Smile as they Bow

For all intents and purposes, this book has nothing to do with technology. The most high-tech things mentioned are cars and Pepsi. So, you may be asking, “Why are you reviewing it on this site?”

Of course I will answer such a question with a question, “What is this site?” Exactly, this is Intellectual Economy which is about “Intellectual Property Law & the Economics of Life” according to the masthead.

Oddly enough, this book exudes that entire understanding into a short 146 page read. You could call it a novella.

I started reading it intermittenly, planning on putting it down if it didn’t excite me in any way. I loved the style of writing, it might be jarring to some as the author (Nu Nu Yi) sometimes jumps inside other character’s heads on the fly to get their reactions to things going on in the story.

The second chapter actually sets this up rather easily as a group of people come to a shrine to pay homage to the “Two Brothers” (or to pickpocket them). Each person comes along, says their bit, then as they turn to leave, they see the next person and describe them, then, without missing a beat, that character has become the speaker, but only until the next one comes along.

The main meat of the story centers on Daisy Bond, a transvestite natkadaw and his/her servant/friend/lover Min Min as they gear up for the festival season. Min Min grows tired of the effiminate Daisy’s bickering and falls in love with a lowly begger girl, can their love last?

I was very happy to see Alfred Birnbaum was one of the translators of this book, he’s translated quite a few of Haruki Murakami’s books, and I’m a big fan of his translations.

And now for the IP Law bend of this story: This novel was censored by the military government of Myanmar (Burma) for over a decade. It’s survived all this time and is now the first book from that country to be translated to English for wide-spread reading.

This book turned out into a bit of a cultural lesson for me. I spent an hour or so online finding information about the natkadaws and the whole festival in Taungbyon and became enthralled with the whole thing.

I enjoyed this book completely.

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