14 September 2009


A recent work by Anusorn Tipayanon, Nimitwikan (นิมิตต์วิกาล) is a short story about quest, power, and humanity. Set in the old days when Thailand was in dispute with France over the territorial lines in Cambodia, the work relates how a Thai man survives from a flash flood and is then hospitalised by the French. He is imprisoned in a dark room with only a lit lantern. There he hears the piano sound and a female voice talking to him.

The author shows his expertise in weaving fiction with the real story of Andre Malraux stealing some ancient objects from Banteay Srei, a very beautiful temple located around 30 kilometres north-east of the famed Ankor Wat. Malraux's story is here capitalised as a scandal and a warning tale for those who become too mesmerised by art, in the same way that the protagonist is fascinated by the world of photography. In the style unique to Anusorn, this fascination becomes at once glamorous and dangerous.

Here little is needed to pinpoint the similarity between this novella and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, when a White man is drunk with power and establishes himself as a mob leader. Here in this novella it is Pierre Bourdieu (what a name!) who is inspired by Malraux's diary and makes a decision to form a brigand to fight the French authorities. I won't tell you what will happen, whether the French manage to crack down on this insurgent group or they get off scot-free, but it suffices to say that what we have here is a parable of power and loss, of one's recognition that power is nothing but burden that leads on to more burden. What in the end exists may not be power as such but the void, the state of nothingness when one realises that nothing will last forever and everything is illusory, including power. Here one may say that Anusorn's message is deeply Buddhistic.

So what is the whole book about? Power and nothingness? Surely not, at least what we have in hand is a book and this is art. Art, even though it is enticing and dangerous, has a role; it makes us more sensitive to the illusion that surrounds us. Thus, it may not be too far-fetched to claim that Anusorn's small opus reminds us that art, in being fiction, can remind that everything else also is.

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