By Hu Wo (Cuckoo's Song)
OF LIVING literature types until now, short stories are my favourite piece of writing. Just as they are called so, short stories are not often long to be read non-stop from beginning to end. They usually contain only a few main characters, being written about imaginary events of life. Ma Sanda, who has been around as a famous Myanmar novelist, also said that writing short stories looks like throwing one fish in the water with a harpoon. What she means is that only if a short story can give its only purpose to readers will it get to her point. As for me, I prefer reading non-fiction to fiction. However, I knew that short stories can be like windows in the world. This means that short stories can tell us many real-life situations in the world very often.
As mentioned above, short stories may show us a short read, the only significant purpose of life, and a practical outlook on this world. Since going to university I have read a lot of short stories by many writers including U Phoe Kyar, Min Thu Wun, Theikpan Maung Wa, Mg Htin, Thawda Swe, Nay Win Myint, Khin Khin Htoo and Nu Nu Yi Innwa. Almost all their stories are always based on real-life rather than imagination only. Accordingly, I think that these stories are not only a good read for bookworms but also an absolute must for all lovers of short stories.
Effects of Working Like a Coolie for Free (A-Kha-MaeKuli-Htan-Chin-Ei-Akyoe) was one of the short stories from Personal Stories (Kotwe-Wuthtu-Myar) written by U Phoe Kyar, a minister of national education in the colonial age. This story expresses the foolish characteristics of an unqualified learner tactfully. Additionally, the story told us that knowledge is not a thing in notebooks but one in the very memory of a person. It was about a foreign learner named Mg Thaung who studied in England, and his family too.
Min Thu Wun wrote a sort of tragedy under the title of Uncle Aung Told a Lie (Bagyi- AungNya-Tal). It was a short story in which a little child called Mg Chit lusted for princess-shaped ivory of great beauty made by U Aung Cha. At the end of the story, this child passed away for not getting that ivory and then the author set down the sufferings of being unable to bring something even though it is a yearning for someone. After reading this short story, I was aware that my eyes suddenly filled with tears.
Besides the above-mentioned story, Auction (Le-LanPwe) by Theikpan Maung Wa was my favourite short story. From the auction, I realized that any job or work should never be hurried indiscriminately. In the fifteen-minute time of the auction, a character Pan Oo's personal wealth was brought low while he was suffering disfigurement in future. Furthermore, we can see some reflections on the Myanmar administration during the colonial times if we have read this story. Both stories are from Modern Stories (Khitsan-Ponepyin-Myar) written by the five writers and edited by U Pe Maung Tin.
Like Theikpan Maung Wa, Mg Htin took a position of administration under the British colonies. Ko Daung written by him has become a popular book of short stories among devotees of social satire.
Of the nine stories included in the book, the short story I preferred was Dawei Longyi, which is an allusive satire on a person's unadaptable style of life. To my amazement, the whole book fully contains a good sense of humour about life. He and Theikpan Maung Wa were mostly found to have written short stories relying on their job experiences.
Thawda Swe's descriptive short stories of life take a favourite place in mine. The author had achieved literary awards up to three times for his work of short stories. The names of his three books to be awarded were Various Lives (Bawa-Htohto), The Life Cycle of Animals (Thattawa-Doe-Ei-Thanthaya), and In This World (Ei-Lawka-Myaemahi-Wal). Because I have loved all his short stories of life descriptions, I find it difficult to choose my favourites. As for me, three great favourites of his are Experienced (Kyune-KaeYa-Thi) from the first one, Tatee and Maedu (Tatee-Nint-Maedu) from another, and People's Mind (Lu-Manaw) from the other. He had been around as the cabby of a pony cart for years to my knowledge. He, therefore, relied consciously upon his cabby experiences while writing a quite large number of short stories.
Nay Win Myint's Parrot (Kyattuyawe) has become an unforgettable short story for me. It is from Watering River Short Stories (Yethonemyit-Wutthuto-Myar) of his. The story has shown that anyone need view the long-term effects of some work whatever he does, as the writer's professional connotation. The main characters in the story were Ko Kyauk Tone, his wife Ma Toyote Ma and his only son Than Gae. In the story, Ko Kyauk Tone did the performance as an assumed parrot for his beloved Than Gae whenever he wanted to see so. After several months, Ko Kyauk Tone looked like a real parrot strangely. I am sure that story will beckon you to its end with a large amount of humour by the time you read it.
Among Myanmar woman writers, Khin Khin Htoo and Nu Nu Yi Innwa are the ones I admire most about short stories. I like The Betel Basket (Phatsame-Kuntaung) by Khin Khin Htoo and One Little Htami (Htami-Lay-Ta-Hte) by Nu Nu Yi Innwa best in comparison with their other pieces of story writing. Author Khin Khin Htoo had won the 2003 National Literary Award for the above book of short stories collection. Writer Nu Nu Yi Innwa began setting foot in the field of literature with the mentioned short story in 1984. Their short stories were concerned with the real lives of people and their social environments in all seriousness as well. There are still other short story writers such as Mann Tin and Min Shin in the Myanmar literature field.
Importantly speaking, a short story seems to be a kind of fiction sometimes since the situations in every place are different from each other quite often. That means we require putting ourselves in others shoes. Hence, we must try to think about the characters and events in the story to find out whether or not these facts ensure the consistency of naturalness or logic to its ending. We have to consider the three manners of a character — how to do, what to say and which attitude to have — when reading some short story. Subsequently, we need not search for happy endings during our read of any story. If short stories let us know lots of truths about life, they will probably open a window into the world for us.