I happened to read two books by Moe Kyaw Zin in the past week. He won Myanmar National Literary Awards for 2019 with his novel, The Fisherman. I bought a few Burmese books in last December but haven’t read any since. While I was looking through my TBR pile of Burmese books last week, I found these two books by him—The Fisherman and A House in the Teashop—and decided to read them.
The Fisherman is about the lives of seamen who work in fishing vessel and their painful encounters on the ship. It tells through a group of seafarers who sold majority of their belongings or their family’s to work in the international shipping industry hoping for the betterment in life. The ill treatment they received once they are on the boats, the accidents they encountered, the danger of pirates they faced and worst of all, the exploitation of the agent and the company on them were told strikingly. However, I find the storytelling quite bland. Not articulate enough to probe the traumatic events these men had tormented, I think. The narrative is insipid and sometimes repetitive. Perhaps I expected more because it is a National Literary Award winning book.
In another book, A House in the Teashop, the protagonist is a boy in early teens and he narrates his agonising life and the people in his household. This working poor family live in a makeshift teashop which serves as a bedroom for the boy and his father at night. It’s a small teashop but seven people are living in it and depending on its income except one of his aunt who works at an office. Their fairly so-so life turns into chaotic when his father elopes with another woman. Since then, the unexpected turns of even beat them incessantly. The boy has to become a man. Vicissitudes of life unfairly disperse his family. In my opinion, it has a better narrative than the awarded novel, The Fisherman. It depicts the lives of a lower class family achingly.
In both books, I found more telling than showing in his storytelling. His stories are interesting but it needs a finer or more polished narrative, I guess.