Early Thai literature was primarily concerned with religion
and until the mid-19th century was in verse form. Thai
verse was written exclusively by the aristocracy or royalty,
the only educated classes able to do so. The tradition
of authorship by kings can be seen in all periods of the
country's history, from
Sukhothai up to Bangkok.
Rama II (1809-1824) and King
Rama VI (1910-1925), were distinguished poets and
stalwart patrons of Thai
One of the most important Thai literary works is the
a uniquely Thai version of the Indian epic, the Ramayana.
Early Thai version of the Ramakian were
lost in the destruction of Ayutthaya.
The longest of the three present versions was written
in 1798 by the first Chakri King, Rama
I, and a group of intimates, who incorporated Thai
elements into it to preserve oral knowledge of Ayutthaya
state rites and traditions. Indeed, King Rama I's Ramakian
is the major historical source of medieval Thai courtly
Rama II composed two episodes of the Ramakian
for classical drama
purposes and wrote several other epic poems, including
the Inao , a romance with a Javanese background.
The Inao is a treasure trove of historical information
on early 19th century Thai customs, habits, and manners
and figures prominently in the repertoire of classical
King Rama II, a great poet of Rattanakosin
Another major Thai literary figure was Sunthon Phu
(1786-1855), a poetic genius and well-beloved commoner.
Sunthon Phu's enduring achievement (apart from his legendary
personal adventures) was to write superbly well in common
language about common feelings and the common folk. Easily
understood by all classes, his work became widely accepted.
His major works were Phra Aphai Mani, a romantic
adventure, and nine Nirats mostly written during
a pilgrimage, associating romantic memoried with the places
he visited in central and eastern Thailand.
Rama V and
Rama VI were also distinguished writers whose creativity
contained the rich intellectual heritage in several prose
and verse forms. Among outstanding literary works of King
Rama V were Ngo Pa and the well-known collection
of Klai Ban or Far Away from Home, on his journey
to Europe in 1906-7. Those well-known works of King Rama
VI were Matthana Phatha, Phra non Kham Luang ,
and several patriotic articles entitled, Muang Thai
Chong Tun Thoet or Wake up-all Thais, etc.
An outstanding writer and scholar was Phya Anuman Rajadhon,
who was born in 1888 and died in 1969. Interested in all
aspects of Thai culture, from language to folklore, Phya
Anuman wrote dozens of books on such subjects and served
as an inspiration to numerous younger Thais who are now
prominent in academic fields.
Moving into the modern age about 1900 onward, most
of the Thai readers are well acquainted with the work
of Dokmaisod whose real name is M.L. Boobpha Nimmanhaemindha.
She was a novelist in the pioneering age. Her best known
works were for example, Phu Di, Nung Nai Roi, Nit,
Chaichana Khong Luang Naruban, etc. Many of her works
have been assigned as books for external reading for students
at the secondary and tertiary levels of education today.
Malai Choopinij, in his pen name Mae Anong and Noi
Intanon, was an expert in his own right in both full length
and short stories. Thung Maharat, a novel based
on rural life, and Long Phrai, which is about the
adventure in the forest, are some of his best-known literary
Mai Muang Doem the pen name of Kan Phungbun Na Ayudhya,
whose novel Khun Suk, won much admiration during
his time and was on several occasions adapted for television
Yakhop, a pen name of Chot Praephan, whose most popular
work is Phu chana Sip Thit, a legend of Burmese
royal court, which has been adapted by many script writers
for television drama as well as stage drama enjoyed by
Sri Burapha, a popular novelist, whose real name was
Kularb Sai Pradit. His most famous work is a love story
entitled Khang Lang Phap, or literally Behind the
Another leading literary figure is former Prime Minister
M.R. Kukrit Pramoj, whose works have been prolific. They
appeared in various forms including short stories, articles,
columns and critiques. He is generally regarded as the
best Thai short story author. His collection of short
stories, the so-called Lai Chiwit, is considered
an exemplary work embodying the finest Thai prose, an
appreciation of which is essential for the appraisal of
Thai contemporary literature. His most outstanding novel,
Si Phandin , or Four Reigns, revolves around the
court life from the reign of King Rama V to Rama
VIII offering a vivid portrait of Thai society in
those long years of the four interesting reigns.
