The unique charm of Thai literature

The rich history of Thai literature traces back to the Sukhothai period (1238-1438). However, in the modern age, Thai literature takes on a different form. Distinct features separate modern Thai literature, written in the 20th and 21st centuries, from its historical counterparts. In this article, we delve into the unique characteristics that define modern Thai literature.

What is the Golden Age of Thai Literature?

Thai literature officially starts with the Tai people who entered the region from southern China, and many believe it was initially written in Chinese. The first significant work to emerge was Thao Hung or Cheuang, a comprehensive account of the Tai kingdom that deviated from the tradition of emulating South Asian styles. It became the world’s first truly South Asian masterpiece, showcasing a unique style of its own.

After the advent of this epic poem, poetry became the dominant medium of literary expression in Thai literature. Poets initially employed meters inspired by Sanskrit, which eventually evolved into a hybrid poetic style. In 1238, the Thai alphabet came into existence, and the first work composed using it was the Ram Khamhaeng stele. Buddhism played a prominent role as both a theme and context in many works from this era.

Lilit poetry became popular, as well as nirat. Lilit is a lengthy form of poetry that employs different meters in different stanzas to vary the pace and tone of the story. Nirat, on the other hand, is an epic form of poetry that expresses farewell and longing for someone who is no longer present.

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During the Rattanakosin era, Thai literature entered its golden age. Poets adhering to the Siamese tradition were often killed by Burmese invaders. As the kingdom sought to revive its literary heritage, the people again yearned for poetry. Old works were improved upon, and the focus shifted towards prose writing, a newer form in the Thai region at that time. With these innovations, the people honed their literary skills and forged a new tradition, giving birth to a prolific era of new literature.

Contemporary Thai literature now emphasises fiction and short stories. While it may not hold the same renown for poetry as in the past, it has undoubtedly left behind a literary legacy that continues to influence neighbouring countries today.

The unique charm of Thai literature | News by Thaiger
Samut Thai, a traditional medium for literature

What Makes Thai Literature Unique?

Modern Thai literature possesses a multitude of distinguishing features.

  • It draws influence from Western literature, manifesting in the themes and styles employed by contemporary Thai writers. This exposure broadens their horizons, facilitating experimentation with new forms of expression.
  • Modern Thai literature focuses on prevalent social and political issues within the country. It addresses like poverty, corruption, and inequality.
  • The advent of technology has greatly impacted modern Thai literature. The Internet and social media provide Thai writers extensive platforms to reach larger audiences and share their work.
  • –°ontemporary Thai writers exhibit a propensity for experimenting with form and language. They challenge traditional expressions through unconventional narrative structures, innovative linguistic techniques, and genre-bending.

It is difficult to explain the difference between Thai books and European or American ones in a few words. They feel different and you need to feel it. It’s better to see once than to hear a thousand times – this is about Secret literature. You should visit FictionMe and check out some famous masterpieces. FictionMe – novels app with a large selection of literature from different eras, nationalities, and levels of popularity. Fiction is mostly represented, but there are books for every taste.

Famous Literature in Thailand

Notable Thai Prose Writers:

  • Narong Wongsawan, a journalist and writer, gained recognition for his social class commentaries.
  • Ajin Panjapan is renowned for his collections of short stories.
  • Phya Anuman Rajadhon wrote ethnographic and anthropological essays.
  • Chote Praepan was a fiction writer.
  • Khamsing Srinawk left a mark with his satirical short stories.

Notable Thai Poets:

  • Si Prat, a poet of legendary status, is surrounded by rumours regarding the authenticity of his existence.
  • Sunthorn Phu stands as one of the most renowned historical poets.
  • Angkarn Kalayanapong expressed himself as a poet and artist.
  • Duanwad Pimwana excels as a poet, novelist, and journalist.
  • Tang Chang showcased his artistry not only through visual arts but also through poetry.
  • Prince Paramanuchitchinorot showcased his talent as a poet, writer, and practitioner of Buddhism.
The unique charm of Thai literature | News by Thaiger
Si Prat, a poet of legendary status

Contemporary Thai literature stands out for its incorporation of Western influences, emphasis on social issues, experimentation with form and language, and utilisation of technology. These elements enable modern Thai writers to produce innovative works reflecting the spirit of their era. The future of Thai literature appears promising as writers persist in pushing boundaries and exploring new means of expression.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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