The 2021 SEA Write Award has been awarded to Siriworn Kaewkarn’s The Story of Defun
The Story of Defun recounts the founding of local communities in the past. Illustrating cultural diversity, the novel is connected to the history of settlement in Thailand’s South: the Banthat Mountain Range and the lake basin area. The unrecalled trauma as the key message is manifested through seeming local history in the subversion against mainstream history.
The Story of Defun employs a hero’s legend circulated among Southern Thai communities as a frame. Its mythical elements are intertwined with social issues. The art of magical realism is practiced through the protagonist who suffers from dementia as he ponders upon his fragmented and forgotten memories. The novel engages the reader with its concise narrative pace, reflecting the cutting and rapid style. It allows readers to traverse through their own imagination whilst identifying themselves with narratives of the downfall of local communities under the unjust structure of power relations. The tragic fate of humanity is thus realized.
The Story of Defun upholds the power of literature, unearthing the unspoken and unspeakable history.