|Late Primer Minister
M.R. Kukrit Pramoj
Krisna Asokesin, or Sukanya Cholasuk, is another very
successful and famous novelist. She has written a collection
of over one hundred novels on love and complexities of
family life. She has won both domestic and international
awards. Her well-known novels, Rua Manut and Tawan
Tok Din, won the SEATO Literary Awards. She was also
awarded the National Artist status.
Seni Saowaphong or Sakdichai Bamrungphong is the doyen
of modern writers. His novels and short stories deal with
class conflicts, exploitation, and urban society. Pisat,
Evil Spirits, his most popular novel, is about the conflict
between new and old generations. He also won the National
The late Suwanee Sukhnotha, a former painter, was a
highly successful woman writer. Her best novel, Khao
Chu Kan, His Name is Kan, won a SEATO Literary Award.
It is about a young doctor who sacrifices a brilliant
career in one of the nation's leading hospitals to work
in a rural area where peasants have no access to modern
Suwat Woradilok, a novelist under the pen name Rapeeporn,
whose work under the title of Phandin Mai is well-known
among novel readers. Kamsing Srinok, who is also known
under the pen name of Lao Kam Hom, is a low-profiled but
powerful writer, whose short stories recreate northeastern
village life. His most acclaimed short story, Fa Bo
Kan is about the hardship the Northeasterners must
face during a cruel drought. Both Suwat Woradilok and
Kamsing Srinok won the National Artist status.
| National Artists
Kampoon Boonthavi, who wrote Luk Isan; Chart
Korbjitti, whose works are Kham Phiphaksa, The
Judgement, and Wela; Vanich Charungkichanand, with
his collection of short stories entitled Soi Dieo Kan,
are all awardees of the Southeast Asian Writers Award
Other well-known contemporary female novelists whose
names are worth mentioning here are : the late Supa Devakul,
who was not only a popular known novelist but also a stage
and television playwright; Wimol Siripaibul, with her
well-known pen names Thomayanti and Rose- la-rain, Penkae
Wong Sa-Nga or her real name Penkae Vajanasuntorn, Nopakun
Jittayasotorn, under her pen name Man Supiti, and Winita
Dithiyon, under her pen name Wor Winichaikul.
Angkarn Kalayanapong is a leading Thai contemporary
poet whose language is most eloquent and impressive. One
of his distinguished works, Lamnam Phu Kradung
draws great admiration as its literary work paints the
beauty and vitality of nature and campaigns against environmental
degradations. He has won both the SEAWRITE Award and the
National Artis status.
Another popular Thai contemporary poet, Naowarat Phongpaiboon,
writes in a traditional style although his topics are
current. His odes to such emotions as love, despair, and
hope are laced with beautiful lyrics. He has won both
the SEAWRITE Award and the National Artist status. His
most famous work, entitled Khian Phaendin, is the
fruit of his journey to all corners of Thailand from where
he recorded the beauty and admiration of local landscapes
in words and wins utmost popularity among the Thais.
The transformation of the world by science and technology
is one of the things that separates present day literary
works from those of the pase. Writers depend not only
upon a general public perception of reality, as in the
past, but also upon their own instincts and insights which
they express as a kind to personal vision, sometimes to
make their readers see and think in a new way.
It was inevitable that Thai artists in the age of technology
would find new subjects and forms of expression in addition
to more foreign influences, the arts have begun to move
in different directions which modern Thais can relate
to. Yet the beauty of the old has not lost its ability
to inspire, and despite the inroads made by modern culture,
it continues to hold its own and even to show signs of
revival in many areas.