Subscribe Now

travelers today

Home » Leisure

Myanmar's First Literary Festival: Irrawaddy Literary Festival, Showcased Local and International Writers

Travelers Today       By    Lena Vazifdar

Updated: Feb 04, 2013 03:15 PM EST

Text Size: A A A

Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech at Myanmar's first literary festival.(Photo : Reuters)

Myanmar's first literary festival, Irrawaddy Literary Festival was hosted on Feb. 1-3 in Yangon. The weekend event featured a diverse selection of acclaimed local and international writers.

This is an important turning point for Myanmar as in the recent past this type of festival would never have been allowed due to strict visa restrictions and censorship laws.

Jane Heyn, the festival organiser and wife of the British ambassador to Burma, said she first had the idea for the event two years ago, but her plans could not come to fruition until now because of the visa laws on foreigners.

Share This Story

"The overriding reason for having the festival was to give Burmese people a chance to read modern literature," she said to The BBC. "In many ways that was the inspiration, seeing how difficult it was to find new, modern, affordable literature. Everything was scored through with the censor's pen, it was impossible,"

Festival patron and Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi  said on the festival's website, "I am delighted to lend my support and personal participation to this first Irrawaddy Literary Festival. Literature has always been a big part of my life and I hope this festival, which brings together some of the finest talent from Burma, the UK and elsewhere will encourage more people to explore the world of literature and further their understanding of the English language."

The festival featured a number of notable literary participants including Jung Chang who wrote the books "Wild Swans" Three Daughters of China and "Mao: The Unknown Story." International writers included Fergal Keane, Rory MacLean, William Dalrymple George FitzHerbert, Nick Danziger and many more. Amongst the local writers Thant Myint U, Pascal Khoo-Thwe and U Thaw Kaung participated.

The official ending of censorship in Myanmar occured last August and a budding literary revival is underway. The BBC reported that during its 50 year reign of censorship, the country had some of the strictest controls on speech of anywhere in the world. Writers, photographers and creative in Myanmar faced imprisonment if any of the work they created was seen as offensive by government run censors.

Kho Thwe who is from Myanmar returned for the first time in 23 years to attend the festival after living in the UK and Norway in exile.

"Now the fog has lifted... for me it would have been unimaginable o think 20 years ago that we would have this much freedom, to come and celebrate things that were outlawed in the past," he said to the BBC.

Some writers believe the festival to be a sign that Myanmar's future of freedom of expression is making a bold turning point.

"The happening of this literature festival suggests that writers are going to have more freedom to write and are going to be able to express themselves more than before,"Jung Chang said to the BBC. "Myanmar seems to be going towards that goal of people feeling free to write and to publish and I think that is a wonderful thing and I wish the same process in China, where my books are banned."

Author of the books "The River of Lost Footsteps" and "Where Chian Meets India, Thant Myint-U spoke of Burma's rich literary culture.

"This is an incredibly literary culture," he said to The BBC."People read a lot, I don't know if it's because there is not much electricity and they don't have TV, but I think it's always been the case, it has survived for whatever reason."

© 2014 Traverlers Today, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Join Our Conversation

ADVERTISEMENT

Travel Tips

Blogs help you keep your family and friends updated.

So You Want to Write a Travel Blog? A Guide

So you do want to write a travel blog? Do not worry, it is not as hard as it seems. There are a few things, however, that you should keep in mind while creating, writing, and keeping up your blog. Here is a helpful guide to get you started.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive the latest travel news, reviews, and more..

Want more Travel?

Most Popular

Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines Loses Dog, Owner Left Clueless: Should He Sue Delta For Misplacing 'Very Precious Cargo?'

Delta Airlines loses dog after misplacing the dog owner's precious cargo on one of its recent flights. Now the owner is upset since he is left clueless by the airlines on what really happened to his pet.

columbus farmers market veggies

Columbus Farmers Market Fire: Spectacular Blaze Fueled By High Winds Severely Damages Sprawling Building In Burlington County

Strong winds fueled a growing flame leading to severe damages to a sprawling building at Columbus Farmers Market.

See pandas up close and personal at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Up Close and Personal with Giant Pandas: Chengdu is Calling

Settled in Southwest China is the city of Chengdu. It has lots of beautiful gardens and structures, but what it is most well known for is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. The research base is just outside the city center and gives tourists a chance to see giant pandas up close in a truly unique way.

Massive Delays, All Flights Halted At Chicago's O'Hare and Midway international airports due to air traffic control fire

Chicago Plane Crash 2014: Pilot Dies, Elderly Couple Miraculously Survive, What Led To Crash?

Chicago plane crash 2014 – Shortly after taking off at the Midway Airport Tuesday morning, a twin-engine cargo plane had crashed at the Southwest Side home. The plane's driver has been confirmed dead while the residents of the home, being an elderly couple, had miraculously survived.

Thai royal flag

Thai Radio Host Jailed: Five-Year Prison Sentence For Monarch Defamation, No Room For Appeal In Military Court?

A Thai radio host jailed recently was put behind bars for five years due to royal defamation, according to his lawyer Tuesday. The Thai radio host jailed is reportedly one of the first sentences passed by a military court for breaching the Lese Majeste Law since a May coup.

Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay: Fake Reservations At New Restaurant Are Part Of Rival's 'Sabotage' Plan

Gordon Ramsay got fake reservations in his restaurant and they were apparently from his rival restaurant.

Holiday Getaway

Why You Should Head To Europe For Your Next Holiday Getaway!

Thinking of traveling this Thanksgiving and Christmas season? But afraid spending much too much over your next last-minute getaway? Here are some of the best tips to follow if you intend to save much while enjoying the perfect European holiday getaway.

New York Pot Arrests

New York Pot Arrests: New Policy Promotes Summonses Instead Of Arrests Since Officers Want To Focus On Other Crimes

New York pot arrests are going to be different this time around after a few changes on the city's marijuana policy have been made.

USS Ross Sailors Attacked By Turkey Youth Union In Istanbul

USS Ross Sailors Attacked By Turkish Mob In Istanbul, Bags Placed Over Heads?

USS Ross sailors attacked by about 20 political activists happened in Istanbul Wednesday. Members of the Turkish Youth Union hurled objects at them, chased the three men and at one point, placed a bag over one of the heads of the USS Ross sailors attacked.

Find Us on Facebook

travelers today

© Copyright 2014 Travelers Today All Rights Reserved.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Real Time Analytics