10 November 2010

Chart Korbjitti, Time, 1993

A Thai film director goes to the theatre to see what has been billed as Bangkok’s most boring play of the year, in which half a dozen elderly women live their usual uneventful day in a care home for the aged. That may sound like a very dull premise for a novel, and perhaps it is, but deliberately so. Time earned Korbjitti his second SEA Write Award, and to find out why means ploughing through two hundred pages of rather mundane dialogue mixed with some minor personal crises. There are some winning passages in which Korbjitti gets people to look at their own lives in relation to what’s being acted out on the stage; these are the novel’s most interesting aspects as the sheer dullness of these ladies’ existence – as people essentially discarded from Thai society – makes for tough reading because there is so little in what they do that will engage a reader. We often don’t expect to encounter such uninteresting everyday activity in a novel let alone on a stage, so it’s only the varieties of circumstantial self-reflection and analysis that Korbjitti puts a few of his characters through that will give Time any value. Does he succeed? Within such a deliberately uneventful book it’s the journey’s end here that matters, and I doubt I will read a book this year that has a better ending. Its conclusion was so unexpectedly moving, as well as being downright clever, that it left me speechless, making me pause for five minutes before I could do anything else. Time may have an empty vacuum at its heart, but it’s a worthwhile and rewarding experience and – after some further introspection – only a superficially hard journey getting there.  PY


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