Writers of Myanmar

San Zaw Htwe’s painting of the symbol of Myanmar

Unlike most other countries, it is difficult to find a centralised list of Myanmar writers with a small bio of their lives and work, at least in English.  Unity Publishers in Yangon is developing a database of Myanmar writers.  So far they have collected over 200 biographies but it has yet to be translated into English.

As a result of this, it is challenging to inform and promote Myanmar literature overseas.  Even if the works of these writers are unavailable in translation abroad, just knowing who is writing in Burma today, what they are writing and what has possibly influenced their writing is a start in raising awareness of the wonderful literature in this country.

The list below is far from complete and only makes use of several sources (which are referenced at the end) and I am sure there must be a better way to present it.  It will be added to and hopefully displayed in a more accessible manner.  The list is arranged in alphabetical order, with birth dates, place of birth where available and the titles of notable works and the year of publication.

Aung Cheimt (b.1948):  Published two books of poems, ‘To Victories on Mekong River Banks’ and ‘Too Afraid to Recevie a Letter Asking Me Out for a Date’ in 1970.  Since then, he has published at least a dozen collections and two long poems, ‘Hellenic Ma Ma’ (1979) and ‘Journey through Jungle’ (2010).  He survives on money earned from his poetry and regularly contributes to weekly journals in Rangoon. (h)

Aung Thinn (b.1927):  Born in Taungdwin Gyi in central Burma, Aung Thinn is a highly respected academic, literary critic and writer, publishing over 40 books on a variety of subjects. (i)

Dr Maung Maung (31 January 1925 – 2nd July 1994): Born in Mandalay, Dr Maung Maung graduated from Rangoon University with a BA in English Literature in 1946.  He later worked as the editor of The New Times of Burma.  Whilst working he gained a Bachelor of law and passing the bar in London.  During New Win’s time he became judge of the high court, eventually rising to the position of President of the Republic of Myanmar  a position he held for just one month before the military coup of 18th September 1988.  He wrote many articles, essays and books on history, military and politics. He two most renowned works being ‘A Trial in Burma’, (1962) and ‘Aung San of Burma’ (1962). (f)

Eaindra (b. 1973):  Born in the Irrawaddy delta region, she published her first chapbook when she was 20 and has since gone on to become an active contributor to literary journals, publishing 50 poems and 15 short stories.  ‘As if It were for a Poem’, her first collection of poetry was published in Rangoon in 2012.  (h)

Han Zaw:  Short story writer and columnist of two magazines and two weekly journals.  He uses the pen name Han Sann when writing fictional short stories and Han Zaw when writing non-fiction technology articles for Itizen journal, Personal Computer magazine, Mandalay Icon and Shu Ma Nyee technology magazine. (b)

Htin Lin (1919 – 1996):  Short story writer, novelist and translator, Htin Lin received the National Literary Award for Translation in 1974 for his translation of Kipling’s ‘The Mawgli Stories’ and another National Literary Award in 1991 for his novel, ‘Return to the Emerald Fields’. (i)

Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay (1917 – 1982):  One of the most influential Burmese writers of the 20th century, despite her passing over 30 years ago, she is still remembered and recognised by young Burmese readers today.  The prefix, Journal Kyaw, to her name comes from a weekly magazine she and her husband published and edited.  She is one of the few Burmese writers to have their works translated into English, including the novels, ‘Not Out of Hate’ and ‘Bloodline’.  Her heartfelt biography of her husband, ‘A Man Like Him’, was published by Cornell University in 2008.  (i)

Ju (b. 1958):  A medical doctor by training, she now writes full time, publishing 7 short story collections and twenty novels.  Ju is respected for her stance on gender equality and environment.  Themes that often form the backbone of her writings.  (i)

Khet Mar (b. 1969):  A prolific writer, publishing over 100 short stories, 13 novelettes and 3 serialized novels in literary magazines.  She currently writes for the Sampsonian Way online magazine conducting interviews on exiled Burmese writers.  (i)

Khin Aung Aye (b. 1956):  Born and raised in Rangoon, he has published 11 collections of poetry in total.  His first book being, ‘Time Train from the World’s Shore’.  His latest collection, ’54 Sentences dictated by Free Thought’ was published in 2011.  Khin Aung Aye currently lives in Thailand. (h)

 Khin Khin Too:  Published her first short story in 1993 with ‘Let me Wear a Flower in my Hair’.  Her works have appeared in journals such as Shwe Amyutay ever since.  Her collected vignettes of her relatives living in the countryside won the prestigious Tun Foundation Literary Award in 2006. (i)

