Monday, March 31, 2014

Excerpt from my short story Koel Bird--

Here it comes, steel yourself.
Excerpt from my short story, Koel Bird.
Copyright Kyi May Kaung.

"Not knowing what to do with them, I drove to a storage facility and put them there.  (The steel designer knives, priced $99.99 and up.  This is the real price, I know as I bought one.)

Diana asked specifically to return to her mother. 
I didn’t put up a fight. 
She said she was going to divorce me. 
I asked why. 
All she said was, “Well.” 

I think it may well have been due to her dissatisfaction with our sex lives. 
Diana always was not happy with me in bed. 
She said I was a cold fish and she needed more warmth than that. 
When she was really angry, she said she only married me for the money, the house and the car. 
I said there were certain things I could do, but certain things I could not because of my culture and the way I was brought up, so to hell with it."

Copyright K.M.Kaung-- excerpt from Koel Bird.

MY short story FGM will be out soon on Amazon

I've approved the pdf of my short story, FGM: A Story of the Mutilation of Women, and it will be available in a print edition on Amazon in a few days. Later it will be on Kindle and other outlets.
The story is set in Africa and the United States.

I liked the photo of aloe thorns on the cover because it reminds me of the desert and also these thorns are also an element in Gary Jennings powerful novel Aztec.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Beowulf new translation --

Hwaet!  Listen up!  It starts.

The very first Anglo-Saxon (Old English) poem Beowulf, or which only one copy exists in manuscript form  (see Michael Wood documentary, scroll down)--This new translation is by Nobel laureate poet, Seamus Heany--

2007 movie Beowulf--

The 2007 movie Beowulf, with motion detector animation and Angelina Jolie

I saw it and liked it, but I liked John Gardner's novel Grendel better.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Price of my novella Black Rice has increased to $9.99 due to high demand-

Well Friends, I just increased price of my novella Black Rice due to demand, see below, and also because I have put in enhanced distribution, therefore Amazon did not allow me to keep the old price.  The new price is $9.99 for the print version, now will have a matte rather than a glossy cover, and if you buy the Kindle version, you can lend it to a relative or family member at $2.99 (These prices are set by Amazon)--but during the 2 weeks you have lent it out, you will be unable to read it yourself.  (This also is a pre- set Amazon condition)
So, I think it's a good sign and good luck to the person attempting to sell a used copy for $21.  You provided the market indicator to let me know what to do.

BTW, if you buy $35 worth of copies, you can get free shipping.  You will also get a discount from Amazon and so the profit will be yours to keep.

I suggest if you live in Burma, try this.

Kyi May Kaung3-26-2014

Link to my much praised short story, The Lovers--Copyright Kyi May Kaung and Wild River Review

Monday, March 24, 2014

My poem, Fistfuls Handfuls using Khmer words --

Found poem, see below--for Seth Sor Mona Elessa all Khmer friends:

Fistfuls Handfuls.

Mix of English, Khmer and Burmese words--

Angka, the Organization--they took
kam handfuls fistfuls of our rice, our lives
from kamnaert birth the kamprear orphan
they thought for kamrai profit

the khama ni Khmer Rouge.

But no one can profit from human lives.

Look at Hitler, the SS, Herman Goring
look at how it all ends.
I've been to Auschwitz.

The warehouses full of women's hair
which were once on some woman's head
who was once loved by some man.  (This portion from a previous poem of mine)

kamlang power
they thought to kamjat eradicate
all trace of us  capitalists because
we wore glasses.  The Old People,
the New People.

In the eighties I only ever met
two Cambodians
they lived because
they happened to work
at the US Embassy and
the Americans got them out.
But their extended family--

And now
kamnal present gift
the gift of life
the gift of sunrays

All our labor kammokor
we were so kamsod

kamlang power
kamnal present gift.

