Reading Hutangkoon

 

I’ve been reading this novel by Thai writer/artist Parithat Hutangkoon called Daughter Of An Ascetic (2006 ลูกสาวฤษี). It opens by telling the story of Thai modernity through the eyes of a father figure named Mok, who makes his living by transporting locals and tourists around his sleepy provincial town in a large tricycle (replaced in larger cities by the 3-wheeled Tuk tuk).  When a local kid comes up short of his passenger fare, he offers his copy of V.S. Naipaul’s Half A Life (2002) to Mok as collateral. Here the author gives an intricate account of Mok’s reading of a section of Naipaul’s novel, under the presupposition that all readers enter the text with varied points of reference, one no less sophisticated than another. Attention to the worlds of texts within texts, and a reading process that will assure a particular  narrative development, Hutangkoon’s metafictional elements explore what Marco Abel has recently coined as “response-ability”, and what Jacques Ranciere sees in everyone’s equal access to aesthetic sensibility. My question in proceeding forward with this novel will be whether each of these characters unfold as equally sophisticated.

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