Khin Hnin Yu (1925 – 2003):  Born in the delta region of Burma, Khin Hnin Yu’s novels made a great impact on Burmese women in the 50’s and 60’s.  Her first collection of short stories ‘Reflections in the Mirror’ won the 1961 Sarpay Beikman literary award.  In 1995, she won the National Literary Award for her novel “My Kyar Hpyu’.  Before her death, she had published 67 novels and over 100 short stories. (i)

Khin Lay Nyo. MBBS (b.1953):  Born in Taungyi, Shan State, Daw Nyo is an ophthalmologist by training. An author since 1979, Dr. Nyo has written more than a hundred short stories, articles, and poems, and published 25 novels. (g)

Khin Mya Zin (b.1956): Recently won a prestigious literary award for her short story collection, titled ‘Clouds in the Sky and Other Stories’.  Her novel, ‘Red Clouds in the Sunset’ deals with historical fiction. (a)

Khin Myo Chit (May 1st 1915 – January 2nd 1999):  Khin Myo Chit is the pen name of Ma Khin Mya, often called the great dame of Burmese literature.  Her pen name, meaning ‘the lady who loves her country’ was taken from Walter Scott’s poem ‘Patriotism’ which she translated and published in the Rangoon University magazine in 1932.  Her first novelette, ‘College Girls’ was serialized in The Sun Daily paper, and her famous short story, ’13 Carat Diamond’ published in 1956, later included in the Bantam Classic’s ’50 Great Oriental Stories’.  Her autobiography, ‘Quest for Peace’ was published in the 60’s and thereafter she concentrated on short stories and non-fictional accounts of Burma.  In 2005, her daughter, Dr Khin Maung collated and published an anthology of her mother’s works called ‘Stories and sketches of Myanmar’ by Unity Publishing. (d)

Khin Swe U:  Has published 40 novels and over 100 hundred short stories, mainly centering around the patriotic struggles of young Burmese men and women during colonization.  Her short stories focus on social issues and relationships. (i)

Khin Thandar:  Freelance writer, her short stories and articles have appeared in the Voice Weekly, Yananthit Magazine, Shwe Amyutay, Myanmar Thit and many others.  She has published 80 articles, 31 short sotires and one novel.  She graduated with a BA in geography. (b)

Ko Ko Thett (b. 1972):  His literary career began by publishing and secretly distributing two uncensored chapbooks at the Rangoon Institute of technology, ‘The Rugged Gold’ and ‘The Funeral of the Rugged Gold’.  He left Burma following a four month detention after his role in the December 1996 student uprising.  He edited, along with James Byrne, the first collection of Modern Burmese poetry published in the West, ‘Bones will Crow’ in 2012.  The first collection of his own poetry in English, ‘The Burden of Being Burmese’ is being completed.  (h)

Ma Ei (b.1948):  Ma Ei made her debut with her 1977 poem ‘Chance for a Snap Smile’.  By 1982, she had published 14 poems and 2 short stories in various magazines.  Also in 1982, she joined the Communist Party of Burma and served as a propagandist and war reporter.  She left the Party in 1989.  Her poem, ‘A Letter for Lovers and Haters’ won the Htanyakenyo Award in 2009 and she was later an editor for The New Age magazine and The Torch journal. (h)

Ma Sandar:  An architect by trade she made a name for herself with the publication of ‘Innocence of Youth’, a novel on the lives of students at the Yangon Institute of Technology in 1972.  She has gone on to publish 50 short stories and 13 novels, winning the National Literary Awards in 1994, 1999 and 2002.  5 of her novels have been made into movies. (i)

Ma Thida (Sanchuang) (b.1966): One of the leading writers of her generation, her professional career began as surgeon.  Most recognised for her non-fiction work, ‘The Road Map’, published in English under her pen name, Suragamika (brave traveler) focusing on the Burmese democracy movement and the time she spent in prison for her role in it.  Her memoir, ‘Sanchaung, Insein, Harvard’ deals with her life. (a)

Maung Chaw Nwe (1949 – 2002):  Born in Rangoon, he published his first poem at the age of 19.  In the 1970’s he published three critically acclaimed books, ‘Cruel Music on Dead Leaves’ (1974), ‘The Whining of the Inner Truth’ (1976), and ‘The Day Maung Chaw Nwe was Had’ (1979).  Before his death in 2002, he published three more works, ‘Upper Class Water’ (1980), ‘Maung Chaw Nwe, the Fake’ (1994) and ‘Train’ (1994).  To this day, his work remains extremely popular and influences a new generation of poets and poetry readers. (h)

