Selected Myanmar Short Stories



a note from the translator

 

Myanmar has a long and rich tradition of literature that is mostly unknown to the world, since few translations are available. The collection here is a small selection from the wide choice available to the Burmese-reading public. Due to lack of time on my part, I could not read the majority that was published; there are thousands more that deserve to be presented to international readers, both short stories and novels. I beg pardon from those whose works were left out and I hope that better writers than I will do more than I ever could.

The structure and form of writing in English and Bamar (or Burmese, which is both the majority race and the official language) in which the original stories were written, are somewhat different. English in general is generally concise, whereas Burmese has a varied and at times flowery vocabulary. Some editing was necessary for the sake of clarity and for this I must ask forgiveness of the writers, since unlike in the publishing houses of the west we do not have a tradition of another person editing the author’s work.

My appreciation goes to U Sonny Nyein of Swiftwind Books, for giving his permission to reprint most of these stories that first appeared in their quarterly publication “Enchanting Myanmar” and to U Harry Hpone Thant for putting up the stories on his website of the same name.

My heartfelt thanks go to U Than Swe of Unity Books who first published these stores and especially for the group of wonderful artists, most of them not even graphic illustrators, who created the beautiful paintings for each story.

I have chosen these stories partly because they cover a wide variety of human life: marriages like tongue and teeth; love beyond the grave; the anxiety of mothers; the kindness – and unkindness - of strangers; and the snares of enticement and greed.

Mainly, I chose the stories for the spirit of the people of Myanmar they portrayed. Many people may not be rich but they live with contentment, humour, compassion and pride, in the face of grim reality. They are the real representatives of the country, the true treasures of Myanmar.

Enjoy.

ma thanegi

2008

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Biographies

 

 

Theikpan Maung Wa

Real name U Sein Tin, he was a member of the Indian Civil Service serving as Deputy Commissioner in Myanmar during the colonial days. In the early 1920s, with two poets he started a new trend in writing known as Khit San, ‘Testing the new age,’ a watershed in Myanmar literature. Their efforts marked an end to the classical traditions of flowery language and subjects that were limited to important or noble issues. He wrote over four hundred articles and twelve books including a diary of his student days in Oxford. His autobiographical character ‘Maung Lu Aye’ is one of the classics of Myanmar literature.

Theikpan Maung Wa passed away in 1942.

 

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Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay

Born in 1917, she grew up in a delta town Bogalay. After her marriage she published a weekly ‘Journal Kyaw’ with her husband, the famous late editor U Chit Maung. Both are known with the prefix of their journal’s name. Ma Ma Lay was one of the most admired writers in Myanmar literature and her popularity has not waned with time. Her books and short stories, many considered classics, have been translated into English and other languages including the novels ‘Not Out of Hate’ and ‘Bloodline’ and the biography of her husband, ‘A Man Like Him,’ published in 2008 from Cornell University.

Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay passed away in 1982.

 

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Khin Hnin Yu
Born in 1925 in a delta town of Wakema, in her youth she was very active in patriotic organisations under the colonial British. Her first short story was published in 1947 under the pen name Khin Hnin Yu.  From the late 1940s onwards when her novels first came out, her works generated a big influence on generations of young Myanmar women. In 1961 she won the Sarpay Beik Hman Literary Award for her first
collection of short stories titled ‘Reflections in the Mirror’. In 1995 she won the National Literary Award for her novel ‘My Kyar Hpyu.’ She has written sixty-seven novels and over one hundred short stories.

Khin Hnin Yu passed away in 2003.

 

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Maung Theikha

He first began to write short stores in 1956, and since 1979 he wrote mostly on the lives of fisher people. From those stories, numbering over 26, he gained much acclaim from critics and readers alike. His characters of the fisherman A Ba Nyan, and his grandchildren Kywet Ni, and Putu Ma are much-loved characters in Myanmar literature. ‘Muddy Blue Waters’ was the last short story he wrote.

Maung Theikha passed away in 1982.

 

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Htin Lin

Born 1919, he has been writing since pre WWII.  He wrote many short stories and articles in both English and Myanmar and translated 12 novels to much acclaim including works by Albert Camus. He received the National Literary Award in 1974 in the translation category with Kipling’s ‘The Mawgli Stories.’ In 1991, he again received the National Literary Award for his novel ‘Return to the Emerald Fields.’