Thank you, Seth Sor, this poem follows almost the exact order of your word list.
Khmer words, copyright Seth Sor.
Poem copyright Kyi May Kaung

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Book review of Robert Taylor's The State in Burma--

Book review of Robert Taylor's The State in Burma.

This is one of the all time books that I love to hate.

I first came across the first edition about 1990 or 1992, while I was writing my Ph.D. dissertation.

A DC-based journal or magazine editor told me about five years ago, that his publication could not accept book reviews unless the book being reviewed was published less than x years ago.

That is when I decided, what the hell, if I am a professor of literature or comparative literature (the literature of different countries) I can talk about and write about any book any time.

Then I can just call it analysis or literature survey or review or literary criticism.  So now I can write about anything I want, from Boewulf to the Canterbury tales, to Dickens, to the Bhagavad Gita or the Kama Sutra.

So that's what I am doing now.

I pretty much tore apart Robert Taylor's book in my dissertation, and you can read it on line, my dissertation, at Penn Commons.

But I don't think Bob Taylor knows about that, as when I see him on the circuit, the last time in c. 2002, at SAIS (School of Advanced International Studies) on Massachusetts Av. in Washington, DC. he was as genial as ever, and indeed my criticism of his book does not mean I can't say Hi to him in public either--which is not true of all the junta ass-licking "Burma experts"--

I first met Taylor in Burma, through my bro, when Bob Taylor was living in the men's chummery, probably writing The State in Burma, which could be based on his dissertation.

I saw him sometimes at tea time at my bro's place, as my brother was then living in the Bagan Road house previously occupied by Saya Zawgyi (U Thein Han).

So when the entire wing of the Inst. of Ecos. burned down through an electrical fault, the inquiry determined, and my office burned with it too, just before I left in the early 80s, Taylor expressed a very real sympathy.

From my brother I understood his one dream as an author and scholar was to have met U Ne Win, once in his lifetime, in person.  I don't know if this dream of his was ever fulfilled.

The book and why I dislike it:

Like Thant Myint U's book River of Lost Footsteps, it's written in grammatical English and that's all that can be said about it.

1.  Taylor's book assumed that the bigger the state the better, so on an Amazon review, I gave it one star, because, I said, it starts on the wrong foot and it stays that way.

2.  A country does not get better the more the oppressive mechanism, i.e. the government, gets bigger and more powerful.  On the contrary it gets worse as the people are squeezed more. 

3.  What Taylor does not know at all is that in countries like the United States of America, government is intentionally crippled by design, so it does not get too big.

4.  That is why there are countervailing institutions, such as a free press and separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary. 

But since he does not get the basics like that, then he just does not get it and the whole book is then pointless.

Two revealing anecdotes, one pro, one con:

Some of you may know I don't much like some of the UK based Burma experts, though of course there are exceptions.

1.  BBC Burmese--very corrupt, presently run by an incompetent.  Previous head whose name somewhat resembles mine without the surname, is said to have caused the death of a dissident, by leaking his name to the junta.  This was told by a well known journalist to a mutual friend who then told me about it.  Yet this woman is still on the board of Prospect Burma, Daw Suu's educational charity.

2.  In about 2003, I was in UK and at a dinner, these Brit Burma experts made fun of Bob Taylor in his absence, as he was married to a West Indian woman, they said.  They joked that he should take his wife to very black conscious and paranoid, racist Burma.  Now, I think that shows the level of the critics.  Why shouldn't he marry anyone of any skin color he wants?

3.  This incident is con.
In about 2002, SAIS had an event, put on by the old pro-junta apologist, in which Robert Taylor was a featured speaker.

I remember it was November, and the air was a bit nippy.

When I got there, I saw the DC-based students and dissidents demonstrating on the sidewalk, so I went over to chat with them.  I swear the organizers gave me a dirty look.  But why shouldn't I go and chat with my friends?

In the lobby, there was a dress store type brass stand, with hangers, for our coats.  I considered for a moment if my coat would be safe there (I was wearing a black rain coat), but then I hung it there anyway.  As a woman, I don't keep my wallet in my coat pocket.

