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For Khunthong, You Will Return at Dawn

I have been asked by many people why I have translated so many stories from Ussiri Dhammachote's 'Kunthong, You will Return at Dawn' collection. The answer is simply that I like them. The next question is 'why'. The answer is no longer so simple.

The sensitivity and compassion in these works appeal to me. Ussiri's prose often verges on poetry because of these qualities. One senses them in his portrayal of people and their environment, whether it be urban or rural. Ussiri conjures images of people rather than characterizing them. He is critical but never bitter with the human race. Without ranting at social injustice, he touches our conscience with his sympathy and compassion for victims of society and circumstance.

I share Ussiri's awe for nature. His treatment of nature, especially water, is poetic and almost mystical. Rain becomes an element of the human psyche, interwoven into the consciousness, destiny and spirituality of his people. I love Ussiri's water. His rain fall “like smooth drops of tears sliding down a young girls cheeks” or ''came down lightly in white thread-like lines, blown by the paddy wind into luminous curves against the grey backdrop of the sky. Is pours captured the morning's fugitive sunbeams and refracted them into exquisite rainbow colours visible only from afar.'' In his stream, there is '' the whispering of the water…soft and dreamy like my mother's song when she sings me to sleep.''

All of the stories in this collection are sad. None are pessimistic. Ussiri condemns the waste, torment and injustice that he sees around him, but he does not hate humanity. It is the gentle dreamer in this social critic that saves these works from pessimism. In translating his work into English, it has not been easy to do justice to Ussiri's sensitive prose which is often almost lyrical. I would like to thank Ussiri Dhammachote for his encouragements, and Mary Jo Ratanakul Serireongrith for reading and checking my manuscript.

Many of the translations that appear in this book have either been published or broadcasted. Their first publications are in Thai P.E.N. Anthology of Short Stories and Poems of Social Consciousness, the Bangkok Post, and Living in Thailand; three were broadcasted on my weekly programme, ''Voices and Ways of Thai Literature'', on Radio Thailand External Service.

Chamnongsri (Lamsam) Rutnin

March 3, 1987.


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