Thein Pe Myint 1914–1978
Thein Pe Myint 1914–1978
(Sin Phe Mran, Thein Hpei Myint)
PERSONAL: Born July 10, 1914, in Bhutalin, Burma (now Myanmar); died January 15, 1978, in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar). Education: Attended Mandalay College and universities in Rangoon and Calcutta. Politics: "Nationalist/Marxist."
CAREER: Founder and editor of Botahtaung (newspaper; title means "Vanguard"); journalist and fiction writer from 1934. Member of Burmese Parliament, 1956–58.
Wut-htu-do baung-gyok, 1966, translation published as Selected Short Stories, Sarpay Yeiktha (Rangoon, Burma), 1973.
Selected Short Stories of Thein Pe Myint, translation and commentary by Patricia M. Milne, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1973.
Sweet and Sour: Burmese Short Stories, translation by Usha Narayanan, Sterling (New Delhi, India), 1999.
Author of Hsay Lun i ahtoupatti (title means "Biography of Thakhin koujito Hmaing"), 1936; Tek Bhountyi (novel; title means "Modern Monk"), 1936; Thabeik hmauk kyaung-tha (title means "The Student Boycott"), 1937; Tekkhit Nathsou (novel; title means "Evil Spirits of Modern Times"), 1938; Lanza paw-bi (title means "The Way Out"), 1949; Sis atwin Khayijthij (title means "Wartime Traveler"), 1953; Ashei ka neiwun htwek thij pama (title means "As Sure as the Sun Rising in the East"), 1958; Kyun-daw i achit-u (autobiography; title means "Literature, My First Love"), 1974; and Thu-do lin-manya 34 hnit (title means "Married for Thirty-four Years"), 1978.
SIDELIGHTS: As a young nationalist in Burma, Thein Pe Myint worked on behalf of antifascist forces as a member of the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League. Jailed for his activism from 1948 to 1949, Thein later became a leading figure in his country's literary revival, earning a place among the masters of his craft with the publication of his best-selling novel Modern Monk. During subsequent years, his output included biographies, short stories, travelogues, and memoirs, making him, as Anna J. Allott wrote in the Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, "one of the most widely read writers in Burma today and probably one of the most influential."
In 1999 a collection of Thein's short stories was published in English as Sweet and Sour: Burmese Short Stories, an apt title according to World Literature Today contributor Paul Sharrad. The stories, Sharrad explained, "range from comic love matches through satires of the rich and powerful to sympathetic portraits of poor but honest workers wrestling with temptation." To highlight the author's penchant for irony, Sharrad pointed to one tale, "She Broke Her Oars while Rowing." The story, in which a young woman turns to prostitution to help save her persecuted husband, demonstrates that in Burma, "High moral values frequently clash with economic survival in a world of debt and depression."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Prusek, Jaraslov, editor, Dictionary of Oriental Literatures, Volume II: South and South-East Asia, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1974.
Serafin, Steven R., editor, Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Taylor, Robert H., Marxism and Resistance in Burma, 1942–1945: Thein Pe Myint's Wartime Traveler, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 1984.
World Literature Today, autumn, 1999, Paul Sharrad, review of Sweet and Sour: Burmese Short Stories, p. 814.
Hindu Online, http://www.hindu.com/ (January 8, 2002), review of Sweet and Sour.