I think it’s important in this post to explain our motivation for writing Sinxay and a little background information. Our first priority is that we want Sinxay to gain a wider popularity, both from within and without the Lao community, throughout the world. But at the same time we wanted Sinxay to meet certain academic standards, one of the reasons we created a comprehensive, well-cited Wikipedia entry for Sinxay/Sang Sinxay, a model for any other literature entry. The fact is Sinxay is considered one of three Lao literature masterpieces and deserves to be more widely known and our book is the very first attempt to promote Sinxay outside of mainland Southeast Asia. We should be given credit for that.
One of the themes in Sinxay is the building of alliances, represented by the Lao word, saphanthong, meaning golden bridge. We like to consider our book on Sinxay to be a saphanthong, a golden bridge between Laos and the rest of the world. You can see an illustration showing a saphanthong in our featured image that bridges the world of the nyak with the world of human beings.
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.”
Unfortunately Lao studies is not encouraged, nor funded, at most major universities and colleges, but just the same, writing an authoritative text on Sinxay, and researching similarities and differences between the Lao and Isan versions of Sinxay would be a great research project. There’s a huge difference though in publishing an academic book and a “traditional” book like ours. Academic books fit narrow niches and are mostly funded by grants, foundations and universities, and just getting a book published is enough. Our book was funded only by ourselves, we did not receive a dime of funding or any support form grants, foundations or universities. Maybe one of the reasons we have a much more of a vested interested in promoting Sinxay, because no one is going to do this for us. It’s not easy, but we’ve invested so much of our time and money, we have to. For better or for worse.
We take solace in reading David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants written by Malcolm Gladwell, in fact we quote from the book in Sinxay. One quotation we keep in mind as we embark on this arduous, the odds are against us, process of promoting Sinxay is:
“Much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of (these) one-sided conflicts. Because the act of facing overwhelming odds, produces greatness and beauty.”
It’s a fine balance to try to hold the modern reader’s attention with a story written back in the late 1600’s that was meant to be chanted. Even Maha Sila Viravong who transliterated Sang Sinxay found that the Lao version of Sang Sinxay in book form was barely read, the Pali and Lao Buhan wording too difficult for the average Lao citizen. He, and then his son-in-law Outhine Bounyavong after he died, did their best to simplify Sang Sinxay, leaving out many passages, hoping a prose version would awaken more of an interest in Sinxay. It’s hard to tell if the prose version really was read much at all. Our version on Sinxay builds on this incomplete prose retelling of Sinxay
More to come.