19 May 2012

Siriworn Kaewkan, The Murder Case of Tok Imam Storpa Karde, 2006

There are very few novels that explore the separatist terrorism affecting the three small Thai provinces that border Malaysia, and this one, shortlisted for the 2006 SEA Write Award, quickly became required reading that year with an English translation following four years later. So who killed the much-loved imam in the small village of Tanyong Baru, right outside his own mosque? Terrorists or State officials? Soldiers or police? Is there a suspicious connection with a neighbouring Buddhist village? And why are the villagers closing their doors to an actual investigation? The reader’s guess is as good as anyone elses, which indicates the clever structure of this tale of deflections and half-truths that inevitably views the subject from an outsider’s perpective yet at the same time lets the story’s participants speak (seemingly, often less than thruthfully) for themselves. Kaewkan simply provides the necessary pieces to the jigsaw then lets the readers assemble it in a way that indicates there’s an inevitable collective madness going on here. There are a number of possible courses of events discernable if this short novel is read closely, which is easily done in one sitting – just don’t expect a straightforward whodunnit.

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