Maung Pyiyt Min (b. 1953):  Born in Rangoon, he began writing in high school and published his first poem, ‘Snake’, in the Rangoon University annual magazine.  His first book, ‘Dream’, in collaboration with poet Maung Thit Min, was published in 1970 and since then he contributed to several magazines, usually working with a junior poet.  His major works include, ‘Two Men and a Poem’ (2000) with Khin Aung Aye, ‘21 Album’ (2004) with Maung Chaw Nwe and ‘Leap’ (2004) with Lu Hsan.  He also won the 2005 Myanmar E-book award for ‘Shall I Plunge into a Big Bummer’. (h)

Maung Swan Yi (b.1939):  Writing under a pen name of Maung Swan Yi, U Win Pe won the National Literary Award in 1964 for his collection of poetry, ‘Poems of Red and Blue’.  A well-known scholar and writer, his poems, short stories, book reviews, and articles on Burmese literature and art have appeared in various journals, magazines, and newspapers since 1958. (g)

Maung Tha Noe:  Is well known for introducing modern poetry into Burmese literature circles in the 1960s. His most recent translation was Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World. (g)

Maung Theikha (d. 1982):  Respected for concentrating on the simple lives of fishermen, Maung Theikha wrote over 26 short stories with the last titled ‘Muddy Blue Waters’.  (i)

Maung Thein Zaw (b. 1959):  Born and raised in Maying Myo, Pakkokku District in Upper Burma, he joined a travelling Burmese traditional dance troupe at age 15.  As a poet his works have appeared in Burmese magazines and literary journals since the 1980’s.  Two books of his poems were published in a single volume in 2008.   (h)

Maung Yu Py (b. 1981):  Born in the Myeik archipelago, he passed his law degree in 2006, yet published his first collection of poetry, ‘The Bird that was Killed when the Sky Capsized’ in 2000.  He has followed this with another collection, ‘There is a New Map for that Little Island Town Too’ in 2007 and ‘With the Big Television Turned On’ in 2009.  (h)

Moe Moe (Inya Hall) (d. 1990):  Moe Moe’s suffix comes from her university days in Yangon when she stayed at Inya Hall and began her writing career.  Her first novel, ‘Pyauk Thaw Lan Hmar San T’wah’ won the National Literary Award in 1974.  She followed this with three more National Literary Awards for her collections of short stories.  (i)

Moe Way (b. 1969):  Born in the Irrawaddy delta, Moe Way now lives in Rangoon.  His debut short story appeared in Moewei Magazine in 1991, followed by his first collection of poems, ‘The Length of a Wavy Hair’ in 1994.  2002 saw the publication of ‘The New Form of Life’ and “Now He’s Rough, Now He’s Soft’ in 2009.  Moe Way also runs a leading poetry press called The Eras which publishes mainly contemporary Burmese poetry. (h)

Moe Zaw (b. 1964):  His first chapbook, ‘The Village of Agony’ appeared in 1980, yet his didn’t publish a poem through the usual literary journals until 1993 with ‘The Days of the Strays’.  His debut collection, ‘Will” was published in 2007 and ‘Mercenary’ in 2009. (h)

Mra Hinzi:  Translator, she was head of the foreign relations division at the department of immigration from 2000 – 2005, after she retired from government service she began her translation career.  Her translated books include ‘A brief History of Globalisation’ by Phillippe Legrain (which won the Sarpay Beikmann translation award in 2005), the ‘Bonesetter’s Daughter’ by Amy Tan, ‘Small Miracles’ series by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal and Thant Myint U’s ‘River of Lost Footsteps’. (b)

Mya Than Tint (b. May 1929, Pakokku):  Started his writing career at Rangoon University, his first poem, centered on a old woman whose son was killed by the Japanese during the war, was published in 1949 in Ta Ya Magazine.  As General Secretary of the World Peace Council, he was denounced as a communist sympathizer and spent several years in jail, including the infamous Cocos Islands prison.  On his release in 1972, he concentrated on short story writing and translation, translating works by Maurice Collis and Luis Allen, until being censored by the Press Scrutiny Board.  His most famous works are ‘Portraits of Ordinary People’ serialized in Kalya Magazine in 1987 and ‘Contemporary Portraits’ which has been published as an anthology of interviews called ‘On the Road to Mandalay’ by White Orchid Press in 1996. (e)

Nay Phone Latt (b.1980): blogger, short story writer and political activist, Nay Phone Latt has received numerous awards for his writings, including, the Reporters Without Borders’ Cyber-dissident Award, the PEN American Freedom to Write Award; in 2010, he was listed among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.  His collection of short stories, ‘The City I Dropped Down’ was written during his four years imprisonment for blogging on the Saffron Revolution in 2007.  He is now the director of his own internet communication training charity. (g)

