Edging out six other finalists, Vipas Srithong’s novel Kon Krae (The Dwarf) won him this year’s SEA Write book award, the country’s most prestigious literary honour. As a result of the accolade, Vipas has established himself more firmly as an author after over 10 years of writing, and has received more public attention than he ever expected.
WHY DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I have always loved reading and I think I have things to say. There are many ways through which you can express something, for example, through film-making or drawing. But for me, I have discovered through the love of reading that language suits me best, so I have chosen to write.
WHAT IS KON KRAE ABOUT?
It's about an ordinary man, a former medical student, who has this strange desire of capturing someone [and putting him] inside a cage just to be looked at. And later on, his other two friends come to join. Basically, it's about a group of people retaliating against the nothingness of life through extreme manners, and how everything ends up in emptiness. It's serious literature with a touch of crime fiction.
WHY DO YOU THINK YOUR BOOK WON THIS YEAR'S SEA WRITE AWARD?
Maybe it's because the ideas in this book are quite strange. Maybe it's because this book deals with issues that few other books have done before, and I think it also vividly reflects our present society.
HOW DO YOU THINK WINNING THIS AWARD WILL AFFECT YOU AS A WRITER?
On the positive side, my work obviously will reach a wider audience and it will push me to keep up my standards. But on the negative side, this has ruined my concentration. I will now have to take a break from my next book. Personally, I'm the kind of person who wants to stay in my corner and observe people, but now it's becoming the other way around. One more negative effect of this is, from now on, it will be hard to be as relaxed and natural as I used to be when writing because I will probably keep thinking about the expectations of critics and readers.
WHAT'S YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
Whenever I wake up, I always go straight to my work, to write more, re-read what I wrote last night, or just make notes about it. After finishing other daily routines, I just sit and write until I have nothing more to say. This usually lasts about four to five hours a day. But even after I have stopped, it always follows me around in my head. I think about it all the time. I have no fixed schedule, I just go straight to it after I wake up, that's all.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHORS?
There are three English-language writers that I like: Samuel Beckett, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and most importantly, Franz Kafka. As for Thai writers, I like Nikom Raiwa, the style of Dan-aran Saengthong's writing and the perspectives and ideas of Lao Kumhom.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL WRITER?
Read. Read a lot of the kind of writing you'd like to do. And be observant, both of the world outside and the world inside of you, your thoughts and your feelings. Try your best to express them. And most importantly, be patient, don't rush. I've been writing for 10 years and all these years nobody knew about me.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY ABOUT BANGKOK BECOMING WORLD BOOK CAPITAL NEXT YEAR?
People seem to be reading more than before. I think it's good. [As for the World Book Capital] we should make sure it does not end at those silly promotional campaigns, but goes on even after the one-year period is over.G
About the author
Writer: Kaona Pongpipat