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Posts Tagged ‘Asia’

Dragons

SunLit Fiction is a publisher and podcast of short contemporary fiction.

This week on their podcast and their website, they feature Dragons; a short story set in Myanmar, by J H Martin, with the story being freely available to read on their website as well.

Listen, read, like and share the story with anyone you may know who has an interest in MyanmarBurmese culture and Asia.

တစ်ခါသေဖူး ပျဉ်ဖိုးနားလည်

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My People

Poached Hare is a websiteliterary journal and chapbook press committed to contemporary creative work. 

Their first issue is out now and features a fresh and eclectic mix of short fiction and poetry, whilst their website features an engaging and diverse selection of essays and creative non-fiction, including My People by J H Martin, a short piece of creative non-fiction about his first year living in Yangon, Myanmar, which you can read here.

ချစ်စကိုရှည်စေ၊ မုန်းစကိုတိုစေ

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Amongst White Clouds

Edward A. Burger

Amongst White Clouds is a look at the lives of zealot students, gaunt ascetics and wise masters living in isolated hermitages dotting the peaks and valleys of China’s Zhongnan Mountain range. The Zhongnan Mountains have been home to recluses since the time of the Yellow Emperor (黃帝), some five thousand years ago…

…One of only a few foreigners to have lived and studied with these hidden sages, director Edward A. Burger reveals to us their tradition, their wisdom, and the hardship and joy of their everyday lives. With both humor and compassion, these inspiring and warm-hearted characters challenge us to join them in an exploration of our own suffering and enlightenment in this modern world.

– amongstclouds.com

Further Reading:

China’s Hermit Tradition and Zen Beginnings – Bill Porter

Edward A. Burger – Director’s Facebook Page

Hermitary – Resources and reflections on hermits and solitude

 

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Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds

Contemporary Short Stories from Myanmar

 

In the first anthology of short stories from Myanmar published in the West, seven of the leading contemporary Burmese language writers and seven new voices from the ethnic regions, guide us on a sweeping journey, from the cities to the mountains, of this once pariah nation. 

Written in scripts until recently censored and outlawed the anthology presents a country that goes beyond the familiar lens of isolation and dictatorship unveiling a storied and diverse landscape of people and place. 

From the child imprisoned in Yangon in the south to the jaded miner of Kachin in the north, these stories, each set in a different region and era, reflect on Myanmar’s troubled past and pose questions for the future of a country undergoing a transformation of global importance.            

Featuring stories translated from Burmese, Mon, Karen (Sgaw Karen), Kayah (Kayah Li), Shan (Shan Gyi), Kachin (Jinghpaw), Chin (Lai Hakha) and Rakhine.

Although the limited print run of 750 copies of the anthology has already sold out, an e-book version of the anthology will be made available on all online platforms soon.

 

Singular not merely in its collaborative breadth, it is unprecedented: it is the first time in a half-century that such an ambitious and eclectic literary undertaking has been able to occur at all… 

…we can’t yet speak fully, even in the expressive terms of national literature(s), of a ‘Burmese thaw’. Hidden Word Hidden Worlds is however a brave and notable first step towards its real possibility.

Martin Kovan, Mascara Literary Review

 

… the diversity of the authors is one of the book’s greatest features. There is something extremely refreshing about a publication that did not select authors based on their reputation (some are first time writers) or based on how economical the translation of their stories would be, but rather on the basis of each story’s ability to open a door to new perspectives.

– Richard Roewer, Tea Circle

 

…The collection neither distorts nor downplays the very real points of political, ethnic, and cultural tensions between the dominate Burman and the minority peoples of the hinterlands. These stories highlight the personhood and agency of the everyday individual—which may have otherwise been lost to some larger narrative if told from a central Burman perspective. Fascinating and smart, the eclectic collection of short stories found in Hidden Words Hidden Worlds: Contemporary Short Stories from Myanmar is recommended as much for its ability to serve as a primer on the ethnic diversity of Myanmar as it is for the enjoyableness of the stories.

