12 September 2013 - KHUN PRABHASSORN SEVIKUL - Special Thai Guest



KHUN PRABHASSORN SEVIKUL


- SPECIAL THAI GUEST -
Thailand's National Artist 
(Literature)

Welcome folks,

As you know, I have a very close association with a country known as 'The Land of Smiles' - Thailand - a country of 70,000,000 people. Well, today I introduce and interview a man who is well known and revered in Thailand - KHUN PRABHASSORN SEVIKUL.  Khun Prabhassorn Sevikul has had an illustrious career as a diplomat, author and esteemed member of Thai literary circles. It has taken me some time to interview him and I am grateful to him for sparing the time. I am very grateful to his son, also a diplomat and author, for arranging this interview. 

Khun Prabhassorn is my very special guest. Here are some facts about this amazing man's life and career ...


Born: 22 April 1948 in Bangkok

Education:

- B.A. (International Relations & Political Comparative)
- Politic & Governance in Democracy for the High
Ranking Administrators Course, King Prachatipok
Institute.


 Status:

- Married to Chutima Worachat, a travel article
writer, and has 2 sons.

Work Experience:
 

He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand in 1969 and was posted to many countries; Laos in 1975, Germany in 1979, Turkey in 1985, and New Zealand in 1989. Presently, Prabhassorn is the Minister Counsellor at the Royal Thai Embassy in Santiago, Chile.


Prabhassorn stepped into the literature fields since he was a teenager. He began his writing career with poetry, short stories, before writing his first novel in 1982, and during the last 20 years, he has written more than 50 novels.


Prabhassorn received several National Book Awards and many other literature prizes for his work, and among the Novels that have been recognized are:
- “Amnard” (Power),
- “Sheik” (The Sheik),
- “Lod Lai Mangkorn” (Through the dragon’stripes),
- “Himalayan” (The Himalayan),
- “Khor Mhon Bai Nan Tee Ther Fan Yam Noon”
(Send me the pillow you dream on),
- “Sampao Thong” (Golden Junk),
- “Prachan Talay-Sai” (Desert Moon) and
- “Dek Chay Maliwan” (A boy named Jusmine).
 

Some of the novels have been turned into movies and TV drama such as;
        - “Weila Nai Khuad Kaeo” (Time in a bottle),
        - “Chor Parrichart” (Flowers’ heaven),
        - “Khor Hai Rak Rao Nan Nirandorn” (May our love last forever),
        - “Khor Mhon Bai Nan Tee Ther Fan Yam Noon”
        (Send me the pillow you dream on),
        - “Amnard” (Power), and
        - “Shing Tueng” (Chinese Youngster)
        - “Lod Lai Mangkorn” (Through the dragon’stripes)


       Prabhassorn’s literary works are widely accepted for the mastery of the Thai language, and their beautiful, and gentle sentiment. Most of his short stories and novels reflects the modern Thai society, but the most important point which are hidden between the lines are the value of friendship and the way of pure and corrective love, as well as offering the readers encouragement and inspiration to overcome various obstacles that they are faced with. 


“Time in a bottle”, Prabhassorn’s 6th Novel, which was first serialized in 1985, in a popular lady’s magazine, and was published as a pocket book in 1986, has already been reprinted 33 times. When it was turned into a movie, it became well-loved, and won “The Best Picture of the year 1992” from the Thai National Film Commission. It was turned into television drama twice, receiving huge success, and critically acclaimed. The Novel was also selected on the prestigious lists of “Good books that Thai children and youths should read.” “Lod Lai Mangkorn” (Through the dragon’stripes), about a Chinese tycoon in Thailand who builds himself from rags to riches, which portrays the main character as a diligent and a man of high moral values and sophistication, broke the stereotype of the Chinese characters in Thai literature, which were previously always portrayed as evil, selfish, and uneducated. In “Sheik’ (The Sheik), Prabhassorn introduces a young Beduin, who proud of his race and who was not afraid to stand up for righteousness and justice.


      Apart from being a well-known writer, in 1982 Prabhassorn was appointed the Secretary General of the Writers’ Association of Thailand. Then in 2001, he was elected as the President of the Association, a post he held for 2 successive terms, until 2005, during which time he devoted himself to modernizing the Association, and lifting the image of writers in the Thai society, and expanding the relationship between the writers and the readers in the country, and between Thai writers and writers from neighboring countries. And In order to expand the relationship, the Association hosted many visiting writers Delegation from neighboring  countries, and Prabhassorn also led members of the Thai Association to visit the neighboring countries’ Writers’ Association, and signed MOUs to further encourage closer relation and cooperation to promote better understanding between the peoples of their countries.
 


