This will surprise you: Do you know why Thai literature is one of the least translated literatures in Asia compared to Japanese, Chinese and Korean lit?


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The colonial map of Asia, 1921, courtesy Wikipedia. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

 

Thailand was probably the only state in South East Asia to have escaped colonial rule. The country evaded colonial rule  because the French and the British decided to treat it as neutral territory to avoid conflict of interests. The policies enacted by King Chulalongkorn of the Chakri Dynasty , which continues to hold sway in Thailand to this date from 1782, also helped.

The resultant effect, says a report, is “the lack of English readers in the country — which reflects the absence of Western imperialism in Thailand, along with the linguistic colonialism it facilitated.”

The numbers from University of Rochester’s Translation Database, which track original literary translations published in America show that Japanese literature leads the way, with 363 books since 2008, followed by Chinese, with 254, and Korean, with 141. Whereas only five Thai novels have been translated to English.

“Indian writers sell well, as do Pakistani or Malaysian or Singaporean ones. In post-colonial countries there’s a culture of English language literature that Thais don’t have,” said a Thai film critic and debutting translator, Kong Rithdee.

Read more in this article Nikkei Asian Review to find out how Thailand is now opening its doors to English translations by clicking here. 

 

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