February 1, 2008

Old books I love: ชายชรากับทะเล (The Old Man and the Sea)

I wish there were more used bookstores in Thailand. I mean that in both senses--stores that sell used books, and bookstores that are used (by the reading public). I wish there were more bookstores, period. Mostly what passes as a bookstore here I consider a glorified magazine rack. I wish they could all be like the Chula Book Centre, or the Prae Pittaya at Central Lat Phrao. But even the larger Dok Ya and Se-Ed branches aren't so bad.

Whoops, I wandered off topic. What I mean to say is, I love old books. But the good used bookstores are few and far between. That's why the annual book fair (and its semi-annual copycat) are so great. All the best used booksellers in one spot. And most of them probably recognize my face by now, even if we're not on a name basis. I'm that oddball farang digging through stacks and asking questions about obscure volumes. My budget is limited, but I try to pick up gems on the cheap. Here's a good one I bought last Octobe
r for 140 baht:

[This b&w scan doesn't capture the character of the cover at all, but that's all I have access to at the moment--I'll replace it with a proper color scan when I get a chance.]

This is ชายชรากับทะเล, a 1957 first printing of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, translated into Thai. If you're counting, that's just five years after the original English was published, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and a Nobel Prize in 1954. This would have been pretty hip literature back in 1957 Thailand.

I also own a later translation that you can still find in stores:

This version is called เฒ่าผจญทะเล, a less literal title translation than its predecessor, but maybe more interesting to the Thai ear.

When I get around to it I'll post sample passages to compare these two translations. In the meantime, enjoy the first paragraph:

เขาเป็นชายชราผู้ยึดอาชีพจับปลาแต่เดียวดายด้วยเรือลำหนึ่งในทะเลหลวง และบัดนี้เขาได้ออกเรือโดยไม่ได้ปลานานถึงแปดสิบสี่วันแล้ว สี่สิบวันก่อนที่เขาจะหยุดจับปลา มีเด็กชายคนหนึ่งมาสุงสิงอยู่ด้วย แต่สี่สิบวันหลังจากที่เว้นการประมง พ่อและแม่ของเด็กนั้นบอกแกว่า ชายชราขึ้นคานเสียแล้ว และจะหมดฝีมือในที่สุด นั่นคือเป็นผู้อับโชค แล้วเจ้าหนูก็ถูกชักพาให้ไปกับเรืออื่น ซึ่งเพียงอาทิตย์แรกที่แกไปกับเขาก็จับปลางาม ๆ ได้ถึงสามตัว มันทำให้เด็กน้อยรู้สึกเศร้าที่ใจได้เห็นชายชรากลับบ้านเรือเปล่าไม่เว้นแต่ละวัน แกมักจะวิ่งลงไปช่วยเขาขนสายเบ็ด ขอเหล็ก ฉมวก และใบเรือ ซึ่งชายชราได้ม้วนพันเสากระโดงไว้เรียบร้อย ใบเรือนั้นปะด้วยผ้าถุงแป้ง มันม้วนกลมแลดูคล้ายธงแห่งความปราชัยชั่วนิรันดร์

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry either the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail that was furled around the mast. The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat.
How'd the translator do?


  1. I'm curious about the usage of ยึด in the opening passage (...ยึดอาชีพ...).

    What's the connotation there?


  2. Good question. So far as I knew, it just means to have (or 'hold') that profession, no other connotation. It's just the idiomatic way of saying it. Google returns lots of hits for ยึดอาชีพ with the same apparent meaning. You can also say ประกอบอาชีพ, which sounds more formal to me.

  3. Another thing that occurs to me. This is kind of similar to the use of ยึด in the sense to 'hold to' a set of beliefs, in this case it's more like holding to a way of life, one's profession.

    Looking on Google, there are a few (but only a couple dozen) hits for ถืออาชีพ (often in the phrase "ผู้ถืออาชีพ X", and about a hundred for ยึดถืออาชีพ.

    RID99 doesn't clearly include this sense of ยึด, though clearly it's related to the uses they do list. This is a good example of how using a corpus of literature and other writing can help find and demonstrate uses of a word that don't come immediately to mind. Very useful for dictionary-makers.

  4. Great stuff, Rikker, thanks.

    The only time I'd ever heard the word was in the context of "to seize" - as in when they froze the bank accounts of Thaksin: ยึดทรัพย์สิน

    That was a capital idea...


  5. Thanks a lot for this post. I want to buy to father of my gf this book, but didnt know the translation and in bookstore they can not find it by author...i am going to order it soon

  6. Ordering from here: http://www.se-ed.com/eShop/Products/Detail.aspx?No=9786162200397&CategoryId=495 it seems they did some re-print and also updated the cover. Nice.