Hidden Words, Hidden worlds is an anthology of contemporary short stories from Myanmar published by the British Council in 2017. An e-copy of this book can be downloaded for free on the British Council website. Here’s the download link.
It is fascinating to learn the process of this translation anthology of multi-ethnic languages into English. For those of you interested to get a glimpse of what you’ll be getting into, I have shared the preface by the Director of the British Council Myanmar and preface by Lucas Stewart in following slides.
14 short stories featured in this book are from diverse ethnic groups and written in their respective languages—Mon, Sgaw Karen, Kayah Li, Shan Gyi, Jinghpaw, Lai Hakha and Rakhine. Some stories are about the colonial time, some are about uprising under the dictatorship as well as some are stories of the lives in rural places. A few of my favourites are Kaw Tha Wah The Hunter, A Bridge Made from Cord, and A Flightpath for Spiritual Birds. Some historical backgrounds and folklores were appropriately wedged and hence, the story becomes more intriguing. In general, this is a great mixture of stories reflected on issues of political, social, religion, family, love, life, etc of past and present Burma.
Most of the stories are told in linear narrative with simple form of storytelling. As a lover of sophisticated (or complex) narrative, this is a bit of a let down. One story in particular bugged me because it has a mixed use of first person narrative and third person narrative for multiple times! Not sure if it was a translation mistake or editorial error. Apart from these two small issues, it was an enjoyable read.
It is very rare to see Burmese books, especially fiction, translated into English. There are some non-fiction books written or translated into English. There are also a handful of books (mostly memoirs) written in English on diaspora voice by Burmese living outside of Burma. So, as a person who always wants to share his country’s work of literature to other (English) readers, I’m glad this project was initiated and successfully published.