When I got into the conference area, there were no more seats left, so I sat in the only seat left, which was between Moethee Zun and Dr. Maung Zarni in the middle of the front row.  Maybe that was why the old man ignored my raised hand to ask a question, but he always ignores me.

Then came the intermission, and that's when still sitting in the third row, I heard R. Taylor ask the old man where to buy a coat.

He said his coat, on that hanger, had been stolen, and so had his wallet with his credit cards in it.

I don't know how helpful the old man was, but Taylor was literally shivering with cold.

I leave you to reach your own conclusions.

I report what I see, that's all.


My book review of Ko Nyo's memoir--

Book review of Ko Nyo's Refugee in Their Words, Freedom Fighter in Mine (in Burmese--thutoe khaw tau dokekha the, koeko ko tau, taw hlan ye thamar)--Hninzee Sarpay, USA $15 order from Khin May Zaw Khin--

I've finished reading his book in 3 days. 

This memoir, written in Burmese by a 1988 mass democracy demonstrator who fled to India (Manipur) outlines the hardships he suffered in the course of 2 years which culminated in arrest in India for "immigration offenses."

It describes the high hopes the "refugees" felt when they arrived in Manipur, as Rajiv Gandhi had "invited them"--but then they were placed in a camp which was much like a prison.

Unlike some fiction set in Burma where the names or characters are slipshodly "done" and therefore don't sound authentic, this memoir, though only covering a few years, is real and riveting.

Ko Nyo uses real names and these, such as Ma Swan Pii, Ma Ei, Ko Gyodu (Elder Brother Manmade Satellite), and the place names themselves, Mizzoram, Aizawl, Moreh, the Kathe People (Manipuris) are romantic and evocative, and yet--the Reality is so harsh.

Until a great human rights lawyer comes along to rescue them.

During the course of my nearly 20 years combined, in the Overseas Burmese Democracy Movement, and international broadcasting and consultancy, I've met a lot of 1988 students, now in their mid to late 40s, who managed to flee and gain asylum in third countries.

Most fled via Thailand, as by 1988, the black market routes to Thailand were well worn, and it is closer.  A lot closer to Rangoon, where most of the mass pro-democracy demonstrations took place. 

Those stories, some of which are woven into my upcoming novel Wolf, are fascinating because Burma has a long and complex history with Thailand, earlier called Siam or Syam.

The routes the freedom fighters used are the same as the Burmese kings used over 200 years to attack Ayuthia (Siam), the same routes described in Maurice Collis' Siamese White, about an English adventurer and pirate, Samuel White, who based himself in Mergui and traded with Ayuthia during the reign of King Narai.

The Burmese monarchs were great bullies too, and during their heydey (the extent of the Burmese empire was largest under Bayinnaung, but it too disintegrated within a few years of his death) they bullied Manipur and Assam too.

As late as the 19th century, Burmese kings and generals were still raiding Manipur and Assam.

So Ko Nyo's memoir is interesting.  As he says, there are few stories concerning the western borders of Burma.

I've known Ko Nyo at a distance from about 1997, when he started to work as an India-based stringer for the radio station for which I also worked for 3 years, the same notorious one that would later fire all of us talented stars.

But I didn't work directly with Ko Nyo then, and the -- station kept us all working our butts and brains off so extremely, I seldom had time to listen to anyone else's programs.

The only time I spoke to Ko Nyo between last week and 2001, when I was forced to leave the station, was in 2003 when I was attending a conference in Souel, South Korea, and Ko Nyo called (from India?) to interview me at midnight, S. Korea time.

In the meantime, I heard many good things about him from our mutual friend and colleague.

That radio station has a bad habit, sometimes a fatal habit, a tragic habit, of making its local stringers work on the ground, risking their lives for low pay, without any insurance that I know of.

