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.

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The Ar Yone Thit Bookshop is one of many small bookstores in Yangon.
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The Bagan Bookshop is located in two neat rooms on Thirty-seventh Street in Yangon.
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Stacks of books rise to the ceiling of Kyaw Thein Literature, one of the many open-air stalls along the sidewalks of downtown Yangon.

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

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

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

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A resident of Yangon clutches an umbrella as Cyclone Nargis sweeps across Myanmar in early May.
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Residents walk through the streets of Yangon the day after the storm flattened trees and knocked out electricity and phone service.

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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.