Suntisuk Prabunya




Enjoying great commercial success among Thailand’s postwar reading public, Por Intharapalit was a prolific Thai humorist, authoring over 1,000 episodes of his famous comic series Sam Glur (Three Chums). Here I discuss one lesser-known episode, aptly titled “Songkhram Chuerok” (“Germ Warfare”) (1963) and set during the Cold War. It centers on an international intrigue in which Chinese/Communist infiltrators try to spread a deadly virus to debilitate Thailand, thus sketching an emotional landscape saturated with the fear of invasion by an ideological and ethnic Other. In this paper, I argue that Por Intharaparlit resourcefully calls on a number of Gothic motifs and conventions, some homegrown and others liberally gleaned from the West. Hand-in-glove, they all work toward the notions of paranoia and transgression, which together produce the narrative’s horror affects. With national instability in place, transgression gathers force throughout the story; the cultural, territorial, and bodily boundaries become porous, crossed, and blurred. This sends the characters into panic and restless circulation, casting them as the “paranoiac subject” assaulted by unlocatable politicized, racialized threats. In writing this way, Por Intharapalit not only contributes to an ongoing discursive enterprise of creating the national Other through the affective language of the Gothic, but also allows the liberal logic of security to slip into place. Therefore, “Songkhram Chuerok” gestures toward a utilitarian model of the Gothic, one that offers a formal resolution and immunity for the nation’s identity crisis during the Cold War. In the end, I briefly discuss how “Songkhram Chuerok” might complicate our understanding of the Gothic through its salient use of comicality as its mode of storytelling and through its situatedness at global and cultural junctures.


KEYWORDS: Thai literature, Cold War, Gothic, science Gothic, contagion narrative, cultural politics

DOI: 10.30395/WSR.202306_16(2).0001