Ko Nyo's famous program was one in which he nearly drowned, in a whirlpool and a cold mountain stream in the Chin Hills.

When he called me last week and we spoke extensively on the phone, because I have undertaken to translate his book into English, Ko Nyo said that chapter 12 was from another book and was printed in this by mistake.

At that time I had only read about 2 chapters of his book, so I was a bit confused about the chronology, so I told him he might have to rewrite.

He was very cheerful about it, not like me if someone told me to rewrite something, and said it might take him 2 years to redo.

Then I read on, and if I read on, that means the book is good and does not need to be re-written.

I even had the proverbial moments when it made me cry three times.

Then I got to chapter 12 and I realized it was the famous near-drowning incident.

So now I think he does not need to re-write the whole book, and chap 12 should perhaps be kept in, as it is so strong.  I might translate it first.

I don't think it will be a big deal even though there is a time jump, as it is right in the middle and shows the life-changing moments he went through later.

I've seen at least one memoir which does not go chronologically, nor describe "everything"--and that is Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family, which has what I consider his best poem, The Cinnamon Peeler, plunk in the middle.

So buy and read Ko Nyo's book.

You will love it.  You won't regret it and like another DC based person, you might read it a second or a third time even.

But it's in Burmese only for now.

In English, I am afraid you will have to wait for me.

So don't annoy me folks with little mosquito bites, because then my concentration will be shot and I will waste time responding to little things.

Kyi May Kaung3-23-2014


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Words of a master storyteller--my translation of foreword to U Win Tin's What's That? A Human Hell!

My translation of Foreword to U Win Tin's What's That? A Human Hell.
Copyright U Win Tin.
Translation Copyright Kyi May Kaung (U Win Tin gave me formal permission to translate his work)
Those of you who have read the Burmese version, see if you like this:

The quietly whispered forward that roars and echoes loudly, of the author who has just returned from the human hell of prison.
Today is March 12, 2010.
Today I reached the age of eighty, bya.
The age of eighty is rather too old. From where I am, I can see the crematorium at the cemetery.
It is not far away.
When I say “it’s not far away”don’t come asking me if the end of this last journey is getting any closer. Don’t come telling me that the end is still far away.
I know the end of my journey is near.
I know the funeral pyre is close at hand.
I know the time left for me to live is less and less.
I know death closes in.
But beyond the realization of all this is the realization that I still have a lot of work to do. That is the main point of what I want to say here.
Why do I have so much that I want to do?
Well, of course I have a lot to do, bya.
Who wouldn’t?
The military power-holders imprisoned many people, including old people on the brink of death like me, young people who could have given the nation new blood, new ideas, new strengths—for ten years, ten monsoons; twenty years, twenty monsoons; sixty years, sixty monsoons; a hundred years, a hundred monsoons.
All these years we were in a nightmare kingdom, an evil world, a hell created by other human beings.
So, of course, young, middle-aged and old people still have a vast number of things to do. Will it be necessary to ask if that is so strange, byar?
So for this reason I must still continue on my long life’s journey.
(end of 2 page sample)
For that reason we keep walking along this long road. We still have to struggle. We still have to aim high. We still have to carry out our duties.
If I have to say it concisely in the way I understand it in my own words: I have to bear the burden of the ages and travel the path of eons.
It’s very far, further than one can see, or hear a shout and the road is a very rough road, byo!
I have an enormous burden to bear, it makes my chest heave and my brain weary, it takes so long to travel the way.
Actually, it’s the entire population of the country which has to bear this burden of the ages. As the entire population has been incarcerated in one way or the other, of course there’s a whole humongous pile of things that people need to do.
So you think maybe the entire public has been numbed out hpyone tone tone by just the thought of hearing about prison.
But that’s not true. The public is not afraid. Not numb. Not at all! What has happened is they’ve heard so much of the “be afraid of prison” sermons preached by those who are so afraid they’ve run away, that now they sort of believe what they’ve heard, and feel as if they’re too afraid, to make a fist, to stick up a thumb, to raise an arm, to show their true strength.
The fearful runaways (exiles or émigrés), the fear mongers, the kyauk pwe sarr or fear brokers, the fear blackmailers, don’t do the sort of politics that will land them in prison. They keep preaching the fear of jail, saying it’s not worth it to do political activism that will put one in prison.
They preach that getting oneself arrested will be of no benefit to anyone.
This sort of talk is the same as denigrating or demeaning those who have been imprisoned for political reasons through the ages; those arrested for their beliefs, for working for the good of all, for rising up, for attempting to overthrow dictators, for revolutions, for mass activism.
This sort of “fear of prison” talk makes fun of heroes such as Sayadaw U Wizara , Galon U Saw , Bogyoke Aung San , Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U Khun Htun Oo and Min Ko Naing , who have died in prison, starved in prison, come to the end of their days in prison.
This kind of law of the fear of prison is the same as bottling up and constraining generations of political activists such as veterans of the 1300 Revolution of 1938, survivors of the massacre of 7th July 1962 , and the 8-8-88 Revolution .

