Reflections in verse
INIPPUM PULIPPUM: Thein Pe Myint, translated by S. Perumal from the English translation of Usha Narayanan; Poompuhar Padhippagam, 63, Prakasam Salai, Chennai-600018. Rs. 100.
LUCK HAS smiled upon the Burmese short story writer, Thein Pe Myint, at last. The First Lady of India chose to translate his stories into English for publication in Frontline as little was known about him in India. Which is a pity for there should be a definite interaction between ex-colonial countries at the level of literature. This is a forum where we can share the agony and ecstasy of poverty and freedom respectively.
Thein Pe Myint was one of the finest spokesmen of the Left movement in Burma. While studying in the college, he became a student leader and news correspondent of New Light of Burma. This was good seedtime for him and he soon blossomed into a writer while completing his law studies.
As one who was sympathetic towards the British during the Second World War, he had to go underground to avoid the Japanese. There were dramatic turns in his political life, related with sympathy by Usha Narayanan in her preface. It is sad that such a talented, creative writer like him had to pour much of his creative hours into the "malbowges" of Burmese politics.
All the same, it is surprising that he was able to leave behind novels, innumerable short stories, a biography of Kyaw Nyein, essays and travelogues when he died in 1978 at the age of 64.
He was also the founder-editor of Botataung, which was proscribed by Ne Win in 1959. Usha Narayanan confesses that she had taken "the liberty of abbreviating long descriptive passages and changing the titles of some of the stories". But the rich texture of Thein Pe's writings is self-evident for they have even survived a double translation very well.
Though Thein Pe was a leftist, he did not care to write fire-belching propaganda. He saw the reality around and transferred his vision to verbalised portraits. The scenarios appear familiar to the Indian experience. Probably this is the reason why Prof. Perumal's translation has a natural flow. The insensitive rich, the quiet frustration of the poor and the leery members of legislative assemblies who have bought their seats for a few thousands of rupees are nothing new to the Indian clime.
Thein Pe's stories are more like rough notes botched together. Probably he never had time to sculpt his stories to perfection. Even the tightening up by Usha Narayanan has not helped them in any big way. Again, it may be that a good deal of the original verve in Burmese is lost in the translation. But as an enlightened analysis of the state of a nation where the majority of the population lives in villages, the book is doubly welcome for the Tamil reader.
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