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Thai author transforms recent history into intimate fables

Veeraporn Nitiprapha's complex novels have found a wide following

A former advertising copywriter and fashion magazine journalist, Veeraporn Nitiprapha confesses she began writing novels at age 44 to impress her bookish son and as an antidote to "telling lies" in her previous jobs by "giving hope to people only by making them buy things." (All photos courtesy of Veeraporn Nitiprapha)

BANGKOK -- Veeraporn Nitiprapha may be the most significant writer you have never heard of. Her first novel, "The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth," was a surprise hit. The original Thai-language edition sold 200,000 copies in a country where reading culture (usually focused on the sayings of monks or stock market tips) was considered weak even before smartphone scanning. According to Kong Rithdee, a leading film critic and writer who translates Veeraporn's work, "Nobody knows why the book became so popular. But after the coup of 2014, it expressed the emotions of a lot of young people -- a romantic despair connected to the labyrinth that is Thailand."

Although it won the 2015 S.E.A. Write Award -- Southeast Asia's leading literature prize -- it did not appear in English for another three years, when it was published by Bangkok-based River Books. Reviewers, including The New York Times correspondent in Bangkok, universally praised the novel, although in terms that warned of its complexity. It was variously described as "feverish," "dreamy," "magical and meandering," and, a "malarial hallucination ... turning its readers into the earthworms."

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