Translator's notes: I put in end notes, but the copy and paste does not take them.

Mizoram, Chin State in India--

Mizoram, also features in Ko Nyo's autobiography, Refugee in Their Words, Freedom Fighter in Mine--

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My takin poem --

A wonderful animal is the takin
its split hooves make it stable on the rocks
it smells of horse and musk
it has an oily skin
its big nose
warms the air as it breathes.

Kyi May Kaung--

19 questions women writers are sick of--

Reading List--

Ma Ma, please share some prose that you like so that I can develop my knowledge a little bit.
Kyi May Kaung Oh, sure, look on my book list to the left of here--I have so many likes and I read all the time, so many are my favorites. I tend to like the gory stuff, usually set in oppressive systems. Marc Bojanowski, Dog Fighter, is excellent. An evil child in Mexico who loves to kill, but is redeemed when he falls in love with the moll of the local mafia. The first line is memorable, "In Mexico I fought dogs." So is Beasts of No Nation by Ozodinma Iweala--only 150 pages but very strong, about a child soldier. If you want to look at a long sweep of history with interwoven stories on a big canvas, you can't beat James Michener. In Burma I read Hawaii and Caravan. In USA, Poland, Mexico, Texas, Chesapeake, and now re-reading Poland again. I can't read Lolita, but Nabokov's Speak Memory is wonderful and I first read it in 60s in Burma. So is A Baker's Dozen, a short story collection. My copy sent home for the illiterates there. My father had a Russian book called The Thaw, about Khrushchev's thaw--but I have not read it. Mo Yan's books are excellent, as are Ma Jian's. Most recently I read Beijing Coma by Ma Jian, and Red Dust from his travels to look at all the different sections of the Great Wall. There's a Tibetan writer who writes in Mandarin, Alai's Red Poppy. Anchee Min. Empress Orchid. Mo Yan's Red Sorghum. I suggest these to you because of our shared background in economics. If you want to read about Chinese zigzags in economic policy, ending famously with Deng Xoia Peng's economic reforms, read The Joint Committee Report, published by US Congress. My adviser Herbert Levine recommended it in 90s. To this day I regret putting my copy in the corridor when I moved to DC. Oh, and Levine's friend Raisanovksy--that book too mistakenly culled out and "helper" put it all in the dumpster, stupid Burmese girl. I'll stop here, that should keep you reading for a while. Also, if you travel plan ahead with Insight Guides and the new ones with 3 D maps. That way I explored Berlin & Potsdam, Bali, S. Korea, Thailand. Now there is a lot of Bagan material on line, but only the comprehensive "academic" guide is reliable. I did not find Ayutthaya Historical Research site until after I had no more Thai trips, but that is encyclopedic. Everything fr monastery where Fig Flower King was as a monk before Hsinbyushin took him to Ava, to spot where two princes killed each other simultaneously in an elephant duel. And there are Angkor "guide books" but they are for the seriously stricken like me, who have not much time or money, but want to see the most impt/best. For that, if security allows, do not miss the lovely Banteay Srei temple. But it's a place, not a book. But there are ancient Khmer inscriptions on the door jambs. Oh, the Sadok Thom (?) check at left, Inscriptions by John Burgess and other Angkor fiction. KMK.