Htin Lin passed away in 1996

 

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Khin Swe U

She is the daughter the famous writer of colonial times, Maha Swe. She has published over forty novels and about a hundred short stories.  Her most famous novels are on the patriotic struggles of the young Myanmar men and women during the colonial days. As a girl she was also active in patriotic activities. Her short stories are on social issues, relationships and the need for integrity in the face of adversity.

Khin Swe U lives in Yangon.

 

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Aung Thinn

He was born 1927 in Taungdwin Gyi, a town in Central Myanmar. He obtained his Masters in 1972 from Yangon University. For many years he was a faculty member of the Myanmar Department of Yangon University. His first article was published in 1959.

He is a well-known and highly respected educator, literary critic and writer. He has published over forty books on various subjects.

Aung Thinn lives in Yangon.

 

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Moe Moe (Inya)

Her writing career began while she was a university student in Yangon living in Inya Hall. Her first novel ‘Pyauk Thaw Lan Hmar San T’wah’ published in 1974 won the National Literary Award for that year. Most of her novels received the acclaim of both readers and critics. Her themes are straight-forward and objective views of the life of Myanmar women in contemporary society. Altogether she has won four National Literary Awards, three for collections of short stories.

Moe Moe (Inya) passed away in 1990.

 

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Pe Myint

He has written and translated over fifty books and hundreds of articles on self-help, sociology and psychology, as well as biographies, collections of short stories and novels. In his fiction his tone is satirical without malice. He won the National Literary Award in 1995 for his collection of short stories titled ‘Lu Thone Pyit Si Yaung Thu Myar’ (Merchants of Consumer Goods). He won the prestigious Shwe Literary Award given by the Shwe Amyutay Magazine in 2007 for a collection of essays titled ‘Sar M’thin Ya, Sar M’hput Ya, Sar Oke M’shi Say Ya’ or ‘Let there be no learning, no reading and no books.’

Pe Myint lives in Yangon.

 

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Nyi Pu Lay

He was born in Mandalay to parents who were well-known writers, editors and journalists, Ludu U Hla and Daw Ahmar. A prolific writer, in 1989 he published his first short story collection, another in 1990, and the third in 2002.  His first novel was published in 2002. In his stories he likes to portray unexpected, quirky or ignored vignettes from the daily doings of ordinary people.

Nyi Pu Lay lives in Mandalay.

 

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Tin Win Yee

Born in 1964, she is a librarian of the Universities Central Library of Yangon. She has written numerous articles on library science but unfortunately only a few short stories. Her love for poetry led to writing monthly reviews of poetry for the prestigious Moe Way Literary Magazine for a period of over two years.

Tin Win Yee lives in Yangon

 

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Nu Nu Yi (Inwa)

Born in 1957, Nu Nu Yi grew up in the beautiful ancient city of Inwa Her first short story published in 1984 created a sensation among readers and critics alike. Since then she has been a successful writer, and has published over twenty books including twelve novels, over one hundred short stories and more than fifty novelettes. She won the National Literary Award for her novel ‘Mya Sein Pyar Kamayut’ in 1993. Her novel translated into English under the title ‘Smile as they bow’ was short-listed for the 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize. Her themes are on the life of the ordinary people and the grassroots level society of Myanmar.

Nu Nu Yi (Inwa) lives in Yangon

 

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Ma Sandar

She is an architect and the two careers flourish side by side. Her first novel ‘Nge Thu Mo M’thi Ba’ or ‘Innocence of Youth’ on the life of students of the Yangon Institute of Technology, was an instant hit when it came out in 1972, when she was still an undergrad at the YIT. So far, over fifty of her short stories, two novelettes and thirteen novels have been published. She won the National Literary Awards in 1994, 1999, and 2002. Five of her novels were made into box-office hit movies including her novel ‘A Yeik’ or ‘Shadow’ on childhood traumas.

Ma Sandar lives in Yangon.

 

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Atta Kyaw

His main works are non-fiction articles and books on social and health issues, including sex education for and psychological profiles of teens, western etiquette, good parenting and marriage counselling.  He has another nom de plume ‘Pseudonym’, and both names appear regularly in major magazines and weeklies. His other books are travelogues, short story collections and translations such as Mahbubaini's ‘Can Asians Think?’ and Alan Paton’s ‘Cry, the Beloved Country.’ His skill in the Bamar (Burmese) language makes him one of the best translators.

