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The People Elsewhere

Unbound Journeys with the Storytellers of Myanmar

Lucas Stewart

In a five year journey all across Myanmar, Lucas Stewart travels from Yangon in the south to the northern limits of Kachin State in search of the literary luminaries of the country’s recent past. He bonds with censored and jailed writers, poets, publishers and booksellers, recording their stories of heritage and resilience. In his conversations with students at an Aung San Suu Kyi rally or sharing stories with a Kayah farmer in his village house, the long-suppressed literatures and languages of minorities such as the Chin, Kachin, Shan and others shine through. The People Elsewhere is a vivid tableau of time and place, and an ode to the ethnic richness of Myanmar.

Penguin Books/Viking

…This book isn’t a memoir but a weaving of two stories. On the one hand it is a simple journey through the writers of a country that is undergoing a transformation many thought would never come; this is a story set in the ‘now’, where change can be seen and touched. The other story is much more complicated: it tells of a country in which the ‘now’ is not as important as the ‘before’, where history and the lessons learnt from it, cannot be easily set aside or forgotten…

Lucas Stewart, The People Elsewhere, Viking, 2016

Available from Penguin/Viking and in digital formats from Amazon.


Praise for ‘The People Elsewhere’:

‘Lucas Stewart’s book is an exquisite map of the many literatures of Myanmar, of the human impulse to express oneself through story and song… In scenes alternately warming and harrowing, it braids travel, history and literary criticism in a most ingenious way to give us an unforgettable portrait of a country long forgotten by the world.’

Chandrahas Choudhury, Author of Clouds and editor of India: A Traveller’s Literary Companion

‘The People Elsewhere is a vigorous and compelling travel parable … In a vivid and tenacious tour through some of the country’s militarily-sealed borderlands, Lucas Stewart explores with great generosity and kinship how previously banned or censored languages are still being preserved in some of remotest and educationally-marginalised areas in the world.’

James Byrne, Co-editor of Bones Will Crow: 15 Contemporary Burmese Poets

‘Lucas Stewart’s journey across Myanmar offers a fascinating insight and a rare glimpse of life through its storytellers … Anyone wanting to discover Myanmar’s rich cultural heritage and how these endearing, diverse and remarkable peoples did more than just survive will find this an important and essential read.’

Nick Danziger, Photojournalist and Author of Danziger’s Travels.

More by Lucas Stewart:

The Act of Insanity – Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Issue 25

Shadow Signatures: A Legacy of Burmese Pen Names – The Bamboo Sea

Hidden Worlds – The Irrawaddy, July, 2014

Myanmar’s Literary Talk Shows – The Diplomat, May 2014

The Kachin: Culture of the Mountain Lords – The Dissident Blog, March 2014

SADAIK A digital manuscript chest for all things literary in Myanmar


Further Reading:

Burma or Myanmar? Burmese or Burman? – U Khin Maung Saw

Between Two Fires – Ludu U Hla (The Caged Ones, Orchid Press, 1998)

Modern Burmese Literature – U On Pe (The Atlantic, 1958)




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Set in the Yunnan countryside in China, Chris Taylor’s debut novel Harvest Season has drawn favourable comparisons with The Beach, by Alex Garland.

More than a decade after first discovering an idyllic ancient walled town deep in the mountains of southwest China, Matt, a former guidebook writer, returns to find his modern-day vision of Shangrila threatened by a brash outsider intent on putting the town on the party circuit. Matt falls for the newcomer’s fiery girlfriend, and becomes entangled in a power struggle that pits the drug-addled Westerners against increasingly hostile locals. Harvest Season is a dark exploration of the disrupting effect of outsiders on China, and the violent repercussions.” – Earnshaw Books

The point of Harvest Season is to take the reader on a journey through the shattering of the very illusions that make clichés of the characters in the first place. These are people in a purgatory of inaction and forgetting, indulging themselves in self-congratulatory abandon. There are inevitably consequences and the consequences involve a shattering of  illusion.”  – Chris Taylor

Having spent a considerable amount of time in the region and having mixed with characters not dissimilar to those in the book, Harvest Season rings true in our ears and comes highly recommended.

The book is available from Earnshaw Books and you can read the first chapter here.

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China’s Hermit Tradition and Zen Beginnings

Author and translator Bill Porter will be giving a talk in the Bookworm Bookshop in Chengdu at 19:30, Saturday Oct 16.

Under the pen name of Red Pine he has translated many Buddhist texts and sutras, including the Heart Sutra, the Diamond Sutra and the Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, among others. He has also translated Buddhist poetry by Cold Mountain and Stonehouse.

His 2 works, Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits (1993)  & Zen Baggage: A Pilgrimage to China (2008), are “part travelogue, part history, part sociology, part religious study,” “a record of extraordinary journeys to an unknown China,” and come highly recommended to all those interested in Buddhism, China and Zen.

Road to Heaven, which was republished last year by Counterpoint, was in part the inspiration for Edward Burger’s 2007 documentary Amongst White Clouds.

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Our friend Shan Li has written a fascinating series of articles on daily Zen practice which will be published regularly over the coming months on the Dutch website – Bodhitv.

You can read the first of these articles here, and the second here.

They are highly recommended reading for anybody with an interest in Buddhism, Chan, Zen, the Shaolin Temple, China or Shaolin Kung Fu.


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