Bittersweet tribute to HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Sakulthai Weekly Magazine, a literary institution, closes its doors after 62 years

On Oct 31, the curtain will completely fall on the legendary Sakulthai Weekly Magazine, sadly one day before its 62nd anniversary.

Issues with covers graced by the Royal Family. Sakul Thai

The magazine's closure is coupled with the loss of the country's revered monarch, which had editor Nareephob Sawasdirak putting greater effort into producing the final Sakulthai No.3237, which will publish on Monday.

"It's heartbreaking, but we still have to give it all we've got, especially when the last issue also pays tribute to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej," said Nareephob.

The first half of the farewell issue will feature historic photos of the beloved monarch as well as accounts by members of the Royal Court about royal activities and projects. Nine national artists in literature will also express their gratitude and memories of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The second half, under the theme Memories Of Sakulthai, will recall six decades of the weekly magazine -- a household name since 1954 -- recognised for its substantial content and literary value from articles and novels by distinguished writers.

Nareephob actually was raised within its circle of writers, as her mother Suphat Sawasdirak was the previous Sakulthai editor from 1959 to 2004.

On weekends, she would accompany her mother to writers' homes to pick up their stories. The youngster acquainted herself with the writers, whom she called uncles and aunties, some of them remaining contributors until the magazine's termination.

"Our house was a gathering place for writers, and I remember serving them drinks and listening to their conversations when they held small parties," she recalled. "In those days, there were not so many writers and I often joined them in outings, along with my mother."

Sakulthai was literally a meeting point for writers and readers, the latter particularly those hooked on engaging novels. The magazine featured as many as 18 novels per issue while today, the number has decreased to 13, a few of them timely ending with the last issue.

The evolution of the weekly magazine over six decades. Sakul Thai

Remaining episodes of the unfinished stories will be compiled by Aksorn Sobhon and other publishing houses for their followers to read the conclusion.

"Novels have always been Sakulthai's backbone. We take pride in providing a stage for writers to present their works, many of them becoming classics," the editor said.

Sensational novels first published in Sakulthai included Mia Noi by Tomyantee and Mia Luang by Krisna Asoksin -- both authors now honoured as National Artists. A discussion between the two writers resulted in the novels about wives and mistresses, of which many TV and movie versions followed, including a 2016 remake of Mia Luang planned for airing on Channel 3.

In 1963, teaming four novelists for penning Darunee was then another innovative approach in fictional literature, now popular in today's publishing industry.

Sakulthai also gave readers opportunities to send in poetry for publishing in Smosorn Smarn Mitr, a one-page mainstay ever since the inaugural issue, which cost 3 baht.

Today priced at 55 baht, the weekly magazine succumbed to declining advertising, which is a major cause of the disappearance of many printed magazines. Other titles of the same league, Satrisarn, Bangkok and Srisabda were long gone before Sakulthai.

"Since the announcement of Sakulthai's ending, we have received many letters from readers, who even suggested the increase of the price to 100 baht so that we can keep going," she said. "We're very grateful for their encouragement and support over the 62 years. But we don't want to put the burden on our readers in order to survive in the digital age."

Even though digital publishing allows the continuation of Sakulthai, a migration to an electronic platform doesn't meet with the reading behaviour of its fans -- a majority in the over 30 age group.

"Most of our readers prefer the printed version because it provides greater pleasure than swiping and scrolling down a screen," she observed. "For how long can you read from a screen though? Not longer than half-an-hour perhaps. But from a magazine or book you can read longer and really enjoy it. The physical factor makes a difference, in the same way that breast-feeding is more emotive for an infant compared to when drinking instant milk from a bottle."

Nareephob Sawasdirak working on the final issue, which pays tribute to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Sakul Thai

In 2005, Nareephob fittingly succeeded her mother as the editor because of the publishing DNA. When she was a little girl, she would go with her father to pick up her mother from work, when the publishing house was located in Sao Chingcha.

At first, she wanted to be a teacher and taught Thai and English language to primary school students for five years at Khema Siri Memorial School.

To broaden her horizons, she became a lifestyle writer for Prachachart Thurakij newspaper, and later worked for other publishing houses as a writer as well as in production.

Episodes of her documentary on the disappearing and conservation of Lanna culture in Chiang Mai were published in Sakulthai.

As the third editor, she kept the magazine's identity in presenting Thailand's art and cultural heritage and made it more contemporary through the content and front covers to appeal to a wider age group.

"Because it's a long-established publication, people perceive that Sakulthai caters to the older generation. The content actually offers something for everyone in the family," she said.

Front covers typically featured actresses, beauty queens and even university students, for example, Jiranan Pitrpreecha, now a SEA Write award poet.

In the sixth decade, she varied the cover girls to include more working women, with them modelling fashionable outfits besides designs boasting Thai fabric.

An image of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej will grace the cover of the final issue. The Memories Of Sakulthai section will also have a cover, whose concept reflects the departure of print while featuring actress Nittha Jirayungyurn.

"In the farewell issue, members of the editorial team and writers will express their feelings about the long journey with Sakulthai Weekly Magazine. But this is the way of the world, everything falls under a life cycle and has to come to an end,'' she said.

The first Sakulthai in 1954.

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