Monday, April 2, 2012

Why I Chose "From the Land of the Green Ghosts"

Once again I was thwarted in my attempt to find a novel from a Burmese author that has been translated into English. Once again (like for Cambodia) I could find nothing available, or at least nothing that I could easily obtain. My choices were again fiction written by an author not from Myanmar/Burma, or I could chose another autbiography, as I had done for Cambodia. So I picked "From the Land of  Green Ghosts." by Pascal Khoo Thwe.

When I picked up this book, I thought that "Pascal" was a name chosen by the author when he reached adolescence or adulthood,  as is often the case in China to be fashionable. I learned from the jacket, however, that Pascal was his birth name, given to him by his Christian parents when they were converted by Italian missionaries.

Pascal Khoo Thwe is not a part of the Burmese ethnic majority, but instead is a member  of the Padaung tribe, which are famous for their "long-necked angels", whih is their description of the women who are allowed, by good auspices at birth, to wear the copper coils around their necks. He survived the student uprisings in Mandalay, escaped to become a rebel, and then escaped again to study at Cambridge University. He currently lives in London.

A "green ghost", by the way, is someone who has died violently and continues to haunt the area where she or he perished; this is a continual cultural touch point in many ethnic groups of Myanmar/Burma.

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