Imitating Art

"You and I have nothing that is ours," my mother said tonight as she drove us home from campus. Her eyes were fixed on the highway, but in the dark I knew she let a soft tear fall. "Remember it: as long as your father has a stake in things, that woman has a stake in it too. So I have to do this."

She paused to wipe her cheek before resuming. "What have I gained from him? Nothing. Only losses, like with that plot of land. I never thought one day the deed would say her name. All along your father said he had changed it to his. And why should I allow this?"
I didn't say anything in return but sat watching the streetlights pass by. The whole situation - the divorce, the rivalry between wives - reminded me of the first scene in Four Reigns, a modern classic in Thai. All of a sudden, the novel's opening lines began to imitate life:

"Their ferryboat was turning into the river Chao Phraya when Phloi's mother said to her, 'Pay attention to what I'm saying, Phloi. When the time comes for you to take a husband, make sure you find one with a single heart. Keep away from the great lover who must have many wives about him, or you will suffer like your mother.' A short pause followed before the advice was concluded. 'And you must never become any man's minor wife. Never. Do you hear?'
Phloi heard and, duty done, peered out from under the awning at life on the Chao Phraya...Stealing a glance at Mother, she said nothing. This was the first time Phloi had traveled so far from home. Her mother told her they were never going back there...that they had left it forever..."

A great TV production of the novel; after a long title sequence, the scene starts at 3:25.


Anonymous said...

I hope things are okay with you and your situation. I wish I knew Thai, so I could understand what was going on in the YouTube video.

Schyler said...

I know I already told you, but you write so well! It's seriously upsetting how you're bilingual and can use English more effectively than I can. The passage you quoted makes me want to read that book now, too. That'll have to wait until summer, though...

Best Fiction said...

I'm glad you're interested in the book! I read it in English, not Thai, and the translation was really well-done...I'm just not sure how easy it is to get your hands on a copy. :/

What's cool about the book is that, although it's set a hundred years ago, it's not a bad depiction of Thai society today. Especially since I read this book in Thailand, everything was so real; I could walk down the same streets and see the same buildings as the characters in the book.

And like I noted in the post, the situations they find themselves in also hit close to home, even for me living in 21st century America! The main conflict, and later the recurring theme of the novel, is the rivalry between wives and the relationships between half-siblings, those who share the same dad but different mothers, themes I've been dealing with everyday lately.

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