Burmese Translation Due for ‘The King in Exile’

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 7 March 2014

RANGOON — With the planned Burmese-language translation of a comprehensive portrayal of the personal life of Burma’s last royal family, the Burmese will soon have a chance to learn more about King Thibaw and other royals after their exile to India.

Published in 2012 and originally written in English by Sudha Shah, The King in Exile is a non-fiction account of the lives of King Thibaw, the last monarch of Mandalay, and his family, which will now be translated into Burmese, according to the book’s Burmese publisher Our Publishing House.

San Mon Aung of Our Publishing House told The Irrawaddy that he received permission from the author last month to publish a translation.

He said the new translation would benefit the majority of the Burmese readership who are not able to read in English, and help them learn more about King Thibaw and his family, especially their lives in exile.

“Sudha Shah embarked on an extensive research for the book. So, the translation could provide our readers a window into the struggle of the Burmese royal family,” he said.

Known as the last royal family of Burma, King Thibaw, his wife Queen Supayalat and their family were brought to Ratnagiri in India in the wake of the Third Anglo-Burmese war in 1885, which resulted in the British completing their occupation of Burma.

The King in Exile tells the story of how an all-powerful and very wealthy family coped with forced isolation and separation from all that it had once known and cherished; and how the exile continued to echo in the life of the family in a myriad ways well after it ended.

Sudha Shah said her publisher already signed agreements for translations of his book into Marathi and Thai languages, both of which are expected to be published in the first half of this year, adding that she looked forward to the release of the Burmese translation.

The author told the Irrawaddy, “I very much hope that [Burmese readers] will find the book interesting and that they are as moved as I was by the story of the Burmese royal family.”

“I would like for my book to be translated into Burmese so that the people who can’t read English, but are interested in the true story of their last king and his family, can read about it,” she added.

Shah spent seven years conducting historical research for the book. She made several trips to relevant cities—Ratnagiri and Kolkata in India, as well as Rangoon, Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin) and Mandalay in Burma—where the royal family and their descendants spent various parts of their lives.

She also conducted interviews with the royal family’s descendants, as well as carrying out research at the Maharashtra State Archives in Mumbai, National Archives of India in New Delhi, National Archives in Rangoon and the British and School of Oriental and African Studies libraries in London.

The translator of the King in Exile, Win Nyein, said he has so far translated three chapters, and hopes he could finish the work this year.

“I myself really like the book, and you could find some facts in the book that most of the Burmese rarely know about how the royal family coped with their lives in exile,” said Win Nyein, who is also the editor-in-chief of Shwe Amyutay magazine and The Ray of Light weekly.

Devi Thant Cin, one of the great granddaughters of King Thibaw, said Sudha Shah’s book is different from some other books about Burmese royal family.

“Most of the books focus on the end of Konbaung dynasty and King Thibaw but the King in Exile discloses the real lives of the family after their fall from grace that came from several years of research and interviews with family members,” said she.

“What the royal family had undergone during those years is history. [With the Burmese translation] the Burmese readers would have a glimpse of reality they faced.”