Patron Aung San Suu Kyi says:
I am delighted to be Patron of the Irrawaddy Literary Festival. The success of the inaugural festival, in February 2013, demonstrated the importance of this unique literary endeavour, which I hope will become an annual event.
I look forward to taking part personally in the next Festival in 2014. The Festival will again provide a spotlight for some of the best of Burmese writing and bring to our attention some of the best of international authors. It is an exciting exchange which can only enhance our literary landscape.
I am truly thrilled to share with you the exciting news that one of our teachers, Tr. Brandilyn, has been one of two winners in October’s Monument Books Essay Competition. The grand prize was awarded at the Second Annual Irrawaddy Literature Festival in Mandalay (2014). I was at the first Annual Irrawaddy Literature Festival at Inya Lake Hotel earlier this year. It was a great pleasure to listen to Aung San Suu Kyi discuss the importance of literature in her life. I was especially touched by her support for mobile libraries to bring literature and books to the farthest village. It’s the kind of project that requires a lot of heart and dedication.
The essay topic of October asked contributors to discuss the importance of literature in their lives. In reading Brandilyn’s essay I was able to deeply understand how very enriched our writing and reading programs in the English Department are by having her on our staff.
The competition is open to essays in both Myanmar and English, and open to writers of all ages. Instructions are available on the Facebook pages of both Monument Books and the Irrawaddy Literature Festival.
One of our teachers as well as a winner of the competition essay is as follow:
What Literature Means to Me
As a child, some of my first memories stem from the story time my mother and I shared before she put me to sleep at night. It wasn’t until later that I truly understood the Frederick Douglas quote she used to always say to me. Once you learn to read, you are forever free.
Literature frees and empowers me in so many ways. It provides me with endless knowledge so I may continually learn and grow as a person. After first experiencing the joys of reading, I found power that I realized could never be taken away. I make the decision to constantly educate myself through the gifts of literature and literacy and the impacts affect me daily. I learn about what is happening in the world around me through newspapers, biographies, articles and endless arrays of books. Without these things, I will be lost. Without these things, I wouldn’t have been able to find or know myself, nor others. Through literature, I learn to value the struggles, failures and victories of everyday people and those well known. When reading these stories, I am affirmed that I am not alone. I can find inspiration, motivation, gratitude and strength. Compassion deepens when I humanize and relate in the words of others. The heroes that make me strive to better myself and make a difference in the world.
Literature means emotion. A roller-coaster that takes me speeding around sharp twists and turns. Sometimes it a joyous and fascinatingly spirited ride. Other times it is heart wrenching, unpredictable, astonishing and frightening. reality in the purest form. It is the legacy we leave behind not just as authors and storytellers, but as a collective group whose epic societal failures and accomplishments are recorded for all to see. These are our histories that can be erased no matter how tragic or grand, and are timelines of mortal actions that are perpetually archived through words.To me, literature is yin and yang. While some mornings I m left pessimistic after reading the news, I can quickly restore my positivism by seeking out beautiful stories. The wonderful stories don’t usually sell newspapers;nonetheless, they are still there.Literature is the natural duality that keeps me informed and enriched, no matter how good or bad.
Literature is escape from reality in the healthiest way possible. Reading fiction is like time traveling because I can instantly delve into a novel from the 19th Century and dream about a time when language was so eloquent and romantic.When I read AnnaKarenina I remember thinking, I dont want this story to end because I was so consumed by the precise imagery that Tolstoy created in his pages. That story changed my life because I was so enthralled and exhilarated by the language. Literature is our journey into the past and allows us to keep great traditions and works of art alive in the present. It helps us understand where we come from, how we evolved, guides us towards the future, and adds meaning to our often chaotic, fantastically tremendous lives.
More than anything, I have literature to thank for teaching me how to express myself to the world. If it wasn’t for literature, I would be capable of writing this essay to articulate what it means to me. The more I read, the better I am at finding my inner voice. the voice that erupts when I draw my solitudinous thoughts onto paper. I know it wouldn’t be possible to write from the heart without the collaboration of voices that guide my penned expressions. From this, I believe that I too, can leave a legacy that states, I was here and had something to say.