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Short novel set in a jungle village in THAILAND

15th June 2023

Venom by Saneh Sangsuk, short novel set in a jungle village in Thailand. TR: Mui Poopoksakul

Short novel set in a jungle village in THAILAND

Saneh Sangsuk wrote Venom with a second novella, The Understory, to be published separately, and if the second is as good as the first it will be a treat. This lovely little book is charming and poetic. It tells the story as if it were a folk tale or fable, where a boy must draw on his own character and strength to overcome his enemy, the snake. In writing Venom, the author creates immense tension, though this isn’t at the expense of descriptive writing. I learned a lot about life in a rural agricultural community in Thailand — one that’s apparently similar to the one that Saneh Sangsuk grew up in — and about the jungle that surrounds the fictional village. The story examines the boy’s daily routine and the importance of tradition and religion.

The story’s main character is a boy who doesn’t fit in with others his age. He has a disability and he’s bullied, but as a storyteller and puppeteer he also has a skill that the bullies admire. He does his best to be a good son and is close to his parents. He also likes the midwife and the old priest but, like many in Praeknamdang – a fictional rural village in the Thai jungle – he fears the local entrepreneur. Song Waad claims to be a medium and that he has the ear of the goddess. The medium uses this to gain power and claim village land as his own. And there’s a problem, in that Song Waad dislikes the boy’s family. So, when the boy is attacked by a King Cobra, he commences a struggle for his life against the snake but perhaps he is also fighting The Sacred Mother herself.

Highly recommended for everyone, except possibly those who dislike snakes!

Translator’s Twitter @muipoopoksakul

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