Aung San Suu Kyi conducts discussions on literature with university students

State Counsellor Office
Aung San Suu Kyi conducts discussions on literature with university students.
The State Counsellor and Yangon university students held a discussion on literary fiction in the Yangon University Convocation Hall on August 28.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi started the discussion by saying, “I want to start the discussion with why this talk on literary fiction is being conducted. Not much need to be said on why people are taught and read non-fiction (scientific) literature. This is related to knowledge and to subjects we are formally taught.”
How does literary fiction support our education? It teaches us not only the subjects we are taught but also about life, living and existence. Saya Pe Myint discussed with me about holding a discussion on how literary fiction supports us. Our country is a developing country that just started on its path towards development and is not financially strong. But everyone, every society, every organization has their own strengths, weaknesses and advantages.
What makes a developing country that just started on its path towards development become strong? It is soft power or the power of the arts. That is why I discussed with Saya Pe Myint on encouraging arts.
Everyone in Myanmar as well as the world knows that the Korean drama series are influencing us with its soft power. We discussed on what sort of drama series or movies that would show our subtle soft power and we arrived at literature. Which novel should we make it into a movie? Which folklore should be made into a movie series? As we discussed this, Saya Pe Myint expressed his wish to conduct a discussion with youths on literary fiction and it ended up as this event.
When we look at the topics proposed by youths, we found that there were many subjects as their interest varies. But they all have one thing in common. That is the desire to talk.
Youths came up with a selection of about 15 to 20 books. We needed to narrow this down and from talks I had before, I found that Saya Mya Than Tint’s “Crossing amount a in of swords and a sea of fire” came up at the top. This was followed by Saya Mya Than Tint’s translation of “The Catcher in the Rye” and “Lover of Lingadipa” (by Chit Oo Nyo). These three books came up as the top three favorite books. Before we discuss about whether we like these three books or not, let us see if there is anything common or connection in these three books.
Saya Mya Than Tint wrote forwards to his two books as well as “Lover of Lingadipa.” In his forward to “Crossing a mountain of swords and a sea of fire” he said the novel is based on four main characters and he used them to express his views.
In his forward to “Lover of Lingadipa” Saya Mya Than Tint discussed about Ramayana. He didn’t discuss about his view, historical view and folklore view but said Saya (author) Chit Oo Nyo is indeed a good author.
So let us talk about what a novel is and what sort of a person is the author. How effective was he in exposing his views through the characters in the book?
Let us talk about the importance of the characters in the book. There is a theme (a story) and there are characters. Some say the theme is important. Some say the characters are more important. Some say both. Which is more effective? Based on the novel you read, discuss whether it is a theme or character based.
Ma Yi Mon Aung, Yangon Institute of Economics
I want to talk about my favorite novel “I came from southwest” written by Sayama Ponya Khin. It is about how a family was broken apart by Cyclone Nargis. The novel greatly affected my life and the lead character was the lone survivor of the family. She was devastated for four or five years but gradually her life returned to normalcy by the help of an educated person from Yangon who saved her.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
What do you think about the story that was based on the views and thoughts of the characters?
Ma Wint Myat Noe, Yangon Technological University
Both the story and the characters are important. Readers get thoughts and views through the thoughts and views of the characters. Another thing is the personality of the characters. It changes our lives.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
How many of you have read “The Catcher in The Rye?” Why do you like it?
Maung Kaung Htat Myet, Institute of Information Technology
This book shook the world. I like this book due to the personalities of the characters. People can’t be controlled and they change or learn through their mistakes. This is the main thinking of the character in this book.
Maung Min Thant Htoo, Yangon University of Medicine 1
When I read the translation by Saya Mya Than Tint, I saw myself in the book. I learnt that we have the same thoughts at the same age.
Maung Min Aye Chan Ko, Yangon University of Medicine 1
I don’t like “The Catcher in The Rye.” It is just an ordinary book about the situation and mindset of youths anywhere. Saya Aung Khin Myint’s “Essences that do not exist” really depicts the mindset of youth.
The difference is “The Catcher” is about a foreign country and Saya Aung Khin Myint’s book is about a young medical student around 1988-90 periods. Since I’m a medical student, I can feel it better and like it better than “The Catcher.”
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
Look at this in two ways. Literary fiction makes you understand yourself and also makes you understand others. It is not a good reason that you don’t like it because it is different from your situation. It is also not a good reason that you like it because it is similar to your situation.
The literary fiction should resolve both of these reasons. It helps you understand your own culture as well as make you aware of and understand other cultures. If you only read about yourself and your culture, you’ll be too narrow-minded.
