Rereading “The Sheikh”

Thai Novel The Sheikh and The Golem and the Jinni

Welcome to the 121 days since the shelter in place order and since I’ve been working from home! I hope everyone is doing okay out there. As for our little household, we’re doing okay.

But as you know, for some of us creative type, being stuck at home is driving us slowly mad. As the quote from Where’d You Go Bernadette goes:

“People like you must create. If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.” – Maria Semple, “Where’d you go, Bernadette?”


So, I’ve sewn masks for donation. I’ve cleaned out the garage. (Also because we had “little visitors” apparently.) I’ve gotten more indoor and outdoor plants. I’ve started a weekly Instagram Live show on Mondays at 8 p.m. PST called “OakMonster’s Drunken Half-assed Talent Show” where I get tipsy, sing poorly, and bring in musically-inclined friends to share their talent.

And now I’ve taken up doing a recap of one of my favorite Thai novels growing up, “The Sheikh” by Prapassorn Sevikul, for my friends on Facebook.

This came about because I just finished reading “The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker. All that talk about the Jinni, trapped in human form as a tall and handsome Bedouin man got me thinking about The Sheikh’s lead character who grows up to be a tall and handsome Bedouin man. I’ve always wanted to translate Sevikul’s work, this and the classic coming-of-age novel “Time in a Bottle”, to share with the world.

“The Golem and the Jinni” prompts me to reread one of my favorite Thai novel “The Sheikh”.

Well, I’m not quite up to actually translating it word for word. So, I’m just recapping in my own word with commentary, insights, and some cultural references. Not so much to the Bedouin culture but of Thai culture reflected in this historical drama.

And THEN I thought, hell, I might as well share it here too. It’ll be like when I take on challenges and record it like when I tried to eat like a Hobbit for a month or casually cosplay every day in November.

So, here we go with the chapter-by-chapter recap of “The Sheikh”, a handful of chapters at a time. It’s a fictional historical novel that was originally published in 1987. Some of the stuff checks out, and some have been modified somewhat for Thai consumption as I figured out, knowing what I know now and Googling/fact-checking along the way. The author both criticizes and romanticizes the Western colonization. Before this novel, he has written an award-winning political drama so there’s a LOT of politics talk in here that I won’t get into because I’m here for THE DRAMA.

And here we go.

Part I: North African desert, 1941.

Chapter 1

13-year-old Dawid, the only son of Bedouin sheikh Shahbaz, returns to camp for dinner with his grandfather after target practice. He goes into the tent where his father is in a tense meeting with some Arabs and an Italian soldier.

The group wants the shiekh to lead the tribes to fight the British, if not for the fictional Italian colony country of Byderhabad, then for gold. Pfft. Fuck that, says the Shiekh, I ain’t getting involved in your shit. (Well, not really that, but you know he would’ve.)

In a surprise move, the Arab attacked and stabbed the sheikh to death. The Italian was like, THE FUCK??? Dawid lunges at them all but is caught by the other assholes. The murder hobo put a knife to Dawid’s throat just as the Italian put the gun to the asshole’s head, commanding him and his cronies to let the boy go.

Chapter 2

Dawid tears out of the tent, screaming for his rifle or anything at all to avenge his father. Grandpa consoles him, but there is nothing to be done. Some bullshit Bedouin rule/tradition/code about safe passage for guests. As the angry crowd gathers, the assholes haul ass away on their camels. Dawid breaks free from grandpa and runs off the other direction.

You know what’s coming, don’t you?

Dawid lies in wait along the desert path and one-shot snipes the murder hobo and his cronies. The Italian makes a run for it at full speed.

To be continued!

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