Category Archives: Burma

Irrawaddy Literary Festival 2014

14 – 16 February 2014, Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma)
Under patronage of Aung San Suu Kyi

Burmese literature has a long tradition and goes back well over a thousand years. The oldest extant specimen is a stone inscription dated 1113 A.D., but it is believed that many older inscriptions have been lost or were destroyed during wars. Many of these inscriptions contain eloquent prayers and poems composed by royal ladies. Imaginative literature was written down on palm leaf manuscripts with a stylus, or in folded paper manuscripts in steatite pencil, often under the auspices of Buddhist monarchs. Historical ballads, verse romances, odes, metrical versions of Buddhist Jatakas, and poetic letters constitute this literature. These books flourished until printing became prevalent in the 19th century.

The introduction of printing into southern Burma in the early 19th century led to a change in Burmese literature. From 1875 onward, under British rule, the owners of printing presses began to publish popular works such as plays, complete with songs and stage directions. At the beginning of the 20th century, the first Burmese novels were published. The emergence of literary magazines in the 1910s stimulated the popularity of short stories and serialized novels. Nationalist and anticolonial themes were common in literature from the 1920s to the 1940s. Following Burmese independence in 1948, many writers tried to use literature to help create an egalitarian, democratic society. However, following the 1962 military coup, the Myanmar government pressured writers to adapt the themes and style of Socialist Realism, and freedom of expression continued to erode through the turn of the 21st century.

In 2013, the first Irrawaddy Literary Festival was being held in Burma. It has ignited international press and public interest and support. The Irrawaddy Literary Festival this year announces the participation of a wide range of highly esteemed Burmese and international authors, journalists and broadcasters, as well as literary agents and publishers.

The festival homepage provides more details of participating authors as well as a programme and media coverage.

Folio from a Burmese Kammavaca manuscript, 19th century

Folio from a Burmese Kammavaca manuscript, 19th century

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