Dealing with the West: Political Changes in Thailand And the Transition of King Vajiravudh’s Translation Practices

Faris Yothasamuth1

1The University of Sydney, Australia

Literary works of King Vajiravudh have been scrutinised by many scholars from literary, historical, and political studies. However, dealing with a wide range of his works, many scholars seem to repeat two mistakes. First, they see Vajiravudh’s literary endeavours as a monolithic practice that bears no significant change. Second, translations are often overlooked. This paper proposes that King Vajiravudh’s literary—especially translation—practices were changed over time. In the earlier period, his translations were subjected to substantial adaptations. Some were plagiarised works done by borrowing plots and characters from Western fiction. However, in the later period, the translation practices were shifted to more faithful translation methods, albeit some adaptations prevailed, and all source materials were mentioned explicitly. The transition of Vajiravudh’s translations took place around 1914 to 1915. This paper argues that there were two main factors contributing to such change. The first was the decline of anti-colonial sentiment as Vajiravudh leaning forward to British and French powers during the First World War. The second was the political maturity of Vajiravudh that was derived around 1915 allowing him to publicly express his admiration of Western values and adopt them as models for his nation. These evolutions happened alongside literary developments of both commoner and elite literati, as well as the expanding Thai reading public.


Biography: 

Faris is a Ph.D. candidate in International and Comparative Literary Studies Programme (ICLS) at The University of Sydney, Australia. His current research topic focuses on literary translations in Siam/Thailand in the early twentieth century, especially those of King Vajiravudh.

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