Saturday, October 31, 2015

Your reading for All Souls' Day or Halloween--

Band of Flesh print edition--+ review
Band of Flesh e edition + one review They have different cover designs.

Dream-Nightmare--Flash fiction--Sword Mistress of Sea Land by Kyi May Kaung

Sword Mistress of the Sea Lands.

Zerlina was preparing for a children's party, of the little boy who played chess, and his younger brother who did not eat well.

The elder boy was developing well, but the translucent skin and extreme thiness of the younger boy was worrying.

The party was to be across the 40 storey courtyard of The Building, which was U-shaped or E-shaped.

Long ago, Zerlina had visited with the old man and woman on the same storey across the courtyard.

She saw them every evening just before both she and they drew the drapes, when you took photos of the blazing sunsets, helped along by polluting elements in the air.

They had a big dining table set at right angles to the picture window and Zerlina well remembered the evening when they had put up their big canvas tapestry of Mongol warriors galloping on the steppe.

The artist, whoever he was, was so skillful that it looked like the horses were galloping out of the window, across the air, and right into Z's condo.

This somehow set up a connection, and one fine day while the old lady had a scarf around her head, and was cleaning her windows from the inside, Z decided to visit with the older couple telepathically.

It wasn't difficult at all.  She just zoomed into their heads and started chatting.

She learned that he had worked for The Company in the past.  One of his posts might have been Mongolia, but he was not allowed to talk about it.

In any case, Z told them that she would introduce them to the Mr. Park whom she had met while sitting and resting and having a coffee and a plain donut, after the terrible trauma of the stress test, when she thought she would die in that coffin-like thing.

Mr Park might even have been stationed in Mongolia and Central Asia, for he spoke of his feelings of guilt in not being able to save his Mongolian contact by bringing him out with him on the Trans Siberian Railway.

From the way he spoke, Z could not figure out which way he was traveling, east to west or west to east.

Anyway, there he was in the concession stand of the hospital in Virginia now, serving coffee to the ill people who came there, and their companions.

Z. fully believed that Mr Park was a former spy, just as he said he was.

He still jerked his head around every 30 seconds to pan the room with his eyes for security reasons.

When Z mentioned Mr Park to James and Gill, James did not let on by any change in expression that he knew Mr Park and had been his handler, but Z knew anyway.

About the children's party, they said, Poor children, we will be happy to host the party.

So Z started preparing her extra-sharp swords, which were so thin and so sharp, she could wrap them around her neck like a scarf, but only of she wished to commit suicide.

Then she didn't know where to keep the swords, as she wanted them to be safe when the children came around.

So she hung them behind the closet, covered with a cloth.

But she was a bit afraid of the elder boy and his intense curiosity and extreme intelligence.

A few Easters ago, when the Sea Land economy was still suffering from over control by the Center, Mark, the elder boy had discovered her whole stash of cakes and breads she had been baking since January, in the cool space between the closets which formed a V.

The younger boy Fishy was too weak most times to do any exploring.  He mostly just dozed on this mother's breast, his eyelids almost transparent. 

Z wondered if his mother still breast fed Fishy.

As he was falling asleep his fingers groped for his mother's breast and she said, Oh No, No, and patted his hand away.

In her dream the sword fell past her right ear and she heard the swish of air.

She wondered how she could hear so well now, even in her dreams.

The guests started arriving.
Suddenly, the white drapes and the window to the right of James' and Gill's was pushed open and a man stood there, who looked like a camera man.

He shouted across to Z, Where is that party?

And without thinking, Z shouted back, in 3013.

Copyright Kyi May Kaung

Ai Wei Wei Alcatraz

Here--Ai Wei Wei Alcatraz--

incld lego portraits, incld 2 from Burma--

Re-posting--because it's worth it--Maru--

Our Late Dear Departed
Copyright Maru (Kyaw Aung Lwin)

Translation Copyright Kyi May Kaung

Our late dear departed
You won’t be on time.
As for us we aren’t quite sure
The train has not yet – arrived. 
There are many fallen – on our side.
Before – the enemies have become friends, the friends
Have become enemies.

In that kind of – rather messed up
Raggedy rundown country, with its rather
Wobbly, lopsided history
We are backward in everything
Backward behind
In monsoon winds
Backward behind in
The sun rising, and the tide
Backward behind, in education
In rock music, tin beer cans
Tissue paper and lavatories that keep
The flies, firmly, out.

