Dreams of an Idealist, Theby M.R. Nimitmongkol Navarat
Translated by David Smyth
M.R. Nimitmongkol Navarat is one of the tragic figures of modern Thai literature. He spent almost half of his adult life in prison for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government, and died prematurely, just before his fortieth birthday.
It was as a political prisoner in the late 1930s that M.R. Nimitmongkol wrote The Dreams of an Idealist. The manuscript, originally written in English, was seized by prison guards and the author dispatched to the notorious penal colony on Ko Tao. On his release, he rewrote the book in Thai and published it in 1946.
There are many close parallels between the experiences of Rung, the hero of The Dreams of an Idealist, and M.R. Nimitmongkol. Rung, too, was arrested after the Boworadet rebellion (1933) and while in prison, became familiar with the works of Western philosophers, economists, psychologists, and early twentieth-century intellectuals, all of which influenced his thinking on how Siamese society in the future should be molded. And like the author, Rung’s refusal to bow before the military authorities leads to his demise. Later editions of the novel were complemented by the author’s short autobiographical memoir, A Victim of Two Political Purges (1946), which provides further chilling insight into the workings of the Phibun regime, and in particular the “Special Courts” set up to deal with political opponents.
This volume also includes the short drama, The Emerald’s Cleavage, written in English in the late 1930s, which satirizes the morally flawed and opportunistic political elite that ruled Siam.
About the translator
teaches Thai language and literature at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. His published works include translations of Thai novels and short stories, articles on modern Thai literature and a grammar book for learners of Thai.