringing the history of Thailand into it, through the characters lives.
I cannot get my hands down over how amazing this book is – I don’t even care about the cover, which, I think, isn’t exactly doing the contents justice (it’s not a pretty cover).
A Thai woman recommended me this at a bookstore in Pattaya and I can recommend this book to literally everyone who likes to read. It has everything I like as a reader. Stories, relatable characters, action, drama, deep thought, philosophy, culture and history, relations, love and death. It is exciting, enticing and what is most impressive – it’s only 226 pages!?
Read it. Go. Seriously, you should read it, it will give you a better view of what Thailand is about, than sitting in a beach chair for a week, surrounded by Russians, semi-drunk Scandinavians and yelling sellers walking up and down the beach.