Ma Yun Pwint May Thu, Yangon University
The book I like best is “A person like him” by Sayama Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay. The message I got from this book is that you don’t need to get out in the front or to be well-known to do what is good for the country. I learnt from the character in this book that you can do a lot for your country without trying to be famous or well-known.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
“A person like him” is literary fiction and non-fiction (biography). The book depicts political movement and literature of that age. Many like Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay’s “Thway” (Blood) but interestingly, the most famous novel by her “Not because of hate” was not liked by many.
Ma Aye Sandar Aung, National Management Degree College
The theme in “Not because of hate” was being restrictive because of love. It is being too controlling over the other. This breaks everything.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
Some say it is about different ways of loving. The comparison was in how Wei Wei’s father loved her mother and whether the mother loved the father. For many, the other interesting thing about the book is that it is based on the political movements during the time of Daw Ma Ma Lay (Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay).
Maung Bo Bo Hein, University of East Yangon
“Lover of Lingadipa” by Saya Chit Oo Nyo is the book that I like most. Normally, Rama is the hero and Demon King Ravana (Datha Giri) is the villain. However, Saya Chit Oo Nyo changes everything and shows Datha Giri in a more lovable way. If our country is also looked at it from another angle, hatred and ugliness can disappear and there’ll be peace.
I’d like to ask a question whether Amay Su can be a director in a story about our country and make it a better country.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
A director wouldn’t be able to produce a movie alone. There needs to be actors that are the people of the country. A good movie does not come about because of a good director alone or good actors. Camera men need to be good too. Praising the director too much can create a dictator. So which is more important? The character or the story?
Ma May Yadana Oo, Yangon University of Foreign Languages
In some novels, characters are important. In some, the story makes the characters go along with the plot. In the novel “In remembrance” by author Juu, the mindsets of the characters led the story.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
Books by Sayama Moe Moe Inya reflect more on social life. But these authors write more about love. Which do you think is more import? The character or the story?
Maung Htat Naing Aung, Yankin Education College
I think character is more important. The book I like most is written by Sayama Khin Khin Htoo about a young teacher who came to a village.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
I haven’t read that book. But I do read a lot about teachers. I like those very much because I want to encourage education in our country. To be successful in education, we need good teachers very much.
Ma Aye Min Thwe, Yankin Education College
I read everything. As I read a lot since I was young, I look at everything from a better angle. Now I’ve become a teacher. In fact I had no plans to become one. But due to various circumstances, I became one. As I became a teacher, I read books about teachers. Sayama Khin Khin Htoo’s book taught me what sort of mindset a teacher should have.
Maung Zaw Lin Naing, Dagon University
In novels, both the story and characters play their parts. But I think characters are more important. This is because of the character in the book Pollyanna (by Eleanor H. Porter).
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
Pollyanna is (a) famous (book). Interesting thing is that values and outlooks changes as time changes. Pollyanna was once famous and popular. But later, some say it was excessively cheerful and optimistic. This is the change in values and outlooks as time changes.
Hatred seems to have overtaken love and some say the era of Pollyanna is gone. But the world would be in trouble if this were so. That is why earlier I discussed about comparing the cultures. We need to compare the culture in “The Catcher In The Rye” and our culture. We have to take lesson.
Whether we want it or not, the world is coming to our country. We’ll have to know how to live with the world. What do you think? How can our discussion on literary fiction support the world, the country and humanity’s progress?
Ma Than Thar Cho The, Yangon University of Medical Technology
For me, literary fiction changed and developed my life. It changed my heart and mind. Books by Dr. Jose Rizal was important for Philippine’s independence and so were poems and writings of Thakin Kodaw Hmaing for our independence.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
Literary fiction should make people better. Nowadays some say art is for art’s sake and there shouldn’t be a place for preaching. What do you think about this?
Ma Thin Thin Thaw, Yangon University of Medicine 2
Literary fiction surely influences people. I read a book about a single mother in a literary fiction and understand well about single mothers. Since then, I have respect for single mothers.
The talk on literary fiction then came to a conclusion after State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had a commemorative group photo taken with students who participated in the event.
After the event, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had tea together with students who participated in the event and they were joined by Union Ministers, Yangon Region Chief Minister, region Hluttaw Speaker, Region Government Ministers, Rectors and Pro Rectors of universities and colleges in Yangon, leading authority on library U Thaw Kaung and librarians from universities. Afterwards the State Counsellor signed the visitors’ book.