Do translators dream of electric thesaurus? A Talk by Kong Rithdee



A Thai-born, Thai-educated translator and his process of translating what some people have termed an untranslatable Thai novel, The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth (Saiduen Ta Bod Nai Khao Wongkot) by Veeraporn Nitiphrapha, into English. Harder, more esoteric books have been translated by scholars, of course, but I will try to retrace my own thought process and revisit the challenges faced during the translation, and ponder the possibility, or impossibility, of being 100 percent faithful to the meaning, tone, and “colour” of the Thai prose, especially when the supple pliability of the Thai language is almost an antithesis to the rule of English. The intellectual challenge also comes from the fact that I'm a Thai who speaks, thinks and dreams in Thai. Is an act of translating equivalent to dreaming in another language?

Mr Kong Rithdee is currently a deputy director of the Thai Film Archives (Fapot). He has been writing about art, film, literature and politics for The Bangkok Post and other English-language publications for 24 years. He has translated over 80 movie screenplays and subtitles. The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth, winner of the 2015 SEA Write award (The Southeast Asian Writers Award Created to honour ASEAN writers past, present and future), is the first novel he has translated. “The translator, Kong Rithdee, deserves immense credit for fashioning this into English, whilst not losing the author’s intense lyricism” (https://asianreviewofbooks.com/content/the-blind-earthworm-in-the-labyrinth-by-veeraporn-nitiprapha/). In 2014, Kong Rithdee was awarded the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight in the order of Arts and Letters) by the French government.

Date: Thursday 10 October 2019
Time: 7.00 p.m.
Place: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

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The Siam Society is deeply grateful to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation for its generous support of the 2019-2020 Lecture Series.