Atta Kyaw lives in Yangon.

 

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Ju

Born 1958, she is a medical doctor, a profession she no longer practises. Her first novel ‘A Hmat T’ya’ (Remembrance) published in 1987 was an instant best-seller. Generally, the theme throughout her fiction is about young women standing on their own feet without much dependence on the men in their lives, which reflects the reality of many Myanmar women, as by tradition they never had any restrictions on education or work. She has published seven short story collections and twenty novels, many of which were made into box-office hit movies. She has written numerous articles on the environment, and is a keen advocate of keeping the world clean and green.

Ju lives in Yangon

 

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Khin Khin Htoo

She became a published writer in 1993 with a short story ‘Let me wear a flower in my hair’. She has published numerous short story collections and articles. Her novel ‘Ma Ein Kan’, serialised in the Shwe Amyutay Magazine is eagerly awaited each month by her fans. Readers and critics agree that her masterpiece so far is the collected vignettes of her relatives living in up-country villages; the first and second printings sold out within weeks. Titled ‘Anya Thu Anya Thar Kyama Hswe Myo Myar’ or ‘My Relatives of Upper Myanmar,’ it won the prestigious Tun Foundation Literary Prize for 2006 awarded by the Tun Foundation Bank..

Khin Khin Htoo lives in Mandalay.

 

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Nay Win Myint

He has written many short stories and articles and has published several collections of short stories. He also translates English novels into Burmese. He won the National Literary Award in 1992 for his short story collection ‘Hset Hna Kyoe’ or ‘Twelve Strings of Witchery.’  He won the prestigious Shwe Literary Award given by the Shwe Amyutay Magazine in 2006 for a novelette titled ‘Kywe Pwe’ or ‘Buffalo Dance’. His second National Literary Award for 2007 was earned with his short story collection ’16 Little Houses’. A number of his short stories have been translated into English, Japanese and Indian. His masterpiece so far is considered to be his essay on a country charity feast, ‘Taw Ahlu.’

Nay Win Myint lives in Mandalay.

 

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Nyein (Shweli)

Born in 1951, she has been writing numerous short stories and articles although she was left severely handicapped after an accident in 1967, and could only hold a pen with great difficulty. Her collection of short stories ‘Gandara Kyar Pwint Myar’ or ‘Lotus of the Desert’ won much acclaim when it came out in 2000.  

Nyein (Shweli) lives in Mandalay.

 

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Kan Chun

Born 1946 in Mandalay, he is a man of many talents: as a journalist, painter, cartoonist and writer. He has published thirty-four books including novels, collected short stories and on various subjects ranging from general knowledge to humour. As a painter producing exquisite water colours, he has participated in many group shows and has held four solo shows. His short stories are wry but compassionate comments on the quirky behaviour of people, no doubt born out of his cartoonist’s sharp mind.

Kan Chun lives in Mandalay.

 

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Thu Maung

Born in 1951, he is the son of U Tha Du, a famous movie director and writer and Daw Khin Nyo, a retired headmistress, both well-respected and much-loved in the artistic and literary communities. Thu Maung is an Academy Award-winning actor and famous singer as well as a writer. He has published over forty books, including novels, translations and collections of short stories and essays. He also writes poems, articles on Buddhism and the movie industry.

Thu Maung lives in Yangon.

 

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Ma Khin Lay (Yangon Tekkatho)

Born in 1959, she took her pen name Ma Khin Lay (Yangon Tekkatho) in honour of the time she spent at Yangon University or ‘Tekkatho’  for her Bachelor of Science degree. Since 1985 when she began to write professionally, she has written over forty short stories. In her work she shows a compassionate and sensitive knowledge of her subjects. Her selected short story collection was published in 2003 under the title ‘The tale my grandchild told me of six ducks.’

Ma Khin Lay (Yangon Tekkatho) lives in Taung Gyi.

 

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Ma Thanegi

She is a free-lance writer in English who was born in Myanmar and educated at the Methodist English High School and the Yangon State School of Fine Arts. So far, many of her articles and a dozen books in English have been published and a few had been translated into French and German. Although she is not a professional translator she has translated into English the classic biography ‘A Man Like Him’ by Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay and ‘Cooking with Love Myanmar Style’ by Nan San San Aye.

Ma Thanegi lives in Yangon.

 

 

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