Sri Lankan writer

launches book in Yan­gon

The Myanmar Times - - Metro - SAN LIN TUN San Lin Tun is a free­lance writer of es­says, po­etry, and short sto­ries.

THE printed word is still very much alive in Myan­mar de­spite the on­slaught of new mass me­dia tech­nolo­gies and the dig­i­tal in­dus­try. Tes­ta­ment to this is the ubiq­ui­tous ven­dors sell­ing books and other printed ma­te­ri­als lined up on the streets or book­shops of all shapes and sizes sell­ing all kinds of printed ma­te­ri­als.

So it was just ap­pro­pri­ate that Pra­mu­dith D Ru­pas­inghe, a fa­mous Sri Lankan au­thor who now lives in Switzer­land, was treated like a rock star when he held a book sign­ing event in Yan­gon.

The event was held last week at In­nwa Books and Café in Myan­mar Plaza. In­nwa is one of the more fa­mous book­shop chains in Yan­gon.

Ru­pas­inghe, au­thored three pre­vi­ous nov­els that have been well-re­ceived by Myan­mar book lovers.

He is a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist by pro­fes­sion who has worked in var­i­ous parts around the world, from Haiti, to North­ern Rakhine as a hu­man­i­tar­ian di­plo­mat. He worked in Liberia as a men­tal health spe­cial­ist help­ing to deal with an Ebola out­break.

Re­cently, he be­gan to fol­low the ‘Semi-Fic­tion’ genre with his ti­tle ‘Foot­prints in ob­scu­rity`, and ‘Be­hind the EclipseThe un­heard from the West African Ebola Cri­sis’, which is con­sid­ered as one of the most read books in 2016 in the hu­man­i­tar­ian com­mu­nity.

Dubbed the “Writer with­out bor­ders” by the UK’s Daily Mir­ror, Ru­pas­inghe signed copies of his books for fans from 10am to 1pm, and was even gen­er­ous enough to chat and have cof­fee with some of them.

The au­thor warmly wel­comed peo­ple who at­tended the event and chat­ted with them about his new­est novel, Bayan, and his en­thu­si­asm and sup­port of Yan­gon’s lit­er­ary scene.

Bayan, will ap­peal to read­ers who like se­ri­ous lit­er­a­ture. Those at the event who had the op­por­tu­nity to read the novel set in Ukraine said they found it “cap­ti­vat­ing and hard to put down”.

Ru­pas­inghe in­fuses the novel, which re­volves around the

life of pro­tag­o­nist, Ivan Niko­layevich who suf­fers from se­nil­ity, with lyri­cal prose and po­etry while in­form­ing read­ers about a men­tal health is­sue that is faced by many around the world.

The novel also pro­vides a win­dow into life in an­other age in the for­mer Soviet Union, ty­ing the el­e­ments to­gether in a con­crete and be­liev­able whole.

Speak­ing to the me­dia af­ter the book sign­ing Ru­pas­inghe said, “This event called a lit­er­ary chat­ter is not like a clas­sic sign­ing event, but it is more to wel­come my read­ers from Myan­mar and have a chat with them about my writ­ing in gen­eral. In fact, life in gen­eral is lit­er­a­ture which means that we are pretty in­for­mal in this plat­form. We dis­cuss books, and how a book can en­hance our life, bring­ing some qual­ity to our life­styles.”

On his novel, the au­thor ex­plained, “This is my fourth book. “Bayan is a dif­fer­ent story, not like what I have done be­fore. This is I would say the most chal­leng­ing writ­ing ex­pe­ri­ence I had in my life so far for me as a writer be­cause this book is unique for me. It’s set in north eastern tip of Ukraine, which is bor­der­ing into Rus­sia. One old man around 73 when I met him, was alone. He had two daugh­ters who had left the house and started their own lives; this man has de­vel­oped a re­la­tion­ship, which is pretty psy­cho­log­i­cal re­la­tion­ship with this clas­si­cal in­stru­ment like an ac­cor­dion called “Bayan” which he sees as his com­pan­ion be­cause there was no one around him. I took this part or el­e­ment of life of him and I tried to ex­plore the story of peo­ple de­vel­op­ing com­pan­ion­ship with inan­i­mate ob­jects when they are old.”

“Bayan is about ex­plor­ing the ag­ing process and also talks a lot about his­tor­i­cal el­e­ments about the Soviet Union and its col­lapse. The pro­tag­o­nist lived in the time of Soviet Union, work­ing in the Soviet sys­tem when all of the sud­den ev­ery­thing changed. Then, he lived in so-called democ­racy and a cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety in which he finds him­self lost. And this is a strug­gle of life through chang­ing so­cial and po­lit­i­cal sys­tems. On top of ev­ery­thing, he is all alone but his bayan keeps him alive, just like a hu­man be­ing who sup­ports him and that’s a psy­cho­log­i­cal jour­ney in life.”

“It’s about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween a per­son and a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment. The melody played in anger will be dif­fer­ent from a melody played with calm.”

Asked about the time it took to write the novel, Ru­pas­inghe said: “I took around two years be­cause I was writ­ing it while work­ing with the UN and trav­el­ling around the world for hu­man­i­tar­ian diplo­macy. Most of the time, I write on flights and in long tran­sit lounges, so I pre­fer long tran­sits.

In a mes­sage for his read­ers, the au­thor said: “I hope peo­ple will think about the in­ner lives of el­ders and how they see life. In this novel, Ivan says “stay in the present” which will keep you happy and con­tent­ment. This is what it is all about. Stay in the present that will keep you happy.”

“Writ­ing it­self is dis­cov­er­ing one­self. So, keep try­ing, don’t give up, and it’s a process. Keep writ­ing, keep liv­ing in your story, and don’t give up,” Ru­pas­inghe said to as­pir­ing writ­ers in Myan­mar.

The novel Bayan has been trans­lated into sev­eral lan­guages, in­clud­ing Pol­ish. The Myan­mar ver­sion is ex­pected to be avail­able next year with trans­la­tion by Soe Myint Thu.

‘Bayan is a dif­fer­ent story...it was the most chal­leng­ing ex­pe­ri­ence I had in my life.’ Pra­mu­dith D. Ru­pas­inghe Au­thor

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