“Lap Lae Khaeng Khoi” SeaWrite SeaWrite-winning novel, A prize for the prodigal

SeaWrite Award winner Uthit Haemamoon

SeaWrite Award winner Uthit Haemamoon

THE NATION – “Lap Lae Khaeng Khoi” (“Mysteries of Khaeng Khoi”), the novel that this year’s SeaWrite judges just “couldn’t put down”, stays close to the heart of author Uthit Haemamoon.

Told as a somewhat mysterious and complex first-person narrative, it’s an emotional, semi-autobiographical story about an ordinary family of the Thai countryside dealing with its problems.

Uthit, a 34-year-old Saraburi native, is proud of his humble background.

He wanted to go into visual arts, he told reporters at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel last week, but his parents thought it inappropriate. Nevertheless, rebellious Uthit left home at 15 to pursue his dream, taking a series of odd jobs to support his education.

Uthit’s experiences in youth shaped both who he is and his SeaWrite-winning novel, which offers a vivid depiction of his life and family and the community in which he grew up.

“Looking back, I think my world was very narrow,” he said. “My house and my family were in the countryside. My whole life revolved around that small village.

“I felt when I was in primary school that I was happiest when I was doing art.

“My life changed even before I was a student at Silpakorn University in Bangkok. Since I was a village guy, my lifestyle was very backward and I was narrow-minded. So when I came to the city it was an eye-opener. I saw and experienced many new things.

“I was excited and eager to absorb these new ideas. My friends often shared their opinions about music, books, art and culture, so I became more interested in reading books and writing.”

At university, Uthit spent most of his time reading literary classics, both Thai and foreign. He loves the way Italo Calvino, for example, explores the subjectivity of meaning and the relation between fiction and life, themes that are resonant in his own novel.

“Calvino’s ‘If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller’ has a plot that’s an open trajectory, where the author intervenes to question himself about his motives for writing,” Uthit pointed out.

“Like Calvino, there were times I felt that I was too fed up to carry on, and there were times I was happy and eager to continue my work.”

Uthit also drew inspiration from Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club” and the writing of 2003 Nobel laureate JM Coetzee.

“I’ve been working on another novel for a few months now, which I look forward to publishing soon,” he said.