– T F Rhodan, Asian Review of Books

 

Further Reading & Listening:

 

The Court Martial – Letyar Tun, Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds (Asia Literary Review)

Myanmar Launch of Hidden Words Anthology – SADAIK

PODCAST – Storytelling in Myanmar with Letyar Tun and Fiona Ledger

In Conversation with Letyar Tun & Lucas Stewart – Writers Centre Norwich Podcast:

Listen to the podcast on Soundcloud from the WCN’s website here or on Player.fm here

An Interview with Lucas Stewart – Asia Literary Review

The People Elsewhere: Unbound Journeys with the Storytellers of Myanmar – Lucas Stewart

Hidden Worlds – The Irrawaddy, July, 2014

Shadow Signatures (A Legacy of Burmese Literary Pen Names) – Lucas Stewart, 2014

The Lady, the Writers and the Ex-Prisoners – FreeSpeechDebate, February, 2013

Parallel Lines – San Lin Tun (New Asian Writing, 2011)

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

The Women of Burma – Daw Mya Sein (The Atlantic, 1958)

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

 

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Persons frequently ask…

“What is China’s real religion? What do people believe and worship?”

“Do they believe in an after-life? And what are the conditions of this life?”

With the first of its many volumes published by T’usewei Press, Shanghai in 1914, “Researches into Chinese Superstitions”, is a thorough, if not exhaustive, study of the questions posed above. Written and compiled by the Rev. Henri Doré, “Researches into Chinese Superstitions” is a multi-volume collection of the ‘superstitions’, which ‘swayed the family and social life’ of the Chinese people at that time.

As mentioned in previous articles, there was great interest is this area of Chinese life at the turn of the last century. Fortunately, like Dr J.-J. Matignon’s study of the subject, these studies by Doré also managed to avoid the sensationalism to which other studies around that time succumbed. Indeed, whilst Rev. Doré was a Jesuit missionary, it could be said that his own beliefs only strengthened his objective or nominal approach when it came to recording and examining these Chinese ‘superstitions’. Therefore, whatever reasons Doré may have had for producing this work, they should not deter us nor distract us from examining what is presented within the many volumes of this collection.

As far as a study of religion as a factor in social life is concerned, it may make little difference whether the anthropologist is a theist or an atheist, since in either case he can only take in to account what he can observe. But if either attempts to go further than this, each must pursue a different path. The non-believer seeks for some theory – biological, psychological, or sociological – which will explain the illusion; the believer seeks rather to understand the manner in which a people conceives of a reality and their relation to it. For both, religion is part of social life, but for the believer it has also another dimension.

E. E. Evans Pritchard, Theories of Primitive Religion, Clarendon Press, 1965

Links to the Volumes in this Collection on Archive.org:

Volume I, Volume II, Volume III, Volume IV, Volume V, Volume VI, Volume VII, Volume VIII, Volume IX, Volume X, Volume XI (Original French), Volume XII (Original French), Volume XIII, Volume XIV, Volume XVVolume XVII (Original French), Volume XVIII (Original French)

President Yuang Shikai - Ming money ceremony 1914

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Photograph by Fan Ho (何藩)

The Ventriloquist

IN THE YEAR of Keng Shen, I happened to visit Yangchow. One evening a friend introduced me to a famous ventriloquist named Kuo Mao-erh. I invited Kuo and my friend to my quarters at the inn, where we dined and drank together until a late hour. After the meal, Kuo agreed to favour us with a display of his talents. A large silk screen was placed to the right of our table. Kuo took his position in the shadows behind the screen, while my friend and I sat in pleasant anticipation…

A long silence is broken suddenly by voices; two men are meeting on the road. The greetings are loud and boisterous. One of the men, older than the other, invites the young man to his house. They walk down a rough road, enter a gate and cross a small courtyard to a house. A door slams shut. Wine is poured. The two men talk and joke.

The young men protests. “Too much drink,” he pleads. The other laughs. More wine is poured. Cups clink. The wine is sipped and guzzled. The guest gets to his feet. He moves unsteadily and his host assists him to the gate. Laughter. Goodbyes. The young man staggers down the road. The gate is closed. The bolt slips into place.

The young man stumbles along. He slips, sprawling to the ground. Silence. A second set of footsteps approaches. The newcomer’s foot strikes something soft. A curse. A drunken groan. The newcomer reaches down, assisting the drunken man to his feet. He helps the man walk down the road.

