The Last Bookshop in Myanmar

The Last Bookshop in Myanmar

Myanmar has yet to face the overwhelming and savage force of centralised, literary capitalism.  All bookshops in the country, with the exception of those owned by the state, are ‘independent’.  There are no national chains listed on a stock exchange.  No Barnes and Noble.  No Waterstones.  There is a Kinokuniya but it has not yet dared venture beyond the safety of the new International airport terminal …

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Smart and Mookerdum: Hunting for Myanmar’s Lost Bookshop

Smart and Mookerdum: Hunting for Myanmar’s Lost Bookshop

It’s the second week of our self-isolation in Yangon.  Having spent the last five days digitally scanning the front covers of my Burma Book collection (just in case the worst happens and we are forced to leave them behind) and doing everything I can to distract myself from finishing the novel, I decided to solve a mystery that has irritated me for years.

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Free E-book of Short Stories from Myanmar

The e-book of the Hidden Word, Hidden Worlds anthology is finally here!!

In 2012 the British Council sought to take advantage of new freedoms in literature and travel through a programme of workshops. The aim of the five-year literature programme in Myanmar was to give a voice to unheard and aspiring writers from the ethnic states …

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Arrest Warrant Issued for Another Myanmar Writer

Arrest Warrant Issued for Another Myanmar Writer

With the Rakhine non-fiction writer, Wai Hin Aung (don’t be surprised if you have never heard of him) currently serving 20 years for high treason and the ongoing trials (plural!) and tribulations of the Peacock Generation poetic satire group, comes another writer currently wanted for, well, opening his mouth …

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Discovering the British Council’s Library

Discovering the British Council’s Library

The British Council might be a strange place to put on a list of prominent literary landmarks in Myanmar, but its library has played an influential role in the fight against decades of literary censorship in Yangon. The British Council’s original location was in Rander House on Pansodan Street, lower block, in the 1950’s. 

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Sadaik Short Reviews: On the Road to Mandalay

Sadaik Short Reviews: On the Road to Mandalay

While many imported literary forms have been adapted by Burmese writers, it is the ‘wuthu saungbar’ which the writers have embraced and perfected.  A masterwork of the blend in fact and fiction, this particular road, begun by Ludu U Hla in the 1950s, follows Mya Than Tint on a 1980’s literary tour of the country and …

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Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: OS 2

Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: OS 2

A sister shop to the larger OS store on 37th Street.  This iteration opened in 2017 to take advantage of the busy foot traffic on Pansodan.  The manager, U Han Myint, often seen from the main street with a book in his hand through the open shutter space, has complete control over the shop, including purchases and sales …

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Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: Book Street

Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: Book Street

As if Yangon needed to cement itself even further as a city of books, in 2017, a street of books opened on Theinbyu road on the east side of the Secretariat.  The initiative of short story specialist and current Minister of Information, U Pe Myint to encourage the city’s residents to embrace their literary heritage and love for literature …

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Myanmar Writers Association

The Myanmar Writers Association has a long and twisted history in Myanmar.  Dating back to at least the parliamentary democratic era in the 1950’s, the association, initially independent, was brought under the control of both the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Home Affairs, during the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s … 

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Sadaik Short Reviews: The Japanese Era Rangoon General Hospital

Sadaik Short Reviews: The Japanese Era Rangoon General Hospital

Memoirs are a common genre in Burmese literature in translation, and yet here, we have something unique.  Dr Myint Swe’s memoir of his time at Rangoon General Hospital No.1 is a rare and enjoyable account of wartime Burma under the Japanese occupation from the life of a Burman.

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Sadaik Short Reviews: The Rainy Season Setting

Sadaik Short Reviews: The Rainy Season Setting

In this slim chapbook a sense of place is everywhere, guided by the subtleness of San Oo’s voice which shifts, from civility to a harshness unexpected.  Throughout, the senses are lulled by a cadence brought on repetitious cycles, yet, Nyunt Wai Moe’s impressive translation, never falters, it never bores.  The Rainy Season Setting is to be read in a single sitting, to do otherwise would be to disrupt the voyage.