Monday, March 17, 2014

American bald eagle which is tame like a falcon--

Roberto Brodsky--The Uncertain Territory of Memory--

From Roberto Brodsky--Memory and Monumentalization--World World Literature Today

RB: The problem with monumentalization is that something is put in place to later forget it. The best way to forget something, and that which constitutes its discursive power, its sign, is to monumentalize it. It is to erect a building, a statue, a memorial, a symbol that allows us to refer to that monumental tragedy, epic, resistance, or whatever, and, by extension, to pass it into oblivion and to create a new territory. But on the other hand, I think that it is important to create a space for memory and the different representations of the past because they need a space. What type of place is that? That is the question. What place? Is it in the monuments? Is it in the institutions? In civil society? In grassroots groups? Or in art itself? I think that is the question, and I do not really know what place that is. I know that my place, or a possible place, is in fiction—in the sense that it is in fiction that we might represent the presence of memory, working “active” memory, as we discussed—a type of memory that is constantly rearticulated from one day to the next. For me, fiction is the space where it is possible to articulate discourses of memory and of the present that enable us to look at the events of the past in a less deceitful way. In fiction we might voice memories of past epic myths of the resistance, as well as the need to anchor them down in the present. Each of us finds our way, ---
end quote.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Wildlife painter Robert Bateman--

I still think acclaimed wildlife artist Robert Bateman is the absolute best--

see if you agree with me--


Highly recommended new book--

Highly recommended--By Sean Turnell and now by me--As Dr. Maung Zarni always used to say to me--"Corporations have rights just like human beings."
Read this book--it's available on Amazon for abt $20 with postage--

William Easterly's new book - 'Tyranny of the Experts: Economists, Dictators and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor'

Monday, March 03, 2014

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Video from Nov 2012, US Presdt Obama arrives in Rangoon, Burma

Video from US Presdt Obama's visit to Burma, Nov 2012.  Spectators sound very happy, constantly saying "mike te,"  or "cool"--

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Monologuist-actor Spalding Gray --

Monologuist actor, Spalding Gray.

I saw him in Gray's Anatomy at the Annenberg Center in mid-90s.  At the time he was in the movie, Beyond Rangoon and he signed a program for me back stage.  I was working as a house manager at the Annenberg Center Theatres then.


My dissertation abstract on University of Pennsylvania, Penn Commons--

My Ph.D. dissertation abstract.  On why some nations don't develop, specifically Burma, but I also touched on the former USSR, Chinese economic planning, India (disstn was accepted in 1994) and Zaire (former Congo)--basically it's an indictment against centralization and totalitarianism.

A comment I wrote in 2009 on my sanctions and Burma debate with Steinberg--

A comment I wrote in 2009 on New Mandala--see who laughs last--

Kyi May Kaung (Ph.D.)
Posted November 12, 2009 at 6:57 AM   

Nov 11, 2009.

This debate (on sanctions and Burma) never goes away.

Steinberg recently orchestrated a “policy review” in DC but did not invite people like me who disagree with him.

Sanctions are meant to send the junta a strong message — no more no less.

Anyway, all the “engagement policies” will do no good because junta just keeps on with its human rights abuses. It has carried on military campaigns against all the ethnic groups and is attacking its own people, if you haven’t heard.

Anyone trying to be in this debate should do their own research.

The anti-sanctions clique has accepted money and other perks like free trips from the spdc, so hardly have a good reputation, but they keep trying.

Kyi May Kaung — please don’t miss-spell my name!

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Burl Ives-Ave Maria