Annie On Writing

February 21, 2009

VERISIMILITUDE – serves a warning for all writers

Filed under: Observations — Annie Evett @ 11:19 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Harry Nicolaides , an Australian author jailed in Thailand for allegedly insulting the crown prince, arrived back in Australia this week after being freed following a royal pardon. He had been working as a lecturer at the university in Thailand, was arrested in August last year and sentenced to three years in prison.

The excerpt from VERISIMILITUDE which is sited as the contentious piece and caused him to be jailed is below:

Harry Nicolaides sitting inside holding cell

“From King Rama to the Crown Prince, the nobility was renowned for their romantic entanglements and intrigues. The Crown Prince had many wives “major and minor “with a coterie of concubines for entertainment. One of his recent wives was exiled with her entire family, including a son they conceived together, for an undisclosed indiscretion. He subsequently remarried with another woman and fathered another child. It was rumoured that if the prince fell in love with one of his minor wives and she betrayed him, she and her family would disappear with their name, familial lineage and all vestiges of their existence expunged forever.”

His book “Vermisilmilitude” was first published in 2005 with a run of seventy copies, with only half a dozen actually sold.  Interestingly there is a copy of the book available online. It is badly scanned but bears the library stamps of non other than the Royal Library of Thailand.  I have only read the first chapter and it seemed a pleasant enough descriptive narrative of a young Thai girls family life in modern day Thailand.

Les Majeste carries a severe penalty within Thailand. Perhaps Harrys own press release did him little favours within the court hearing – especially as he was working within Thailand and must have been aware of the tight laws surrounding the Royals.

“Savage, ruthless and unforgiving, VERISIMILITUDE pulls away the mask of benign congeniality that Thailand has disguised itself with for decades and reveals a people who are obsessed with Western  iffluence and materialism and who trade their cultural integrity and personal honour for the baubles of Babylonian America.”

After reading the press release, perhaps I aught to have continued my reading – it obviously got alot better after the first chapter.

However, this example serves a warning for all writers. Once in print – or online – its out in the public sphere and cannot be retracted. Freedom of speech may be a right within your own country, but care needs to be taken if visiting other cultures and commenting on their society and lifestyle.

For more details on the case click here.

After reading all of this – are you more likely to take care of your opinions? Not voice the messages you hold inside?

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  1. I don’t think I would be inclined to tone down my opinions, or keep them to myself… but I’d avoid traveling to the countries, or placing myself near to the individuals, that I’d been expressing my opinions about, if they were in a position to put me behind bars (or worse).

    I’m too outspoken to keep things to myself. I’ve ticked off a fair few people in my hometown due to my most recent book being based here… and not casting a few of the locals in a very positive light. A few people have been taken aback that I’d write about the place whilst still living here, but I’m not going to move in order to express myself. Thankfully, in the southwest of England, they can’t imprison me for it!


    Comment by Gina Collia-Suzuki — February 23, 2009 @ 2:12 am | Reply

  2. As an expat, presently in South Korea, I have followed this story with great interest. This is a reminder not just for journalists, but all who write abroad…freedom of speech is something that does not exist everywhere…

    Great posting…


    Comment by Marilyn — February 23, 2009 @ 8:53 am | Reply

  3. thanks so much for taking the time to comment here – the story shocked me and really made me think about the things that I think about writing and then don’t for one reason or another….. in saying this – I have a separate identity and a site where I air my thoughts on more contentious issues – and at the time thought I was being a bit silly doing so – but am glad now that I have kept it separate.

    You are absolulty right – freedom of speech is something that isn’t a right everywhere and one we need to be blessed to have.

    I appreciate you popping on and I will certainly come on over to your sites for a visit shortly!


    Comment by Annie — February 23, 2009 @ 1:47 pm | Reply

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