In reading Peter Koret’s essay, “Luep Phasun (Extinguishing the Light of the Sun),” Bai and I were happy to discover that we are part of an time-honored tradition in the publishing of our retelling of Sinxay. In his essay Koret writes,
“Creativity, therefore, lay not in the self-acknowledged composition of original works, but rather in the leeway and flexibility in which literature could be transformed in the very process of its preservation . . . The idea of adapting pre-existing literature to serve the changing needs of the time and location of its performance is as old as the Lao tradition of literature itself. Lao Buddhist literature is largely taken from oral folk tales, transformed into life tales of the Bodhisattva with the aim of serving the temple in its teaching of Buddhist values and beliefs. In a similar fashion, there is a tradition of transforming the content and recording style of individual stories to suit the needs of both religious and secular environments.”
It is important to note that as we write in our introduction, our motivation for writing a retelling of Sinxay, rather than providing a straight translation, has not been to produce an authoritative text (though we hope others may be motivated to pursue this path after reading the book) but to have Sinxay come alive by telling the story in such a way that it is meaningful for readers today, while remaining faithful to the original Sang Sinxay as written more than 350 years ago.
To reiterate, our retelling of Sinxay is just that, our own version of Sinxay. Similar, but clearly different from the prose and poetic versions we read and had translated during our ten years of research. As Bounteum Sibounheuang writes in his blessing for our book,
Pangkham’s creative concept and style has always been highly revered, and the honor has fallen to many generations that have accepted the cherished duty to preserve such a masterpiece of Lao literature…It is a memorable occasion for Sinxay to be published in English. As Pangkham wrote, “I respect and revere this poem; it is a blessing, like a lamp over my head that will forever shine brightly.” While the light has dimmed at times throughout the years, with the publishing of Sinxay the luminosity that represents its heart and soul will return, no doubt brighter than ever… Our sincere gratitude goes to Pangkham and to the generations who have preserved and carried forward this invaluable work of art. May such merit lead your spirits to peace and serenity.
We are proud to be one of many, probably hundreds of monks and scribes, who, over hundreds of years, have accepted this cherished duty to keep the spirit of Sinxay (Sang Sinxay) alive. While our book has superficially brought recognition to Sinxay, we would like to see more people actually read the story. The power that is within Sinxay is only gifted to the reader as they read and engage with the story. Indeed, Sinxay is the loom on which each reader may weave their own journey of transformation.