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Literary Myanmar

Despite its poverty and dispiriting censorship, Myanmar is a highly literate country. Last spring freelance writer Stephen Morison Jr. traveled to Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, to visit its many bookstores and interview some of the local authors. He was there for only three days before Cyclone Nargis swept across the country, killing nearly 85,000 people.

  • 1 of 10Ar Yone Thit Bookshop
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    Ar Yone Thit Bookshop

    The Ar Yone Thit Bookshop is one of many small bookstores in Yangon.

  • 2 of 10Bagan Bookshop
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    Bagan Bookshop

    The Bagan Bookshop is located in two neat rooms on Thirty-seventh Street in Yangon.

  • 3 of 10Kyaw Thein Literature
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    Kyaw Thein Literature

    Stacks of books rise to the ceiling of Kyaw Thein Literature, one of the many open-air stalls along the sidewalks of downtown Yangon.

  • 4 of 10Pansodan Street Bookseller
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    Pansodan Street Bookseller

    In Yangon, bookstores and magazine stands are ubiquitous. Plastic sheeting protects stacks of books in the open-air stalls along Pansodan Street.

  • 5 of 10Seven Bookstore
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    Seven Bookstore

    A hand-written sign invites passersby to visit the Seven Bookstore in Yangon.

  • 6 of 10Seven Bookstore 2
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    Seven Bookstore 2

    The long, narrow interior of Seven Bookstore in downtown Yangon.

  • 7 of 10The Cyclone Hits
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    The Cyclone Hits

    Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in early May, flooding the streets of Yangon, knocking out electricity and phone service, and killing tens of thousands of people. It was the worst natural history disaster ever recorded in the history of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

  • 8 of 10The Cyclone Hits 2
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    The Cyclone Hits 2

    A resident of Yangon clutches an umbrella as Cyclone Nargis sweeps across Myanmar in early May.

  • 9 of 10The Day After Cyclone Nargis
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    The Day After Cyclone Nargis

    Residents walk through the streets of Yangon the day after the storm flattened trees and knocked out electricity and phone service.

  • 10 of 10The Day After Cyclone Nargis 2
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    The Day After Cyclone Nargis 2

    Several hours after Cyclone Nargis hit Yangon, the ancient tamarind tree growing out of the sidewalk of the author's hotel came crashing down on the three-story rooftop, causing the whole structure to shudder.

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