Of Time And Tide
From the introduction, "The immediate appeal of this true-to-life fiction is its poetic language, crafted with simple words; its delicate imagery built around the moods of the sea, the follies of man and the transience of life; and its bittersweet melancholy tempered by little touches of irony and seasoned with unexpected, delicate symbolism-grains of sand betraying sexual attraction, for instance; or the language of flowers and their hues.
Yet its greater value is in its presentation of the changes that have affected Thai seafaring communities over less than the span of a generation. In an exquisitely light manner, through the modest, seemingly haphazard chronicle of the life of a few family members, friends and neighbors, a sweeping social panorama is created. The sad retrospection invites the reader to meditate soberly on the passage of time, the boon and bane of change, and the vagaries of fortune that toys with all human lives. Thus the local tale unfurls its universal truths. Similarly, the setting is at once specific and symbolic.
There once was a Barn Khlong Eekueng, literally a ‘village with a canal which had catfish-like fish known as eekueng,’ The village nestled near Hua Hin, a laid-back seaside town a few hours’ drive south of Bangkok, where the kings of Siam have kept a summer palace for the past hundred years.
The author mentions the names of many places in the vicinity, yet makes clear that Eekueng Canal Village could be anywhere and everywhere along the long seacoast of Thailand, a country of several million seafaring people increasingly re-orienting their working lives to tourism services and the growing of industrial crops.
By the time the novel starts, the name of the village is already obsolete: there are no eekueng there any more; the dried-up canal is merely a breeding place for mosquitoes. By the end of the story, the village has been destroyed in the name of progress and its dwellers relocated inland to a sardonically called ‘Sea Folk Village,’ quite appropriately located next to the district’s burial ground.
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