Yangon literature fest aims to overcome culture of one-way lecture

Writer Ma Thida. (Thiri Lu/The Myanmar Times)
Writer Ma Thida. (Thiri Lu/The Myanmar Times)

In 2009, writer Ma Thida attended Brown University in the United States as a fellow of the International Writers Project.

During her stay the university organised an event called There Will Still Be Light: A Freedom to Write Literary Festival, and declared their plans to invite Bengali writer Amitav Ghosh, author of the novel The Glass Palace.

Ma Thida suggested that well-known Myanmar novelist Nay Win Myint also be invited, but when the organisers tried to find information about the writer on the internet they came up empty. There was simply no information about Nay Win Myint that had been posted online in the English language.

This was despite the fact that in his home country he had published nearly 200 short stories, as well as novels, travelogues, translations and more. He had also won the National Literary Prize in 2007.

“Because the festival organisers couldn’t find information online, they thought Nay Win Myint was not a popular author,” Ma Thida said.

“But it’s not surprising that the names of many writers who are well-known in Myanmar are unheard-of in the international literary field.”

She said she hopes this will start changing when the English-language Irrawaddy Literary Festival is held at Inya Lake Hotel in Yangon from Friday, February 1 to Sunday, February 3.

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