Year published :October 2016

Pages :288 pp.

Size :14x21 cm., paperback

Rights :Southeast Asia

ISBN: 9786162151217

Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts: Literary Life in Myanmar Under Censorship and in Transition

by Ellen Wiles

This book tells an ethnographic story of a secret literary culture that has recently emerged from its cocoon, weaving in writers' life stories and new translations of Burmese fiction and poetry. Until 2012, Myanmar (also known as Burma) was ruled for fifty years by one of the most paranoid and repressive censorship regimes in history. The military junta enforced strict reading and writing restrictions in line with their ideology, feared writers’ potential to trigger change, and did their best to keep Western books and influences out of the country.

As part of an unexpected move toward democracy, the government has recently lifted the worst restrictions on reading and writing, giving rise to a new era in the country’s literature and literary culture. While living in Myanmar in 2013, Ellen Wiles sought out the best of its contemporary writers and writing to begin uncovering the country’s remarkable literary life and history. This book contains the experiences and recent output of nine Myanmar writers spanning three generations, featuring interviews and English-language translations of their work, along with political, legal, and artistic explorations. It includes men and women, fiction and poetry, reflecting the ripples of political and cultural change as they have moved across different groups and genres. A rare portrait of a people and place in transition, Wiles’s work contributes both to the study of literature and culture in Myanmar and to the general study of art under censorship.

About the Author

Ellen Wiles is a British writer, human rights lawyer, and scholar specializing in literary culture and cultural ethnography. She lives in London.


  • Profiles of three different generations of writers in Myanmar
  • Fiction and poetry by the featured writers in new translations
  • Provides a timely view of Myanmar’s literary culture under repressive censorship and as the controls are relaxed
  • Discusses the ramifications of literary censorship in Myanmar and how different writers have addressed it

Key Words 

Myanmar | literary culture | censorship | Burmese literature cultural ethnography

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