A Right Good Read
|ที่มา:||Bangkok Post: Outlook Section dated December 27, 1998|
|Reprinted without permission.|
|พิมพ์โดย:||คุณพรเทพ นิวัตยะกุล สมาชิกหมายเลข 00055|
Sixty years after the first episode of 'Samgler' was written, and 30 years after the death of its author, the series is proving itself to be as enduring as ever - and has even found its way onto the Internet.
Ask Thai people what they consider to be their best book and most might struggle to tell you straight off. Literary experts might base their choice on literary historical value. Those in publishing might consider sales figures and broadcasters might count how many times a piece of fiction has been adapted into a film or television format.
But you would be hard pushed to find someone who has read the comical short stories in the Samgler (Three Chums) series written by Por Intharapalit and not enjoyed them.
In 1938, the year the first book in the series made its debut, 20,000 copies of Ay Pooying sold in the first week. Today in Thailand a book is a best seller if it sells an average of 3,000 copies on each edition.
By the time Por died on September 25, 1968, he had written nearly 2,000 episodes about the three playboys and their families.
Samgler episodes are reprinted even today and it is impossible to count how many millions of copies have been sold.
"Reading the comic stories about Phon, Nikorn, Kim-Nguan and their squad cultivated my reading habits. My speed and proficiency improved after Samgler fiction was introduced into my life when I was a child," said 29-year-old Apinun Wattanacheevakosol, one of the new generation of Samgler fans.
"The comic gags draw young readers to more serious messages. I also read Japanese cartoons, but I found Samgler more profound," he said.
The story line focuses on the outrageous behaviour of the three main protagonists, and the anecdotes of their lives use different genres of fiction including horror, science fiction, dharma messages and even nationalist propaganda.
His 10-year interest in surfing the Internet resulted in him creating a Samgler fan club homepage a year ago. He gets visitors from Thais at home and abroad all of whom love the Samgler stories.
Many of the stories are set against backdrop of the major events of the time. For instance, the Indochinese war between Thailand and France was portrayed in Pai Rob Viengchan (Go to Fight at Vientiane) and at least four anecdotes are set against the backdrop of the Korean War.
Most scientific discoveries or inventions were parodied by the experiments of Dr. Direk, another leading character who is a scientist.
"Samgler indirectly taught readers to be cautious and observant of social change," said Surapon Buntusarnee, whose 1996 Master's Degree thesis from Chulalongkorn University is on Humour among P. Intharapalit's Phon, Nikorn and Kim-Nguan.
Recognition comes not only from avid fans, but also from the literary circle. In his biography Por Intharapalit' Cheewit Kong Kon Kaifun -- the most popular Por biography -- Reongchai Buddharoe writes that two National Artist grantees in the literary field praise Mr Por's work.
He says romance and adventure author Chatchai Visetsuwannapoom (Panomtien) accepts his writing proficiency was highly influenced by Por's works, while social-critic novelist M.L. Srifah Mahawan (Srifah) is quoted as saying she is always many steps behind Por who can quickly and humourously explain the nuances of complex social situations.
Another example of the high esteem in which Samgler is held, is the fact it was named on the list of best 100 modern Thai books that Thais should read -- a project funded by the Thailand Research Fund.
Samgler is also considered to be an unofficial social record of Bangkok society between 1938 to 1968. "General non-fiction books inform readers of facts, but to know about Bangkokians' lifestyle then, Samgler is on of the best sources," said Manu Peeraphan, 48, a book collector who has more than 200 copies of early Samgler editions.
"Most especially, it tells where and what Bangkok's well-to-do went and did from the 1940s to the mid-1960s, it mentions restaurants, dignitaries, celebrities and recreational spots."
Despite the surface humour, Samgler is also a social critique. In his research, Mr Surapon found much social comment.
"The fiction was born at a time of Thai Feudalism. One distinctive social criticism in Samgler is the ironic juxtapositions in the characters of feudal ranks. Chaokun Panjanuek (a leading senior naughty character in the Three Chums squad) likes to steal, while Chaokun Prasit(another senior character) is a coward," said Mr Surapon. "The author didn't directly criticise the feudal system, but implicitly mocked it.
Four biographies have been written on Por and this year --- the 30th anniversary of Por's death -- has seen several articles and seminars on him and his works.
"Among comic literary works that are studies, Samgler is the most popular. One reason is it cuts across many categories of humour, " said Mr Surapon, whose thesis takes a psycho-analytical approach to understanding what and why readers laugh at Samgler.
Mr Surapon's hypothesis is the Thai society will have another Por only when there is a drastic social and cultural change in the Kingdom -- similar to the modernising period between 1910 and the 1960s, when Thailand faced Imperialism, political revolution and industrial development.
He also notes, and emergence of another Por requires a literary context too. "Por was popular at a time when there was a revolution in language, when Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram, prime minister at the time, cancelled many letters and created many strange ways of spelling.
"While the government's order on language change were not accepted bye the public, Por created many words and expressions that were accepted and are used in common vocabulary even today."
One example, is the word choey, meaning to be outdated. The origin of the word is from the character Loong Choey (Uncle Choey) in the Samgler fiction. Por named this provincial but stingy millionaire, and in time word became synonymous with his character.
One of the frustrations of Samgler fans today is the issue of copyright. Mr Apinun has lobbied for a project to reprint all traceable anecdotes in the series.
"A few publishing houses reprinted a few hundred of the most widely read episodes of today. But thanks to information from visitors to my home-page, I have read nearly 1,000 titles from many sources. Por signed a paper giving the copyright of all his works to a publishing house," Mr Apinun said.
"I don't consider my efforts fruitless. I am trying to activate the movement to encourage the publishers to print more titles, especially those which are rarely reprinted."
Due to the many Samgler titles, there are problems studying and researching the series. Mr Surapon said there is an argument over whether all books with Samgler title were written by Por.
Also most publishers did not print the year the books were published on the edition, resulting in difficulties tracing what series was written in which year.
For six decades Samgler has amused Thai readers and this best selling Thai fiction is likely to go on drawing smiles and laughter from generations to come.
"For any past or future generation, Samgler's glamour is that Por created the characters as real people. Readers can enjoy their comic activities although that world is very different from how it was when the books were set well." said Mr Manu.
Anyone wanting to know more about the Samgler fiction should check out the web-site www.samgler.org. With more than 380 members worldwide, this free web-site is in Thai language. Apart from basic Samgler information, it provides archives and a chat board with updated news.
All contents in this web site are intended for private use and educational purpose only. Our main objectives are to promote SamGler to cyberspace surfers and to memorize Por Intalapalit, one of the greatest writers in Thai fiction history.