For the Love of Translation: A Discussion of King Vajiravudh’s Translations of Western Literature in Early 20th-Century Siam


King Vajiravudh ruled over Siam from 1910 to 1925. He is widely known to Thais as a nationalist king who proposed an essential ‘Thainess’ through his myriad of writings. Yet contrary to popular expectations, King Vajiravudh’s attitude towards the West was nothing short of ambivalent. In fact, King Vajiravudh’s dynamic practice of translating works of Western literature into Thai points to strong bonds of affection towards Great Britain and France in particular. To explore this connection, Dr Natali Pearson is joined by Dr Faris Yothasamuth who argues that King Vajiravudh’s fascination with the West and Western discourses heavily influenced his management of the Kingdom of Siam, and in doing so, shaped the country’s national identity.

Dr Faris Yothasamuth is a lecturer at the Department of Literature, Kasetsart University, Thailand. He received PhD in International Comparative Literature and Translation Studies from The University of Sydney in 2021. Faris’s research and teaching expertise is Thai literature. His research interests include literature and history, and translation in Thailand’s (semi)colonial contexts. Faris’s current research focuses on representations of the Orient in Western popular novels that were translated into Thai during the colonial era.

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Natali Pearson

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.

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