The Arts in a Time of Crisis
What the World is Reading

Bangkok: The Fortunes of War

“We are simply curious about the future, and no one wants to die,” said Sorajak Borirak, the Thai author on Nostradamus, whose best sellers include titles in the detective-murder genre. His book on the pessimistic prophet, in its 17th edition, is not the only title that sold heavily the week after Sept. 11. A Thai translation of Nostradamus’ prophecies by Jaroen Wattanasin, revised in view of the calamities in New York, was promptly released. Indeed, the numbers of books in print on anything about Nostradamus in the weeks after Sept. 11 soared from 2,000 to more than 10,000. Predictions of the future are popular in Thailand, and few publications can afford not to run some kind of astrology column. October is generally the auspicious month for launching new astrology books for the coming year. Since the 1996 economic downturn, there is greater demand for horoscopes. Each month of the year has a separate volume, for example, instead of one volume for the entire year as in the not so distant past. Shorter-lived and selling faster are picture magazines of the attack on New York. Launched two days after Sept. 11, 40,000 copies of Bomb America, priced at 35 bahts (79 cents), were sold in one week. The same is reported for Wrecking America: The Whole World Shocked, which includes 400 pictures of New York during and after the attack.