When an artist becomes politicized, the transition is not always for the better. An artist creates timeless beauty; a reformist destroys immediate ugliness. Behind the Painting is transitional. While the novel's characters are drawn from the Thai upper classes and the novel's topics are love and marriage, politics creep in here and there. Siburapha addresses the question whether Thais educated abroad like Siburapha himself are obligated to return home and serve their country. Nopphon thinks so.
Kirati concurs. No more is said. But in the later, bitter story "Those Kind of People," the transition to politics and disillusionment is complete.
The story's young protagonist "pointed out to her father that hundreds of Thais had gone to study in America and England, but that she could not see that there had been any change or improvement in the lives of the majority of people. At least one Thai writer has suggested that Behind the Painting is actually a political allegory. Young, up-and-coming, deceitful, impetuous Nopphon, who wants to be a banker, represents the capitalists.
The older, fading, honest, reserved Kirati, whose father was a prince, represents the aristocracy. This interpretation is compelling, but whether Siburapha intended it is unknown. In any case, of the handful of Thai novels I have read Behind the Painting is the best. Like a good Chinese watercolor, it captures almost too much of life in just a few practiced brushstrokes; and it provides a haunting, but indelible image of the inner life of the Thais, whose outer life is so enchanting and seemingly carefree. Cambodian Dreams Deferred.
Write a review. Behind the Painting is the story of a Thai student studying in Japan who becomes infatuated with an older Thai woman. The novel reflects postwar Thai society in the vanity of the aristocracy and the pragmatism of the new elite; in the social more of concealing ones true feelings; and in the restricted existence of unmarried women and the resulting pressure to marry, whatever the circumstance.
Paralleling these Thai cultural themes are the universal themes of the fear of aging and the vagaries of love. Back English Thai. This volume brings together Siburaphas most highly acclaimed novel, Behind the Painting, with three short stories highlighting the plight of the underclass: "Those Kind of People, "Lend Us a Hand", and "The Awakening".
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