Literary veteran Duangruethai Esanasatang, 48, the celebrated author who was branded a red shirt for signing a petition to amend Thailand’s lèse majesté law Article 112, is now busy running the much-loved Candide Bookstore, which after closing for two years recently reopened at Duangrit Boonnag’s The Jam Factory. 

I’m in love with books. I love to do anything related to books. That’s why I’m a writer, editor, publisher and bookshop owner.

Good manuscripts drove me to launch Rawang Bantad [Between the Lines] Publishing. I worked as a freelance editor and received many manuscripts to edit, one of which was Prabda Yoon’s Pab Mai Ning [Moving Pictures]. My friends encouraged me to start a publishing house to offer an alternative to readers.

Publishers must be at the center of all book circles. We need to know the writers, meet the financial backers, and negotiate with distributors. We need connections.

My joy at exploring the journeys in each book made me jump into the bookshop business. My work used to end at the printers or with the distributors. But with Candide Bookstore now I actually get to put those books in readers’ hands.

Independent bookshops give readers more choice. Candide tries to push books that are interesting and which people might not know exist. It helps small publishers, too. They can produce books in small runs of about 1,500 copies instead of the 5,000 copies that big chains demand.

Running two businesses by myself was really exhausting. I was editor of my publishing house and running the bookshop at the same time. I had less and less time to edit work. So when our lease at the old place came to an end, I decided to close Candide.  

Book publishers are to blame for people not loving to read. Make books to serve readers, not your own needs. We need to do everything we can to make books attractive to them. 

I love books that move me in some way. I used to love Haruki Murakami because the messages he communicated were so right for me. I would feel run-down after reading one of his book. His works sucked up all my strength. He’s not my favorite now, though, as his recent books are pretty mainstream.

Paperbacks won’t disappear, even though this is the digital age. E-book sales are really slow here. Readers still love the real thing.

E-readers are just gadgets. I used to be excited about e-books and would buy many for my iPad. But in the end, I wouldn’t read them all. It’s too much! I’ve stopped reading them.

Value readers no matter what they are reading. Many people think teen novels like Jamsai Publisher or are rubbish but I don’t see it that way. You don’t need to read serious novels to be a good reader. It’s about nurturing people to read. One day, they will move on to another level to read about other topics. 

There is no profession that needs freedom more than writers. Freedom of expression is a writer’s biggest tool. That’s why I signed the petition to fix article 112, which protects the monarchy, because it’s nearly impossible to express our ideas on the topic of politics. Some people try to twist this by saying we’re against the monarchy. 

Thai society needs the monarchy, myself included. I still enjoy watching the royal news every night. But in terms of expression, we need to change the law.

There is no space to be neutral in politics. It’s pretty sad that we’re pushed to the other side if we don’t agree with the red shirts or yellow shirts. Each side thinks that people have to fall in line with one way of thinking. That’s why nothing comes of it. 

Reading can solve political problems. Reading opens your mind, so if each side starts reading up on each other’s thoughts, we can start talking. But the problem is each side wants to shut down the other side’s opinions. Anyone can just go to the police station and say you’re against the monarchy.

I’m disappointed by our politics. I used to admire ex-prime minister Chuang Leekpai, but I lost all my faith in the Democrat Party after the killings during the 2010 protests. 

We’re at the lowest point of democracy now. It’s ridiculous that we are in 2014 and we still need to beg people to go to vote. 

Democracy has shown over time that it’s the best option. You pick the representatives who work for you. If they do poorly, wait another four years to vote new ones in. But now it seems many Thai people can’t wait. On the other hand, many people will fight for Thaksin, not because they love him, but because he was ousted by a coup d’état. 

I might vote for the Democrats in this election, if they run. I want them to know how graceful it is to win an election fairly.

It’s distressing that the fate of our country is now in the hands of the Constitutional Court. No matter if something’s voted in by parliament, it still comes down to the court to decide. The parliament, as voted for by the people, should wield ultimate power.

See every day as a challenge. What’s the point of living if you wake up and it’s just another boring day? 


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