February 04, 2013 00:00
By Phatarawadee Phataranawik
JK Rowling's 'novel for adults' arrives in its Thai version, and early reviews are good
Hardcore JK Rowling fan Chinnapat Keerativibul grew up with Harry Potter, but he was delighted, after a five-year wait, when the British author’s latest novel finally arrived, despite knowing it has no Harry – and isn’t even meant for kids.
Now 25, Chinnapat is thoroughly enjoying “The Casual Vacancy”, Rowling’s much-hyped “first book for grownups”. It came out in September and Thai publisher Nanmeebooks got the rights to translate it as “Kao-e Wang”.
“I was really excited when I got a copy that Rowling had especially autographed for the first Thai buyers,” Chinnapat said on Tuesday at the Thai edition’s launch at the Terminal 21 mall. Rowling signed 49 copies of “Kao-e Wang”.
Charoenkiat Tanasuktaworn handled the translation and Pornkawin Saengsinchai took care of its editing, as she did with the Thai versions of all the Potter books.
Coming five years after Harry’s final adventure, “The Casual Vacancy” is set in a world far from the wizard school of Hogwarts, replacing magic and fantasy with gritty reality, including rape, drug addiction and self-abuse.
Set in a seemingly idyllic English village, Rowling’s darkly comic novel tells the story of the fight to fill a slot on the local council after the incumbent’s sudden death, and hinges on the fate of a squalid housing estate.
Although the story focuses on a parish-council election in the pretty little town of Pagford in the West Country, it also depicts complicated characters living the provincial life. The novel conveys a sense of humour and offers social commentary and insights about the country.
“The plot is very interesting, beginning with the death of the main character, Parish Councillor Barry Fairbrother, whose death leads the reader to explore all the characters until the last page,” said Charoenkiat, who spent two and a half months on the translation.
“Unlike the fantasy adventures of Happy Potter, the characters in ‘The Casual Vacancy’ are dark and the story touches on adult themes involving race, politics and social issues,” added Pornkawin, a self-confessed Harry Potter devotee.
Rowling smartly hides the double meaning of “the casual vacancy”, they said. Fairbrother’s death creates a vacancy on the council and a conflict ensues ahead of the election for his successor. Factions form around different policies, such as ending an alliance with the local council estate called The Fields, which Fairbrother had supported.
Those campaigning for the seat soon find their darkest secrets revealed in the council’s online forum, ruining their chances and leaving the election in turmoil. Thus the “vacancy” of the title also refers to the absence of civilised behaviour in society.
“The vacant seat and the space between the seats represent levels of relationships,” child psychiatrist Panpimal Wipulakorn of the Rajanukul Institute explained at the book launch.
Channapat said the story is relevant to situations that today’s Thai teenagers might find themselves in. “By reading this novel I learned how people go about searching their souls for answers and decisions.”
Win a copy
The Nation will give copies of “The Casual Vacancy”, courtesy of Nanmeebooks, to the first two readers who can tell us in what town “The Casual Vacancy” is set.
Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org (subject “Casual Vacancy”) by Wednesday noon. The winners’ names will be published next Monday.
Win an award
Inspired by JK Rowling’s social conscience as expressed in “The Casual Vacancy”, Nanmeebooks has launched the Thailand Social Change project with an essay competition.
Explain “What We Will Do to Change Our Society” by June 19 and you could win an award.
Get the details at www.Nanmeebooks.com.