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Arid Dreams

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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." (

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.

ISBN-13: 9781936932566

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Feminist Press at CUNY The

Publication Date: 04-16-2019

Pages: 216

Product Dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

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.

Read an Excerpt

Inmate Somsak, my dear friend,

Unless you were pulling my leg, I’m happy for you. Allow me to say, your woman’s fantastic. These five years you’ve been behind bars, she’s probably been wandering around, tirelessly searching for evidence to support your case. A woman so true is hard to come by. I have to give her serious credit. If it were me, I’d even put her up on a pedestal and worship her like a goddess. Congratulations, old friend. You’re beginning to have hope, aren’t you? If the evidence works, they’d probably set you free in no time. I’ve believed all along that you’re innocent — I don’t need to see the evidence. I can read people. You were unlucky to have been locked up for somebody else’s crime, but you’re lucky when it comes to women. Once they let you out, if you want, you can tell her that I admire and respect her very much.

My old friend, I had to write you this letter for two reasons. First, we may never meet again because you’re about to be exonerated in the near future. Second, we may never meet again because they’re about to have me executed by machine gun. I’m not a good person like you, my friend, and so it’s fitting that you’re going to be free, whereas I’m going to be killed. The last two or three nights, I’ve been thinking about something. The closer my death looms, the more I can only think about this matter. I’m not afraid to die. Death is no big deal, but my mind keeps fixating on this one woman. We’re not actually particularly close, though we saw each other often. She’s just a run-of-the-mill hooker, not an eye-catching beauty or anything. In fact, I’d already forgotten about her. She returned to my thoughts only a few days ago. The story involving her and she herself would be insignificant if I had hope that I’d be spared or if I were at least further away from my death. This matter — I can’t tell you about it in person because I’m too embarrassed, but I can’t not tell you because I want your help.

I first encountered her at the top of my street. She appeared out of a dark corner next to my local coffeeshop and said her price was five hundred baht. I turned her down immediately. There was no major reason, but I already had three women I was sure were AIDS-free, and I didn’t want to chance it with a random streetwalker. But when I went to sit inside the coffeeshop, she followed me in and sat down with me. That day I was annoyed, but I was in a good mood. To ward off her persistence, I told her something that shut her up. I didn’t think she would believe me so I feigned a sad expression until she went away. When I told my buddies this story, we laughed about it so hard our jaws locked. But because she lived nearby, I later ran into her again. I thought what I’d told her that other day would make her quit pestering me for good. As it turned out, she made a beeline for me as soon as she spotted me, but she wasn’t offering her services. She smiled at me, greeted me nicely as if we were two people who had a warm and friendly rapport. When I went inside the coffeeshop, she followed me in. No, she wasn’t plying her trade. She was interested in what we had talked about the other day. When I realized what her intentions were, that she wanted to express her sympathy, I thought I’d have a little fun so I embellished somewhat more. From then on, even though we never sat down for a real chat again, the way she behaved toward me let me know that she was offering me her lifelong friendship. With others, she’d rush up to them and tell them her price, but with me, she’d nod with a smile, wave her hand, and openly say hello. It went on that way until I eventually got used to it and stopped giving it much thought.

My dear friend, I’m going to die soon, and you are the last friend that I have in this life. Out of all the friends I’ve ever had, you’re the best person and the only good one. I’m writing this letter and then holding onto it. I’ll give it to you right away the day before your release or the day before my execution, as the case may be. I want to be sure that you’ll get to read this letter only when there’s no chance we’ll ever meet again. It’s really humiliating for me, my friend.

What I want your help with is for you to go and find that prostitute. Do you remember the coffee shop at the top of my street? It’s the one you said you’d been to. Tell her that the story about the guy who got his dick cut off by his wife is a lie. Vouch for me, make her believe you. Maybe you could tell her you’ve showered with me. Help me, my friend. The past two nights, I couldn’t sleep a wink, and I’d probably die with my eyes wide open if a woman is under the impression that I don’t have that. I’m touched by the goodness of her heart, but I cannot allow her to have the wrong idea forever. Alas, if I hadn’t landed in prison, one day I would have told her myself. You can laugh at me, but I hope that you will help.

From Inmate Black Tiger, your true friend

Table of Contents

  1. Arid Dreams
  2. The Final Secret of Inmate Black Tiger
  3. The Attendant
  4. Way of the Moon
  5. The Doctor
  6. Within These Walls
  7. The Awaiter
  8. Sandals
  9. How a Lad Found His Uncle and Learned a Lesson
  10. Wood Children
  11. Kanda's Eyebrows
  12. Men's Rights
  13. The Second Book