Ma Thida [ Myanmar ]
The Burmese author and surgeon Ma Thida was born in Rangoon in 1966, where she later studied medicine. In the mid-eighties, she began writing short stories that were published by different journals. The doctor and editor got involved in several democratization projects at the time. She edited pamphlets, evaluated tapes and videos, and was a medical volunteer for the family members of political prisoners. Because of increased censorship, it became more and more difficult for her to publish literary texts. In 1993, Ma Thida was sentenced to twenty years in prison for supporting the pro-democracy movement, in particular, the party of Nobel Pease Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The US American PEN accepted her as an honorary member for this very reason. Also in 1993, Anna J. Allott at the Northern Illinois University read her essay »Thumbnail sketch on Burmese literature world 1988 onwards«, which covers in detail different literary forms and includes examples of contemporary works as well as background information about the censorship procedures of the authorities in Myanmar. A lot of sympathy for Ma Thida was shown all over the world while the author was in prison. British magazines, the »PEN American« and the »PEN International Magazine« published her texts, which were also read in the »Writers in Prison« series of BBC/Radio 4. After she was released in 1999, Ma Thida spent a lot of time abroad and participated in medical training programmes, international writers’ projects, festivals of literature and panel discussions dealing with freedom of speech. Since 2009 she has been a fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University. Vipassanā meditation techniques helped her cope while she was in jail. Her experiences in detention became the subject matter of her book of memories, which she also spoke about at different US universities. In 2011, she received the Norwegian »Freedom of Speech Award«, in particular for her novel »The Roadmap« (2011), which she published under the pen name Suragamika (tr.: Brave traveller). Based on a family story, the book describes two decades of the Burmese democracy movement. Ma Thida also published an anthology of translations of Japanese poems by writers from three decades. Since 2002, she has published the youth magazine »Teen« together with a colleague she met in the political and literary circles she is involved in. She still writes articles and short stories in English and Burmese. Ma Thida lives in Yangon, Myanmar.
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