Book 22: Thailand (English) – The Judg[e]ment = คำพิพากษา (Khamphipharksa) (Chart Korbjitti)
This is the story of a young man who took as his wife a widow who was slightly deranged. (The story would probably have ended there had the widow not been his father’s wife.) And as the affair happened to take place in a small community, it grew into a major scandal which shook the morals of nearly everyone in the village and set one and all gossiping and passing judgment on the basis of whatever opinion each had formed about this abnormal relationship.
Rumor had it that, less than a month after his father died Fak had taken his stepmother as his wife. Some went so far as to claim that the two of them had cuckolded Old Foo even before his body had been laid to rest in his coffin.
This extract from the beginning of the Prologue is a good summary of the premise of this novel. It is a relationship considered scandalous and provokes the very mean treatment dealt out in the narrow-minded world of a village. The judgement of the title is that of the kangaroo court of public opinion. “The Widow Somsong” turns out to be a slightly mentally retarded Mrs Robinson to the weak but good Pak, who is like a leaf blown around by those around him. Korbjitti is a great writer and brilliantly captures the claustrophobic dictatorship of the commons. In the person of the villagers he is so cruel to his protagonist that I felt almost physical pain for him.
Many thanks to my friend Por for introducing me to this powerful book.
Chart Korbjitti: The Judgment, translated from the Thai by Phongdeit Jiangphatthana-Kit & Marcel Barang, Howling Books, Nakhon Rachasima, 2007, ISBN 974-91491-5-7
(First published in Thai 1981).
If you would like a longer but lighter and more pleasant read from Thailand, try:
Four Reigns = สี่แผ่นดิน (Si Phaendin) by Kukrit Pramoj
Former Prime Minister Pramoj wrote this historical novel much loved by the Thais. It follows the lives of Phloi (who became a role model for Thai women) and her family over the reigns of Kings Rama V to VIII (unfortunately, including nothing about the mysterious and controversial death of the latter). It follows how Thais adapted, sometimes with bewilderment, to the extremely rapid changes that modernisation brought during this period.