From these things to something called
Democracy.  We are behind in everything
Most clearly and effectively, behind.
In that place we had to trade, for something called
Human rights
with our lives.

Before our young men have become
Buddhist novices
They have gone, early into prison.
Before they’ve even gotten
A little diploma
They’ve been sentenced
A heavy jail term.
Before they’ve even gotten themselves
A little sweetheart, they’ve become
Long-term prison residents.

It’s that kind of country, with that kind of hatchet marks and
Stab wounds on it.  That kind of struck dumb nation
Notched crooked nation.

The kind of nation where, even without
Anything to eat, you have to meet
Your financial obligation.

That kind of nation where even though
Married, children have to be carefully
Prevented, with permanent

That kind of country where, if it
Becomes unbearable, and you want
To vomit in disgust, you’d better plan
A silent noiseless

That kind of country where lives
Slowly become small
And insignificant.

Where husband and wife
Start to fight more and more.
Where you soon lose

Where you begin to suffer from
Malnutrition, where
evil deeds multiply, where
the bad stars cast their light, growing
cruel and oppressive, where
rather than live one would
rather die.

A great nation like that where
The seeds of our dreams never reach

A great nation where many fall and die
Where the standard of living is low
The death rates high.

A great nation that can’t hold up
Its head, among others.
A great nation that is, below par.
A great nation that isn’t, truly human.
Where it isn’t worth it, to be
A human being.

A nation without a parliament, our great
Royal nation, of course.

But there are people who would
Like to see that country
Of all countries shining gold
Would like the country to be
accepted among all others.

Our martyrs, our late
dear departed have died
for their beliefs, been
crushed, their blood fallen
on black earth.

Those of us remaining, can only
Quite often, pray
And pay our respects, to the fallen, as to
The Buddha in this
Country of ours where
Morning has
Not yet

That’s all!


Quote of the day--from Ai Wei Wei--

Halloween Special (All Souls Day)

quote of the day, from Ai Wei Wei Alcatraz site--

see what all the fuss is about.

“The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case. When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill.”
— Ai Weiwei

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Maurice Collis's She was a Queen and me--

While growing up in Rangoon, Burma between 1950 and 1957 or 1962, I did not have the honor, nor do I think did my family, or knowing Maurice Collis in person.

We did, as I have related elsewhere, know Saya Luce well.

I first read Maurice Collis's She was a Queen (my father's copy?) and F. Tennyson Jesse's The Lacquer Lady when I was 11 or 12.  Certainly before my father died when I was 13.

So, though I liked both books, I was rather young to appreciate the political aspects, though my father talked a lot of me asking him questions, like Indira Gandhi or her father Nehru, and he answering, but I did not have a clue of what to ask.)

The Lacquer Lady was a library copy from the Methodist High School.

There, with Mrs Rogers, I repeated 2 years of Burmese history in the 8th grade, because my cousin Mongoose and I were "too young" to make the school-leaving Matriculation legal age, and my father and mother, and my aunt and uncle were so upright, they refused to lie on our behalf.

Everyone else's parents lied.

This was because we had had a jump promotion in 5th grade as gifted students.

Anyway, when I think of it now, it must have been in this tiddly boring 8th grade year that I read on my own so much.

When I think of how Z's daughter for instance has been doing college courses since she was in x grade for donkey's years, I think how stupid the Burmese rule-oriented school system was/is.

I know the Harry Tan 7th standard debacle happened when I was in 7th grade, and shortly after my father had to go to Calcutta to print the exam questions, and that was where he died after a car accident.

And since he died in Feb of 1957, I remember the few years after as very traumatic, esp. for me.

And I don't think I had much opportunity to range around reading novels once we lived with Mongoose's parents, and I entered the prep for the 10th grade with perhaps special tuition in math with Miss Hallegwa, I cannot remember very well.

But the second year of 8th grade repeat for me was pretty easy and I did get a lot of attention from Mrs Rogers in history class.  I was her only student.

So maybe that was when I formed an attachment to fiction and historical fiction, but not with the intensity with which I read now.


And once I entered the Ecos. Honors or General Honors Program, there was not much time to read "outside stuff" though I read anything I could find and do remember discussing Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, with my ecos. mentor Dr Findlay.

I did know that Collis had been inspired by GH Luce, as related here in Mya Than Tint's introduction.

