Myanmar Popular Fiction Covers 1960s & 1970s
By San Lin Tun
Modern fiction published in Myanmar has been available since the early 20th century. Popular fiction appeared both pre-war and post-war in Myanmar. The first Myanmar novel known to most people is Maung Yin Maung and Ma Mae Maby James Hla Kyaw, published in 1904.
After the independence of Burma/Myanmar in 1948, many good Myanmar novels appeared, dealing with a range of themes such as the independence struggle, national reconciliation, romance, and class conflict. The novel Moe Aout Myay Pyin(The Earth under the Sky) written by Min Aung, won a prize awarded by BTS (Burma Translation Society, now Sarpaybeikman) in 1948 in the hope of promoting Myanmar literature.
Myanmar writers of the 1960s and 70s wrote romance, mystery and detective novels. 1960s novels focused more on characters rather than stories and often reflect contemporary situations. Publishers employed the best illustrators to create attractive covers for their books.
Accordingly, popular Myanmar fiction of the 1960s and 70s also used colourful and engrossing illustrations to attract readers. The illustrations usually matched the theme of the book, whether it was a romance or a detective story. The idea of the illustrations seemed to start with the illustrator himself after reading a manuscript sent by a writer or publisher.
Famous illustrators of that time include U Thaung Han, U Bagalay, Maung Maung Toe and Maung Ngwe Tun.
Among these, U Thaung Han’s illustrations are well recognised and popular. He started his career in Shu-Ma-Wamagazine, which was established in 1947 and featured artwork from well-known artists.
U Thaung Han also became a famous book cover illustrator. His style is recognisable because he often portrayed females as being more westernised than traditionally Burmese. Some comment that his illustrations resemble pin-up pictures. His women often look like Hollywood movie stars such as Elizabeth Taylor or Audrey Hepburn.
U Thaung Han designed many book covers and also published a successful and popular book on drawing methods. Before the advent of graphic design and graphic designers, people often used magazine illustrators for their books or magazines. The illustrators showed their artistic talent when they illustrated books or stories in the magazines.
U Thang Han wanted to show the exquisite beauty of Myanmar women, and his illustrations are very charming. When one looks at old Myanmar fiction, one often finds his work on the covers.
U Thaung Han has often been described as one of the best illustrators of Myanmar fiction. The popularity of his style, named ‘Thaung Han’s style’, has claimed a place in the history of Myanmar fiction illustration.
San Lin Tun is a freelance writer of essays, poetry, short stories and novels in Myanmar and English language. His previous books include; Reading a George Orwell Novel in a Myanmar Teashop and Other Essays, The Enigma of Big Bunny’s Arrival and Other Short Stories, and his most recent work An English Writer. He lives in Yangon with his wife and two sons.