“Ma Le’s Bracelets” by U Win Pe

Ma Le’s Bracelets” is a story plotted around a Burmese husband’s domestic abuse toward his wife. The narrator reveals much more in the beginning about the husband Lay Than’s character: he is Westernized, self-indulgent and abusive. The wife, Ma Le, is revealed more indirectly, shown gradually rather than described outright. The narrator implies her exchange of food with neighbors, as well as her attachment to her bracelets, a family inheritance. When Ma Le’s husband sells the bracelets for money, he forces Ma Le to say that she lost them. Fearing his violence, Ma Le complies, but she can’t stop her tears or her rage from coming out, even if slightly. The story ends on an ominous note, as Lay Than sees his true character revealed in his wife’s eyes, an “I know you know I know” moment. More notably, the story elicits Ma Le’s irrepressible spirit despite her own efforts to quell it for her survival.

The story suggests on a larger level Burma’s indignation over British colonial rule, shaded by Lay Than’s Westernized behavior, and Ma Le, completely Burmese, who acts with grace and dignity, submitting to abuse without losing her humanness. The depictions of Ma Le’s attempts at complicity toward her husband are eloquent and revealing.

Compared to other stories I read recently, “A Husband,” by Prema Shah, and “A Blaze in the Straw,” by Guruprasad Mainali (1), it does not speak as directly to the concerns of women who experience domestic violence, but by framing it metaphorically still evokes the problem of abuse, particularly in post-colonial families. I count it among other South Asian stories that depict domestic abuse in a manner directly or indirectly raising consciousness about the issue.

  1. Hutt, M. (1991). Himalayan Voices : An Introduction to Modern Nepali Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press.
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Additional Asian literature and academic links

In the past week, I’ve found many other additions for my various link lists:

Occidental writers in Asia

Joan Grigsby (1891-1937) Part Two: an occidental poet in Korea revealed through Brother Anthony’s extensive web resources.

Becoming Wu De: A Conversation with the founder of Global Tea Hut: interview relating the background of author Aaron Fisher, who lives in Taiwan and has written several books on tea and spirituality.

American poetry

Suji Kwock Kim: a contemporary Korean-American poet.

Burmese literature

Win Pe Mya Zin: contemporary Burmese writer’s Facebook page; will need a Facebook account to read his poetry.

Sadaik: blog about literature of Myanmar and its translation by author Lucas Stewart.

Modern Burmese Literature: article in The Atlantic by U On Pe relating information about Burmese literature from ancient times up to the present.

Burma (Myanmar): from Poetry International Rotterdam. Contemporary Burmese poets, poetry and articles about Burmese literature.

Japanese literature

Gendai Haiku: site about contemporary Japanese haiku poets and poetry.

Korean literature and academic resources

Japanese Poetry Persists in Korea, Despite Disapproval: article in The New York Times about Koreans interested in haiku poetry since the time of Japanese colonial rule; aesthetic differences between Korean and Japanese haiku also mentioned.

The Sejong Cultural Society writing page: Korean short stories and sijo poetry; encourages young American writers to explore Korean culture.

LTI Korea: Literature Translation Institute of Korea; has e-zines available for download, as well as resources about currently published Korean books and translation grants.

The Daesan Foundation: provides grants for those researching and translating Korean literature.

Doosan Yonkang Foundation: provides scholarships and research funds for Korean literature scholars.

The Academy of Korean Studies: research institute aimed at promoting Korean culture and literature overseas; includes the Jangseogak Archives, containing records and books pertaining to Korean history.

American, Asian, and Southeast Asian literature link list

I organized a link list to be featured on my main page, compiling all of my browser bookmarks for online resources of the American, Asian, and Southeast Asian translated literature I have found within the past few months.