Nay Win Myint:  A prolific short story writer, his collections have won the National Literary Award in 1992 for ‘Twelve Strings of Witchery’ and again in 2007 for ‘16 Little Houses’. (i)

Ne Win Myint (b. 1952): Born in Yenan-gyaung in Upper Burma, he began his writing career in the early 1970’s with an article in the Moe Wai magazine.  He has gone on to write over 100 short stories for various literary magazines.  In 2003 he moved away from Yangon back to Mandalay to write full time. (c)

Nu Nu Yi (Inwa) (b. 1957):  Born in Inwa, she made her literary debut in 1984 with the short story ‘A little Sarong’ and has since gone on to publish over 12 novels, 50 novelettes and four collections of short fiction and long short stories.  She won the 1993 National Literary Award for her novel, ‘Emerald, Green, Blue’ and was short listed for the Man Asian Literary prize in 2007 for her translated novel ‘Smile as they Bow’.  He works have explored the themes of women, children in urban areas.  (i)

Nyein (Shweli) (b.1951):  Left severely handicapped by an accident in 1967, her collection of short stories titled ‘Lotus of the Desert’ won much acclaim when it was published in 2000. (i)

Nyi Pu Lay:  Born in Mandalay and the son of the famous editors and writers Ludu U Hla and Daw Ahmar, Nyi Pu Lay has published three short story collections in 1989, 1990 and 2002.  2002 also saw the publication of his first novel.  His central themes surround the unexpected and the strange in ordinary people’s lives. (i)

Phyu Phyu Win:  Born in Mandalay, now living in Yangon, linguist and freelance writer, her articles and short stories have appeared in monthly literary journals such as Yananthit, Shwe Amyutay, Shwe Myanmar and others.  She has published two books, one a compilation of her articles and the other a short story anthology by Seik Ku Cho Cho publishing. (b)

Pandora (b. 1974):  Born in the delta region of Burma, Pandora began her literary career as an English Major at Rangoon University, writing several poems and short stories for the campus magazines, using different pen names.  She has worked alongside other Burmese writers at the Iowa Writers Programme and is currently living in Rangoon working on an anthology of Burmese women poets. (h)

Shwegu May Hnin (b.1940): a renowned Burmese writer, she has written three novels which have been published in the past two years after censorship restrictions were lifted. One of which, Prison Chronicles, draws upon her time in jail. (a)

Theikpan Maung Wa (d. 1942):  Theikpan Maung Wa is remembered in Myanmar for being one of three poets who, in the 1920’s, started the seminal Khit San movement, redefining Burmese poetry away from the classical court traditions to the modern era.  During his time, he wrote over four hundred articles and twelve books.  (i)

Thitsar Ni (b.1946):   Born in Rangoon.  First published a poem called ‘The Time for Fetching Water’ in Shumawa magazine in 1965.  Since then, he has published more than thirty books, under several pen names.  He has a broad range of interests, from poems, short stories, literary criticism,  science fiction, religion and philosophy.  His 1978 chapbook, ‘Myinsaing Archery’ was re-published in 2006.  His best known collections are ‘Walking out of my Own Skin’ and ‘21st Album’.  His poem ‘Redundant Sentences’ won a contemporary poem of the year award. (h)

Tin Moe (d. 2007):  One of Burma’s most loved poets, Tin Moe was born in the village of Kamye, near Mandalay, and published his first collection of poems, ‘The Glass Lantern’ when he was 26.  He was the editor of Palm Leaf Manuscript, a literary magazine which lasted one month until it was banned by the government.  As literary consultant to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, he was imprisoned for four years.  He left Burma in exile in 1999, travelling extensively in Europe and America, winning the 2002 Hellman-Hammett grant and the 2004 Prince Claus Award for Literature.  Altogether, Tin Moe published 25 books, 18 of them poetry collections.  He died in exile in California.  (c)

U Pe Myint (b.1949): Born in Rakhine State, and like his literary peer, Ma Thida, U Pe Myint trained as a doctor but has won much acclaim as an influential figure in political journalism, fiction writing and translation.  He has published over twenty-five books, including Those Who Sell “Things” for Human Use and other stories, a collection of short stories that won the 1995 National Literary Award.  In 2007 he won the respected Shwe Literary Award for a collection of essays titled ‘Let there be no learning, no reading and no books’.  He is currently working as the editor of People’s Era journal and with the Interim Press Council. (a)

U Thu Maung, (b.1951):  Born in Yangon and earning a degree in Diesel Engineering, he has written 32 novels, and numerous short stories and articles. He received the Mandalay literary award for ìMy Fatherís Motherî in 1999. (g)

