Deeper Truths
covering burma and southeast asia
Monday, September 25, 2017
Magazine

BOOK REVIEW

Deeper Truths


By Khin Maung Soe JANUARY, 2007 - VOLUME 15 NO.1


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Master storyteller Win Pe uses the framework of everyday life in Burma as a foundation for exploring the darker side of human nature

 

Barafi and Other Stories, by Win Pe, Khit Pyaing Publishing House, 2006. P434.

The “barafi” in the title of Win Pe’s popular collection of short stories refers to an Indian cake made with sweet milk. Indeed, most of these stories address subject matter that, o­n the surface, appears rather mundane—like cake or a new pair of eyeglasses. Careful readers, though, will discover a rich subtext at work that requires considerable reflection to appreciate the subtleties of Win Pe’s stories.

This collection, published in Burmese in 2006, brings together 39 of Win Pe’s best-known short stories written between 1989 and 2006. Several have appeared previously in Burmese language journals. Three of the stories (“The Day the Weather Broke,” “A Pair of Specs” and “The Middle of May”) were translated into English and published in Inked Over, Ripped Out (1994) by Anna J Allot.

 

Win Pe writes about much more than daily life in contemporary Burma. He blends elements of fantasy and fairy tale to address the subject of human nature, thereby speaking to his readers o­n a deeper, inner level. The state of Burma’s censorship laws precludes overtly political or socially activist themes, but in many instances such themes can be drawn—with or without the author’s intent—from the text.

 

The title story “Barafi” tells of a man who cherishes the traditional Indian snack—popular in upper Burma—so much that he hopes, o­n his deathbed, to be able to eat it o­ne last time. He marries a woman wealthy enough to provide him with barafi every day. When he is later trampled by an elephant and lies dying in the jungle, he thinks about his beloved snack, which has consumed his thoughts for most of his life. In his final moments, he realizes that the loss of barafi is not so tragic, and he dies peacefully.

 

In “Booze for Chetkyi,” a man receives a visit from a much-respected village teacher, who asks for an alcoholic beverage. Chetkyi can o­nly offer him water from an empty liquor bottle.



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