A novelist’s contrarian view of Pattaya

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IN DISCUSSION:French novelist Jean Noel Orengo (left) with Olivier Litvine, Director, Alliance Francaise. —Photo: T. Singaravelou

A novelist’s contrarian view of Pattaya

Pattaya, the French author says, is also the origin of tales of love, many of which lead to inter-racial marriages.

If Hunter S. Thompson’s psychedelic vision of Sin City produced the cult classic ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, French novelist Jean-Noël Orengo has taken inspiration from the Thai city of Pattaya for his feted work, ‘La Fleur du Capital’.

In contrast to the city’s notoriety for sleaze, exploitation and crime, Mr. Orengo discovers in Pattaya the “embodiment of a cosmopolitan resort city and a liberal brand of capitalism coexisting with a dysfunctional society”.

The French writer, whose debut novel won him several honours, topped by the prestigious Prix de Flore prize in 2015, takes a contrarian view of Pattaya, which offered for writers a “goldmine of narratives”.

Incidentally, the Prix de Flore prize literary prize entitles the winner to a drink of Pouilly-Fume white wine every day for a year at the Café de Flore from a glass that has the laureate’s name engraved on it.

Pattaya, the author says, is also the origin of tales of love, many of which lead to inter-racial marriages.

“But, most significant of all, Pattaya is also a unique city where women are empowered…even dominating the men… and where patriarchy is turned on its head,” Mr. Orengo said in an interaction during which Alliance Francaise Director Olivier Litvine helped with the equivalent English phrases for the French part of the conversation.

In his 700-odd page novel, the French writer presents his vision of Pattaya through five characters, including an inspirational young transsexual. Thematically, his work picks up the literary threads from French writers such as the 19th century French poets Charles Baudelaire and Gerard de Nerval.

Mr. Orengo is done with a second book, ‘L’Opium of the Sky’ (The Opium of the Sky) which is due to be out in January. The work casts a drone as the narrator of a war sweeping West Asia, he said.

Mr. Orengo is currently pursuing a literary project based on Auroville after he became the recipient of the Missions Stendhal, an author’s residency programme funded by the Institut Francais.

His next novel will examine the story of founding days of the experimental township, focusing on The Mother (Mirra Alfassa who was the spiritual associate of Sri Aurobindo) and Indo-Semitic confluences.

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