Ye Shan (b.1961):  Currently employed as Superintendent of Yangon Railway Station, a position he rose to from a station squatter in Mandalay.  He published his first set of short stories in 1986 and won a National Literary Award for ‘Small Station’, stories set in a railway station. (a)

Zarganar (b.1961):  A pen name meaning ‘tweezers’, Zarganar is nationally renowned for his comedic work, transforming himself into a political activist and writer.  He has been imprisoned several times for his role in ‘88 protest and other demonstrations against the junta.  He has recently published a memoir of his time spent in prison. (a)

Zeyar Lynn (b. 1958):  Widely regarded as the most influential Burmese poet today, he is a poet, critic, writer, translator and English Language instructor.  He has published three collections of poetry, ‘Distinguishing Features’ (2006), ‘Real/Life: Prose Poems’ (2009) ‘Kilimanjaro’ (2010)  and ‘Poetry Means Craft’ (2011).  He is actively involved in the development of poetry and literature in Burma, contributing to various sessions at the recent Irrawaddy Literary festival and performing at Burma’s first Live Literature night, Bookslam Burma. (h)

Kyaw Zwa (b.1946):  Born in Mandalay, Kyaw Zwa, under the pen name Chit Oo Nyo has written more than twenty novels, mostly centered on Burmese history and culture (g)

Sources:

A – Ellen Wiles, British Council Proposal, 18/3/13

B – Literature Development Conference, Yangon, 2/3/13

C – Anna J. Allott, Inked Over, Ripped Out, September 1993

D – Khin Myo Chit, Stories and Sketches of Myanmar, Unity Publishers, 2005

E – Mya Than Tint, On the Road to Mandalay, White Orchid Press, 1996

F – Dr Maung Maung, A Trial in Burma, Unity Publishers, 2012,

G – http://iwp.uiowa.edu/category/regions-and-countries/asia/south-eastern-asia/burma?

H – Ko Ko Thett, James Byrne, Bones Will Crow, Arc Publications, 2012

I – Ma Thanegi, Selected Myanmar Short Stories, Unity Publishers, 2009

4 thoughts on “Writers of Myanmar

  1. Hi Lucas,

    I came across Taw Sein Ko (1864-1930), (this information from Su Lin Lewis’s PhD ‘Print Culture and the New Maritime Frontier in Rangoon and Penang’) educated in Calcutta, is an equally fascinating figure to consider within this wider Asian ecumene, having experienced the Calcutta intellectual world spearheaded by Roy as well as the Confucian reform movement that appealed to Lim. He was one of the earliest Asian contributors to the Rangoon press; like Lim, his Chinese origins and Western education helped make him a phenomenal, hybrid figure in the public sphere of late colonial Burma. The son of a Fukien merchant and a Shan princess, Ko threw him-self into a gentlemanly world of letters, seeing himself in the mould of a Confucian civil servant. Penny Edwards has described him as a cultural interlocutor between and across cultures–Burmese, Chinese, and Western. He was educated in Burmese, Chinese, and English Schools, at Cambridge University, London’s Inner Temple and Peking, and was conversant in Burmese, Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, Hindustani, Shan and English, making him a polyglot and a polymath (Edwards 2004: 279). While contributing frequently to learned journals in Rangoon and Calcutta, Ko also wrote for the English, Chinese and Burmese press in Rangoon. A graduate of Rangoon College and an affiliate of Calcutta University, Ko campaigned tirelessly for the founding of a university in Burma and promoted the cause of education.

    What of these writers ?? WHat do you think ??

    • Nice, cheers Bob, my knowledge of pre-war Myanmar writers is ashamedly sketchy. I was trying to limit the list to literary fiction writers (otherwise it would be just too big), but have decided i need to include translators as well.

  2. Hi Lucas,

    Another interesting quote from the above thesis. I uess the definition of writer would have to be broadened here to include journalism.

    “In Burma, female journalists and editors were becoming increasingly prominent, as more educated women graduated from the ranks of the new Rangoon University. Many women, including Burma’s most famous female journalist Luthu Daw Amar, not only wrote and translated for popular newspapers and periodicals but owned and edited their own papers.20 Daw Amar gained fame in the literary world with translations of letters written by Jawaharlal Nehru to his daughter Indira in the 1930s.”

  3. It will also increase the ranking of your website on search engines and will drive more traffic to your website.
    Based on their experience, they could know how much is required before
    going into details. There are other ways to improve your ranking in Googlemaps, the purpose
    of this blog post is not to tell you EVERYTHING Frederick Web Promotions can do
    to improve your ranking, the purpose of this particular blog post is to:
    .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s