Dr. Verita Sriratana was born in Bangkok, Thailand and as a self proclaimed introvert and lover of reading has dedicated her studies mainly to the areas of literature, modernism, philosophy and history. She is now the director of the Ph.D. in European Studies International Program, Deputy Director of Academic Affairs at The Center for European Studies as well as an assistant professor in the department of English at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. In her words she wears many hats which can be quite exhausting, so for the first half of July you could find her happily working on her research right here in the AAU library.
Professor PhDr. Milada Polišenská, Deputy to the President and Chief Academic Adviser at AAU and distinguished senior lecturer explains her relationship with Dr. Verita Sriratana, “At one occasion in 2015, former Czech Ambassador Vítězslav Grepl introduced to me Dr. Verita Sriratana. And this was the beginning of our cooperation. Dr. Verita (Ph.D. from St. Andrews, U.K.) A specialist in English literature, she also mastered the Czech language and became an expert in Central European cultures. She is an enthusiastic researcher and translated Bohumil Hrabal´s Too Loud a Solitude into Thai. She organizes literary evenings of Central European literature and movie screenings in Bangkok as well as here in Prague, and AAU is her host institution when she returns to Central Europe for research.”
So what inspired the focus for your research?
My love for modernism started with Virginia Woolf, I loved her work, I even skipped class as an undergrad to read it, but my love specifically for Central Europe would come later on when I was a P.h.D. candidate in Scotland. My supervisor at the time was an expert writing her thesis on Woolf. She said to me one day when I was handing in an assignment in my first year at St. Andrews, “Ya know just go away. Go to some country that you don’t know.” So I took her advice and applied for a program in Prešov, a small town in Eastern Slovakia, a part of the world both of us knew very little about. I applied for a visa anyway and hopped on a plane. I found out quickly that my understanding, as a Ph.D. student, of Europe was so limited. I could see that there was this gap in the Thai curriculum, we studied the world wars but not the place where they happened. So I began to read and learn the language, I self taught but also took some short courses and learned to speak Slovak. I grew to to love the culture, the people and the interesting history.
Aside from history and culture what else drew you to this region?
When I started to explore the Czech Republic and Slovakia through text books I had this idea that Thailand is quite similar but I could not pinpoint what aspects we share. But upon processing the language and the culture I realized that Thailand’s history is actually reinvented in the same way that Central Europe is reinvented. The word ‘modernity’ or ‘civilized’ is often hijacked and invented to sustain and support nationhood or a sense of ultranationalism. Many countries in the world may have this sort of predicament but I see this similarity very much so between my country and this region of the world.
When did you first come to Prague?
I came to Prague as a tourist, roughly around 2009/2010. My relationship with the Czech Republic really started when I was based in Bratislava. I started to make friends at various institutions which provided me opportunities to give some lectures in Olomouc, Brno and sometimes in Prague.
Do you have any favorite Czech writers?
Of course, actually before studying Slovak language I read some Czech literature but in the English translation. I have come across of course Milan Kundera, Karel Čapek, Bohumil Hrabal as well as Kafka and Václav Havel. Havel actually went to my university in 1994 to receive his honorary doctorate in letters so he is well known in Asia.
What kind of benefits do Prague and AAU offer you as a researcher?
I would call it an ideal place for researchers. It’s a historic place, I don't think we can truly understand the concept of Central Europe and also the historical developments of Europe without coming to Prague. The library's here, the Václav Havel Library, The National Library, Library of Banned Books, those are the places you need to go to get information. There are so many archives, for researchers Prague is just a wonderful place to come and write. It’s so beautiful and the location itself in the heart of Europe means you can go to many places, for example Croatia and Slovenia by train, it's just so convenient. As for AAU it’s a small university compared to mine, but I find it to be quiet cozy and I feel so much at home here. All that is thanks to wonderful colleagues, everyone is so kind and welcoming. It’s really a perfect place which is why I keep on returning.
Publication date: July 18, 2018