My brother would sometimes relate to me anecdotes he learned of from reading magazine articles, such as Collis' account of the wedding of Yadana Nat Mei's mother to Mr Bellamy, "her hair charged with orchids" and his description of nondescript younger sister Amy of Kitty Ba Than (Mrs NW) the dominant sister, so to speak.

And I always remember Collis' description of the nat from Tharabha Gate, "shot through and through with a Mongol arrow."

(I don't know why Mya Than Tint transliterated Mongol as "Mongoke")

I left Burma in 1982 and so enrolled in an MA and PhD program in USA, I did not have much time to read fiction, though I did, buying second hand books 20 to 40 pounds at a time, at yard sales in Princeton.

(Thank you my friends who took me around and hosted me for countless weekends).

--Only in 1998, while working at the radio station I heard Mya Than Tint died, and that's when my brother-in-law found me a copy of his Dah Taung, about his time as a prisoner on the Coco Islands, presented as a semi-autobiographical novel.

That's the time I myself became interested in translating the best of the best of Burmese prison novels into English.

--In about 2003, while I was working at The Burma Fund, NLD Daw San San, sister of Thakin Tha Khin came to DC from Maesod on Burma-Thai border.

It was a cold gloomy day, but Mrs SW wanted to take her to see the cherry blossoms, so I went along.

While having coffee afterwards, I urged Daw San San to apply for asylum in the USA, "because anyone can come across the border and kill you" and in fact this happened to Padho Mahn Sha a few years later.

--She on the other hand only wanted a copy of She was a Queen.

I cld not give her mine as I had paid $79 for it in 1998, though I only paid $7 for Siamese White (equally good) at Second Story Books.

The rest, such as Lords of the Sunset, I bought as re-printed (not xeroxed) books in Thailand while traveling.


What I want to say is the relationship between a reader and a book is closer than that with any other lover.

It is always there, and will resurface, like say, one's love of swimming and the sea, or the taste of salt water, or the salt spray on one's face.

Mya Than Tint has been described as "capable of being a world class writer, if only he had not lived under a repressive regime," and had to make a living translating.

Even then I am told, the regime dislikes Collis's She was a Queen, due to the fictional love affair between the queen and a Chinese diplomat, that Collis put in, for a love interest, no doubt.

MTT says a translator is like someone who adopts a child--gradually, you come to love the adopted as much as your natural child.

Certainly I appreciate U Win Tin's tight rhyming, spoonerism filled sentences and keen observation now I have spent hours translating it.

My sister and I would walk around Bangkok book stores, and she would lament, "They are so far ahead of us now, everything has been translated."

(And she would lament as we drove around, "Pretty soon they will have more teak trees than we do, just you see.")

All I wish to say is if you have time and you are pretty good at both languages but esp. in English, pl do translate.

Prof Howard Goldblatt said, "Even if I only translated Mo Yan, I could never keep up."

-- and so it goes for me too.

A Time to Write.

Sinkhole--A Poem

Why tell me
to get with it
and say the em word
you goats' balls
you cock suckers
you extreme nationalists

or just plain spineless when

there is no more E and W Germany
only Germany

when the USSR is now Russia again

Petrograd St Petersburg--

Stalingrad--don't know what it's called now.

When there's no more N and S Vietnam

and China is socialist in name only


a practicing market economy with the central committee making all the decisions?

Think about it.

Why is there a shortage of women in China.

Why is Burma or yes, the em place, a source of trafficked women and children

jade timber you name it.

Shall we call it the place where one was born but could not live
the place where they misuse Buddhism
the place with more than 1 million internally displaced

the place that does not like popular people

the place that wants to sit on you

the land of the caudillo like Pinochet

the disappeared like Chile

the military junta

the eff place

the hell hole

the uneven distribution of income

the land grabs

the prostitute nation named by Aung San--

and so on and so forth.

The dictatorship.

Just a place

but so full of

environmental degradation
moral corruption
starving children.

call it what you want or wish

it does not change things


you want something

from that regime.

What's in a name.

A sinkhole by any other name

would still stink





A good thing to read at Thadingyut--our Economics Mentors in Rangoon--

A good thing to read at Thadingyut, when we pay tribute to our elders--

Print. Edited by Kyi Kaung:
Co-authors: Daw Khin Khin Thein, Khin Pwint Oo, Ma Myo Nwe, U Hla Phyu Chit, Daw Sin Theingie, Daw Tin Htar Nu, Daw Yee May Kaung, Dr. Khin Saw Nyein.
Kindle edition below:

My archive at IISH, Amsterdam--