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Finding Siyin Literature in Chin State

Finding Siyin Literature in Chin State

The Chin, who live in the hills that border Bangladesh and India, like to say that Burmese literature was born from peace, while Chin literature was born from war. The first known Burmese text is the 12th Century Myazedi stone in Bagan, which lists the deeds and donations of a prince in memory of the love he held for his father and mother …

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Sadaik Short Reviews: 12 Poems

Sadaik Short Reviews: 12 Poems

The 12 poems from the eponymous title have been scoured from among many of Aung Cheimt’s works, dating back to 1995 and are thematically linked to seasons.  Many are sparse, some just mere thoughts taken to paper, neither epic nor fantastical.  Maung Tha Noe, once again, has proved his talents, in an effortless translation that reads smoothly and retains that firmness and determination of intent that Aung Cheimt is known for.

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Sadaik Short Reviews: Myanmar in my Lifetime

Sadaik Short Reviews: Myanmar in my Lifetime

As the eponymous ‘k’ states in the prologue, this is not a book of his life but rather of Burma in the 1920’s, and yet it inevitably returns to him, and his family, his friends as they navigate a turbulent time in Myanmar, a time of literary renaissance and anti-colonial political awakenings … 

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The Standing Stones of Thuklai Village

The Standing Stones of Thuklai Village

Travel in Chin State and you are most likely heading towards the major towns, Falam and Hakha in the north, Mindat in the south (and if you are fortunate, Matupi in the centre).  But these are mostly imperial constructions, enlarged by Christian missions and colonial trade with the valleys in Burma Proper below.  The original clusters of the first chin communities are often found beyond the road.

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Pitaka Taik

Pitaka Taik

Though there are many libraries in Yangon, the Pitaka Taik – three basket – library ranks as one of the most ornate.

Prime Minister U Nu, a devout Buddhist, convened the Sixth Great Buddhist Synod between 1954 and 1956 (the 5th was held in Mandalay a century earlier and resulted in the ‘world’s largest book’ at Kuthodaw Pagoda). 

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Can Literature Save Myanmar’s Peace Process?

Can Literature Save Myanmar’s Peace Process?

In late January 2019, the Tatmadaw took control of the remote Naga region headquarters of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), an ethnic armed organisation that has yet to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. In March, 5 leaders of the NSCN-K were arrested by police in Khamti Township, Sagaing Division after attending a meeting at their liason office, a meeting organised by the Naga Culture Centre Committee to discuss peace in the Naga region … 

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Call for Translators – Burmese to English Short Fiction

Call for Translators – Burmese to English Short Fiction

This is a fantastic, paid, opportunity for Burmese to English literary translators to work on a new collection of short stories from Myanmar.  I have copied the announcement below from the collection’s editor, Alfred Birnbaum, but am wary of putting his private email contact address publicly.  So if anyone is interested please just use the contact form on Sadaik and I will pass you onto Alfred …

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Yezet – A New Collection of Burmese Short Stories in Translation

Yezet – A New Collection of Burmese Short Stories in Translation

A few months ago I made a brief post on the recipients of this year’s English PEN translation award winners, one of which was the successful funding of a new collection of short stories from Burma, edited by Alfred Birnbaum and to be published by Strangers Press in the UK …

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Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: Hin Lai O

Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: Hin Lai O

With publishing power centres in Yangon and Mandalay, there are very few bookshops to be found in the smaller towns across the country.  Kalaymyo, a former Shan town on the northern edge of the hills that mark the beginning of Chin State and only a couple of hours drive from Tamu on the Indian border is probably the last place you would expect to find a bookshop to rival any in Yangon.

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Dancing in the Manau Park in Kachin State

Dancing in the Manau Park in Kachin State

The Kachin, an umbrella term for the six ethnic communities who live in Myanmar’s most northerly state, were once led by Duwas or clan chiefs.  As well as governing their lands and the villages on it, the Duwa’s were also cultural guardians, commissioning Jaiwa’s – storytellers – to recount the epic oral myths and authorising the Manau celebrations.

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Reading George Orwell at the Strand Hotel

Reading George Orwell at the Strand Hotel

This iconic hotel was built as a wooden boarding house by an Englishman and in 1901 sold to the Sarkie brothers, the famous Armenian hoteliers, who renovated it to the structure more or less how it is seen today.  It soon became ‘the’ top hotel in the country and the first port of call for many writers who visited Burma, including George Orwell, Somerset Maugham, H.G.Wells, Noel Coward and Rudyard Kipling.

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