Myanmar’s multi-ethnic languages and literary works see a new day

Book Launch 6
Writer Yu Ya reading from her story

On 27th September 2015, the British Council’s ‘Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds’ project launched an anthology of ethnic short stories in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar. In order to celebrate freedom of expression and creativity in multiple ethnic languages, this unique multi-lingual anthology includes 28 short stories, 21 in translation in 10 languages and 9 distinct scripts.

The anthologized pieces were produced in several workshops held during 2013 and 2014. The workshops focused on construction of short stories were conducted in the ethnic states in which participants discussed how their socio-political concerns could be crafted into narrative forms in their own languages. Short stories from the three best workshops in each ethnic state were selected on the basis of literary merit and translated into Burmese.

Book Launch 7
Writers A Phyu Yaung Shwe, San Lin Tun and Letyar Tun at the book launch

Perhaps the biggest book launch in Burma, the ‘Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds’ event was attended by 300 public members. Fittingly, Sayar Lay Ko Tin, one of the country’s best writers and editors and who is no stranger to the world of censorship as an artist, inaugurated the event by emphasizing the importance of literature in ethnic languages in Myanmar. Participants in the workshops, writers such as San Lin Tun , Letyar Tun and A Phyu Yaung Shwe, discussed their roles in leading the ethnic state workshops. One of the writers whose work has been included in the anthology, Yu Ya read from her story.

True to the spirit of sharing and expanding the knowledge of literatures in ethnic languages across Myanmar, the anthology’s 1000 copies will be distributed to ethnic cultural and literature associations and mobile libraries for wider circulation. In the long term plan of wider access to ethnic literary works, 14 stories from the anthology will be translated into English in October for publication in the UK. This occasion will mark the very first exposure of the West to Myanmar’s ethnic language literature. (By Lucas Stewart & Mantra Roy)