Thant Myint-U: The unbearable burden of history

The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and the Crisis of Democracy in the 21st Century By Thant Myint U Norton, 288 pp In all my years of writing and journalism, the only time I recall ever being turned down for an interview at an arts event was when Thant Myint-U, pre-eminent historian on Burma and grandson of U Thant, third Secretary-General of the United Nations (1961-71), snubbed me before his appearance at the Irrawaddy…

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So Long, Myanmar—and Au Revoir, Burma

  Back in February, while sitting down for lunch in Mandalay with Karen Connelly, I reminded the award-winning author of The Lizard Cage of something she had said while promoting her 2009 memoir, Burmese Lessons. Connelly had told an interviewer that, after finishing her epic novel, she thought she was “done with Burma”—meaning as a destination, as place to live, and as a subject for writing. However, having found that she had much more to say…

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Yangon Diary: Bomb Blasts a Dark Omen

  YANGON—On Tuesday morning, I received a message from a friend in Vancouver I had just wished a happy birthday. “Thanks Dan,” she said, “I hope you’re having a blast in Yangon.” I winced at the unintended irony: my friend had no way of knowing that Yangon had just been shaken by a series of bomb blasts. Minutes before receiving her note, I learned that another bomb had exploded just before midnight on Monday at…

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Yangon Diaries III – The Post-Dictatorship Newsroom

YANGON—The independent newspaper I’m working for is located in a six-storey low-rise just two blocks from our apartment. The English edition is on the fifth floor, where foreign staffers enjoy an air-conditioned room while local reporters and translators share a long, two-sided bank of open cubicles in the main hallway. The locals use decrepit PCs that seem ready for the dust heap—but at least they have computers. It was only after I got here that I…

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