A social realist exploration from Thailand's preeminent contemporary woman writer: each of her stories poses its own moral challenge, pleasurable and unsettling at once. (NPR.org)
In thirteen stories that investigate ordinary and working-class Thailand, characters aspire for more but remain suspended in routine. They bide their time, waiting for an extraordinary event to end their stasis. A politician's wife imagines her life had her husband's accident been fatal, a man on death row requests that a friend clear up a misunderstanding with a sex worker, and an elevator attendant feels himself wasting away while trapped, immobile, at his station all day.
With curious wit, this collection offers revelatory insight and subtle critique, exploring class, gender, and disenchantment in a changing country.
Duanwad Pimwana (b. 1969) is consistently regarded as an important female voice in contemporary Thai literature. She won the S.E.A. Write Award, Southeast Asia's most prestigious literary prize, in 2003 for her novel Changsamran, and is one of only six women to have won the Thai section of the award. Born to farmer parents, Pimwana attended a vocational school and started off as a journalist at a local newspaper. She published her first short story at the age of twenty and quickly gained recognition, earning awards from PEN International Thailand and the acclaimed Thai literary magazine Chorkaraket. Known for fusing touches of magic realism with social realism, she has written nine books. English translations of her work have appeared in Words Without Borders and Asymptote's Translation Tuesday column. The author currently lives in her native seaside province of Chonburi, located on the Thai east coast.
Mui Poopoksakul is a lawyer-turned-translator with a special interest in contemporary Thai literature. Her first book-length translation The Sad Part Was (Tilted Axis Press 2017), a short story collection by Prabda Yoon, won a PEN Translates award. Her work has also appeared in various literary journals, including Two Lines, Asymptote, The Quarterly Conversation, and In Other Words. She studied literature as an undergraduate at Harvard College, and holds an MA in cultural translation from the American University of Paris. A native of Bangkok, she currently resides in Berlin.
"Incisive. . . . The petty concerns of [the characters'] daily lives--frustrated careers, infidelity, reconnecting with distant family-- are hypnotically rendered in Pimwana's telling. This is an exciting debut." --Publishers Weekly "Earthy, spare stories that paint a bleak portrait of human shortcomings." --Kirkus Reviews "Cleverly exposes the torment of imposed gender roles and their sprawling effect on characters' psyches." --The New York Times "Each of her stories poses its own moral challenge, pleasurable and unsettling at once. Taken together, they are a phenomenal puzzle to read." --NPR"Arid Dreams is stark, sly, and unsparingly brilliant. Here is a writer unafraid to pick up the scalpel of her prose and use it to cut to the bone. Each story is more compelling than the last, each combines dark humor with deeper truths about human desire and depravity. I couldn't look away." --Preti Taneja, author of We That Are Young "Arid Dreams is full of uncanny character studies that reveal entire social structures and relationship dynamics with a few deft sentences. Poopoksakul's translation brings to life Pimwana's sharp observations about the simultaneous banality and profundity of our everyday failings. An admirably incisive collection that takes an especially hard look at gender roles." --YZ Chin, author of Though I Get Home "Duanwad Pimwana has a knack for finding the gap between who we are and who we'd like to be, and deftly inserting her scalpel there. Across the villages and cities of Thailand, her characters exist in a state of constant anxiety, unable to fit in but having nowhere else to go. Mui Poopoksakul's highly effective translation navigates the slippery contours of Pimwana's writing to capture a distinctly Southeast Asian sensibility." --Jeremy Tiang, author of State of Emergency "Pimwana's deftly crafted stories perfectly capture the tribulations of Thailand's myriad urbanized villagers. Dislocated from their origins and unable to form lasting connections with others, her characters are average people who struggle to find themselves in a fast-changing world where nothing seems certain, and where even the most modest of dreams is always just out of reach. A compelling read." --Duncan McCargo, visiting professor of political science, Columbia University "A confident writer at the top of her game, with a distinctive skill to conjure unique personalities on the page." --Words Without Borders "Every story is compelling and offers insight into a changing country." --The Brooklyn Rail "One of the most gripping collections I've come across in years." --Books and Bao "A deep and thoughtful exploration of human psyches and the dreams of ordinary Thais in an ever-changing socio-economic environment." --Bangkok Post "An exacting look at the moments of joy and tragedy, of hope and desire." --Independent Book Review "Interestingly unique." --Paperback Paris "Showcases the impressive literary talents of an accomplished and original storyteller." --Midwest Book Review