     He also established the “Narathip Award” for senior writers and editors, who had greatly contributed to the Thai literature field but had been forgotten with the passage of time. Also in collaboration with the Royal Thai parliament, public companies, and various foundations, many new literally awards were created.


      Prabhassorn also suggested and requested UNESCO to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Kularb Saipradit (Sri Burapha) well-known author’s novel “Behind the painter.”, as well as encouraged and working closely with the concerning authorities in Thailand to issue commemorative postal stamps and phone cards on the occasion of  100th anniversary of 4 great modern Thai writers, etc.  


INTERVIEW




TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.



            My name is Prabhassorn Sevikul. I am a retired career diplomat.
I have been writing for over 40 years.



WERE YOU A GOOD READER AS A KID?



            Definitely, my parents encouraged me to read classic Thai literatures ever since I was small.



WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?



            Reading the classic literature and absorbing their beautiful languages had given me the confidence to sit down and start writing poetry. After writing poetry for about 12 years, I moved on to writing short stories for 7 years. After that I started writing novels, and have
been doing so, ever since.





WHEN AND WHY DID YOU BECOME A DIPLOMAT?



            I joined the Foreign Ministry in 1969, and had been a career diplomat until my retirement in 2008.



WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?



            Being able to transfer my thoughts and philosophy to the readers, and reflecting the social issues.  



WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?



            The hardest thing would be when I have something I want to write and tell people about, but the time may not yet be appropriate. Or when I have not collected enough information, so I have to continue collecting information and let the idea develop.



WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A DIPLOMAT FOR THE THAI GOVERNMENT?



            Being able to use the knowledge that I have learnt in real life, and also acquiring new experiences as a diplomat in a foreign country. I enjoy working in new environments, and in each of the country that I had been posted to, there were both normal and not so normal situations. Most of the time we would need to be conscious and be in control, and we may have to solve the situation calmly in a diplomatic way. I was a diplomat that had been molded by the examples and guidance of previous generations of Thai diplomats. And I am proud to have been a Thai diplomat.  





WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT AS A WRITER AND DIPLOMAT?



            As a writer, my greatest achievement is to be recognized as one of Thailand’s National Artists in the field of literature in 2011.



            As a diplomat, my greatest achievement was to have had the chance to travel around the world and promote better understanding of Thailand and the Thai cultures.

 

WHAT ARE YOU WRITING AT THE MOMENT?



            I am currently working on the ASEAN Literature Project. The Project is aimed at promoting better understanding of Thailand’s ASEAN neighbours for the Thai people through novels. I visit the ASEAN countries to collect information and then create novels that are set in those countries. Five novels have already been published as part of this project; “China Moon” set in Singapore, “Krij Malaka” set in Malaysia, “Ja fhun thun thur tuk kuen tee mee sang dao” (I’ll dream about you on every stary night) set in Indonesia, “Rug nai marn fon” (Love under the rain curtain), set in Vietnam, and “Mee maek bang pen barng wan” (Cloudy on some days) set in the Philippines. I have recently visited Myanmar and Laos, and these two countries will be setting for the upcoming novels in this project.



WHAT INSPIRES YOU MOST?



            The readers, because they make me know that there are people out there who are following my works.



WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?



All kinds of genre.




DOES YOUR WORK AS A DIPLOMAT INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?



            Maybe a little, in that it has helped open the world to me, and has helped me acquire wider vision.



DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?



            I usually do not have problem with writer’s block because before I write, I would have prepared everything in my mind already. I visualize the events I want to write about in my mind. And I will not write unless I am absolutely ready.



DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE AND PLACE TO WRITE?



            I can actually write anywhere, and I do not have a particular schedule or a particular place that I am attached to. I can work anywhere, as long as there is a small space for me to put my type writer, or a notebook computer. If I am without my equipments, then I would write on paper, and then type them up later.



ONE OF YOUR MASTERPIECES IS UNDOUBTEDLY  “THE SHEIKH”. WAS IT CHALLENGING BEING A BUDDHIST, YET WRITING A NOVEL ABOUT MUSLIMS?



            I have the utmost respect and sincerity for the art of writing, and before I create any character, I would have already studied and develop them thoroughly. I always tell those who wants to become a writer that you have to respect three things; 1) respect the readers, 2) respect the characters that you have created, and 3) respect yourself. As for “The Sheikh”, even though I am not a Muslim, but I sincerely believe that all religions teaches people to be good and righteous, whatever I do not know about Islam, I would do research. I also have many Muslim friends who I would discuss matters with, as well as seek their advice and views on certain points. 





WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?



            John Steinbeck, because he understands humans so well.



            And Yasunari Kawabata, because he writes about the Eastern and Japanese culture so masterfully. 



YOU HAVE LIVED IN SEVERAL COUNTRIES. DID THOSE FOREIGN COUNTRIES INLUENCE YOU PERSONALLY – AND YOUR WRITING?



            To a certain degree. It has made me able to understand culture, history, art and way of life of the people in different countries, which are unique to their own countries and regions.



HOW MANY BOOKS OR ARTICLES HAVE YOU PUBLISHED?



            I have numerous published articles. My published works also include 12 short stories collection, and close to 60 novels. A number of my short stories and novels have also been translated into English.





ARE THEY ALL BASED IN THAILAND?



            No, I always try to challenge myself and write about new places and new things. I don’t like to get stuck in one place and write about the same things over and over again. My style is thus quite mixed, and I am not really entrenched in any one particular genre. The backdrops for my novels thus always change, and are not always based in Thailand.



HAVE YOU WON ANY PRIZES OR AWARDS? WHAT DID THEY MEAN TO YOU?



            Yes, my works have won numerous National Awards, and certainly it is an honour and encouraging to win awards, but when I write I do not aim to win awards. Every piece of work, I will write with determination and write to the best of my ability, and if they happen to win Prizes or Awards, then it is an encouragement.



OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?



            When I was a child, I enjoyed painting and sculpting. But as I grow up my feelings towards painting and sculpting has also waned. Now, apart from writing, I enjoy gardening, watching movies and listening to music.



DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?



            I am responsible for the editing by myself, with the help of my wife who proofreads the manuscripts.





HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO WRITE WITH A BUSY SCHEDULE AS A DIPLOMAT?



            I was one of the first batch of students in Thailand that were tutored in a system of University Demonstration schools. Under this system, secondary school students were taught to prepare for life in the University, and thus we were taught to do our own researches, to write reports, and to express ourselves in public.

           

I write as I would do my homework, which has to be done every day. Sometimes in the morning, sometimes at night, but it is a routine that I have developed.

           

Sometimes I get the advantage from the time difference between Thailand and the country that I was stationed in, especially if that country’s time was slower than Thailand, which means I would have more time to sent my manuscripts to the publishers to be serialized in magazines each week. But if the country’s time was faster than Thailand, then I would have to work harder.

           

But being a diplomat was not an obstacle in my writing, because during official hours, I am a diplomat and would do my job accordingly, but once the official hours are up, the rest of the time are mine.    



DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.



            I would wake up with good health, work with a clear and happy mind, and meet new things and new people, making new friends and perhaps visiting new places.





ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THE QUALITY OF READING FOR THAI CHILDREN?



            I am very concerned about this issue, and I am doing my best to encourage Thai children to read better literature. Recently, I have started cooperation with Nanmee Publishing Company which has published almost 20 of my works, to introduce my books in the Secondary School, to enable the students to read quality books before they head off to University.



            The Pilot Project started with 12 of my chosen books in various genres, and we ask the students to send in their thoughts and views
about what they read, and what they thought about the books. It was a very successful project.



            Furthermore, I am currently visiting schools around the country to give lectures on writing and reading, and meeting with the educators, School managers, teachers, and students to encourage better reading
amongst the young people.  



WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?



            I will continue writing.



            And I have proposed that along with the Thailand National Artist awards, there should be a Masterpiece Award for each of the work of the recognized National Artists, so that they will forever remain the treasure of the country, and will enable future generations to learn not only about the National Artists, but their works as well.







 http://www.psevikul.com/

 http://www.psevikul.com/index.php?lay=show&ac=article&Id=538684151&Ntype=2



Clancy's comment:  Thank you, Khun Prabhassorn for taking the time to be a special guest on my blog. I applaud your efforts to influence others throughout South East Asia, especially for kids to read great literature, rather than comic books. As you know, my next book, 'Pa Joe's Place', is a story based in Thailand. Like you, I also like to write about other places, based on my personal experiences and travels. 

Fortunately one of your sons, and others, have assisted me greatly in maintaining a high level of respect and accuracy for Thai readers. Hopefully, it will be translated into Thai, published  and distributed thoughout Thailand in the near future. A signed copy will be heading your way.

It's been a pleasure, sir.

Love ya work!


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