The Understory

by Saneh Sangsuk


Luang Paw Tien, the abbot of Praeknamdang Temple, is ninety-three years old and a treasure trove of stories. Most nights he entertains the children of his village with tales from his long and extraordinary life: of his childhood in a previous century, of his fifteen year pilgrimage to India and back, and of the plenitude and majesty of the jungle, in a time when it was rich with elephants, peacocks and turtles. But what the children want to hear most of all are tales of the tiger, a creature which has marked the abbots life more deeply and terribly than any other. From the mind of Saneh Sangsuk, one of the most respected and beloved of Thai authors, The Understory is a novel about storytelling, a changing world and the fearsome power of nature.

240pp, paperback with flaps, £12.99
ISBN 978-1-908670-81-6
Publication date: 26 October 2023

Press & Reviews

‘There’s no forgetting Sangsuk’s The Understory—a masterfully told fable of humanity daring to claim the vaster wilderness, enlivened by Poopoksakul’s thoughtful, nuanced translation.’ -  Pitchaya Sudbanthad, author of Bangkok Wakes to Rain

‘A vivid fable of power and resistance, [Venom] will continue to resonate long after the last page has been read.’ - Jessie Greengrass, author of The High House and Sight

'A gripping, sensual parable, seamlessly translated by Mui Poopoksakul.' - Catherine Taylor, The Irish Times

A story about the dissolving borders between human and animal, life and death, love and cruelty, Venom by Saneh Sangsuk is a kind of philosophical fairy tale, with both danger and beauty always lurking at its edges. Told through shifting perspectives in poetic prose, this slim novel is densly packed with ideas and energy, providing a thrilling introduction to Sangsuk’s work. – Asymptote Journal

‘A perfect blend of sharply observed naturalism and subtle allegory – Venom will delight and intrigue its new readers and find an enduring place in world literature.’ - John Gray, author of Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life and False Dawn: the Delusions of Global Capitalism

'It’s a pleasure to be introduced to award-winning Thai author Saneh Sangsuk. Translated by Mui Poopoksakul, his novella Venom reads like a fable where superstition and misfortune collide.' - Lucy Popescu, The Tablet

'Like the jungle encircling Praeknamdang, The Understory’s finest sentences quiver with sensual menace and beauty, and draw us in, vigilantly, ever deeper.' Max Crosbie-Jones, ArtReview

'Sangsuk spins an evocative narrative of magic, storytelling, and the cost of economic progress in Thailand. This is transfixing.' - Publisher's Weekly

'This is a captivating and delightful work. A charming, engrossing, profound exploration of the transformative power of stories.' - Kirkus Reviews

About The Book


Saneh Sangsuk (b. 1957) is an award-winning Thai author, known locally by his pen name Dan-arun Saengthong. He is regarded in Thailand as one of the greatest writers of his generation, having written multiple acclaimed novels and story collections. He is a highly prolific literary translator, working under different pen names, and counts Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde, Franz Kafka, Gabriel García Márquez and Knut Hamsun among the numerous authors he has translated. In 2014, he won Thailand’s coveted SEA Write Award for Venom and Other Stories (Asorraphit), a collection that includes some of his best-known stories. In 2018, the Thai government awarded him the title of National Artist for his contributions to the country’s literature, and he has also been named a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. Sangsuk lives in Phetchaburi, in a small village similar to the fictional Praeknamdang, where many of his tales are set.


Mui Poopoksakul is a lawyer turned translator. Her book-length translations include works by contemporary Thai authors Prabda Yoon and Duanwad Pimwana. For her translation of Sangsuk’s The Understory, she was awarded a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant. Mui lives in Berlin, Germany.