They halt. The drunken man is half-dragged forward, then propped against a wall. The other steps back. “Ho! Watchman! Open the city gates!” No reply. Somewhere in the distance a dog barks. Others join in. Still more dogs add to the chorus – some young, others old; some close by, others a long way off.

The watchman shuffles along the wall. He climbs down. A large gate swings open. The newcomer assists the drunken man along. At a house, they pause. The newcomer pounds on the gate. Nothing stirs. He pounds again. Louder. The gate creaks open. A man curses. Wrong house. More dogs join in the barking.

The drunken man is helped to a second house. The newcomer pounds again. The gate opens. A young woman thanks the man for helping her husband home. The man chides the drunkard and then he takes his leave. The gate closes. The bolt slides into place.

The young woman, panting, struggles with her drunken husband. She drags, pushes, cajoles him across the courtyard and on into the house. She helps him into bed.

“Tea!” he moans.

The woman goes into the kitchen. A fire crackles; the tea hisses and it steams. It is poured into a cup. The woman returns to the bedroom. The drunken man has passed out. He snores. His snores rise and fall with a thunderous din. The woman sighs. She grumbles. She returns to the kitchen where she pours the tea back into the pot. Back to the bedroom. She blows out the lamp. She slips off her clothes. Now there are two sets of snores.

A temple gong breaks up the serenade of snores. The hour of the Rat. A cow moos. The bed creaks. The young man groans. He vomits, groans again, then he vomits again. “Tea!” he wails. The woman snores on. He mutters. Curses. The bed creaks a second time. Once again – two sets of snores rise up.

The cocks crow. First one, and then another, and finally many others, each one crowing in a different key. The bed creaks. The woman yawns. She pulls her slippers from next to the bed. They squish. She shakes them and a slippery, watery bile plops onto the stone floor. An angry cry. Curses. The woman reaches over; finds a second pair. She gets up, dresses and goes into the kitchen. Kettles clack, fire crackles and food is sliced and chopped.

Outside a pounding, on the gate. “Almost dawn,” a voice shouts out. “Get that lazy son of mine up. It’s time to slaughter the pigs.”

The woman shakes her husband. He grumbles, dresses and leaves the house to accompany his father to the pig pens. Food is thrown in for the swine. Grunting and squabbling, they fight over the slops. Sounds of slurping and of gulping. Water being drawn up from a well. Water being poured into a kettle. A fire crackles. Later, water boils.

A pig now squeals. The young man grunts and curses. The squeals grow louder. “Tie him good!” the old man warns. A knife is being sharpened on a whetstone. Now an axe. A desperate final squeal – cut off midway. Silence. The soft sound of blood flowing. Now an axe chopping bones. Now a knife slicing meat. Finally, meat being washed.

“Dawn,” the old man announces, “Time to set up the counter.”

Silence.

In time, there are sounds, distant at first, then growing nearer. The shuffling of feet. Loud voices rise. “I’ll have the ribs.” “How much?” “Did you save the feet?” “No, too much!” “Where’s the kidney and the liver?” “No, not that cut.” “When was the pig slaughtered? Last week?”

Coins clatter on the wooden counter. “Where is the head?” More coins clatter. “Some pork for a roast?” Fresh meat slaps against the wood. “Yes! That’s the piece.”

The sounds grow in intensity. Many voices join in. The voices and the sounds all blend – cutting, chopping, the clatter of coins, questions, answers, laughter, cries, insults – until they are all running together in a great, unintelligible jumble. Then…

Nothing.

Silence.

At last the act of the ventriloquist is finished.

Master of the East Pavilion

Translated by Gene Z. Hanrahan

50 Great Oriental Stories, Bantam, 1965

‘Master of the East Pavilion’ is a nom de plume, which has successfully cloaked the identity of the author ever since this tale was written; shortly before the end of the nineteenth century.

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people-elsewhere_front-cover

The People Elsewhere

Unbound Journeys with the Storytellers of Myanmar

Lucas Stewart

Shortlisted for the 2018 Saroyan Prize

 

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:

 

Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds

Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction 2018 Winner – ‘Bakhur’

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 Writer and Editor Lucas Stewart’s Personal Website

 

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