When one asks the average native English speaker to list Myanmar’s most famous writers, they’re likely to mention names such as Khin Myo Chit, Ma Thenegi, Pascal Khoo Htwe and, of course, Aung San Suu Kyi. Myanmar writers who’ve achieved fame abroad have offered rare insight Myanmar’s rich cultural traditions while at the same time its tumultuous political history in stories which have the ability to appeal to both local and international audiences.
There soon could be another name to add to the list. San Lin Tun, whose English language short-story collection The Enigma of Big Bunny’s Arrival was released in Yangon on October 20, is a light-hearted merging of traditional and modern Myanmar.
The book’s 24 short fiction stories span a range of genres and subject matters, from love to fantasy, Myanmar’s love of Premier League football to the traditional Thadingyut celebrations which this month took place in villages across the country.
Readers might recognise the nod to VS Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival in the title of short story “The Enigma of Big Bunny’s Arrival”, which serves as the title of the compilation.
“Bunny” is a reference to ‘The Old Man in the Moon’, an old Burmese fable which explains why on full moon days an image which some say looks like a rabbit sitting beside an old man with a cane appears on the moon’s surface.
Set in a tea shop, an aspiring writer notices the waiters are sleepy and inattentive – “perhaps the waiter had missed last night’s sleep because of the Premier League,” he says to himself. After reaching under a table to pick up his pen, he comes face to face with Big Bunny who tells him he hitched a ride back to earth with astronaut Neil Armstrong. “I’m not running away from the old man,” Big Bunny assures the bewildered young man.
By combining universal themes with references to Myanmar culture San Lin Tun aims to appeal not just too local audiences but international audiences also.
“In the Myanmar literary world, there are only a few writers who write in English. But not many are recognised. I aim to follow in the footsteps of those famous writers,” he said.
Ambitious perhaps, but San Lin Tun is more experienced than most when it comes to shifting between time and place on the pages of a book.
He has translated into English four detective stories of Shwe U Daung, the famous writer responsible for Myanmar’s very own Sherlock Holmes.
Shwe U Daung’s A Murder Case on Boundary Road, an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, was the first of many novels which follow detective San Shar as he solves murder-mysteries on the streets of 1930’s Rangoon.
While initially reluctant to take on the pressure of translating the works of one of Myanmar’s literary greats, San Lin Tun was encouraged by his editor at the time, an Australian, who convinced him of the importance in bringing Myanmar’s historical past to a greater audience.
“I thought, I must do it so that English readers can learn about our colonial heritage; the buildings and the way of life of Myanmar people from a bygone era.”
The Enigma of Big Bunny’s Arrival by San Lin Tun is available at all reputable bookshops for K9,000.
Courtesy: The Myanmar Times |
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