On This Day

The Day HG Wells Met Writers in Myanmar

By Wei Yan Aung 2 February 2021

Yangon — On this day in 1939, writers in Myanmar (then Burma) hosted a dinner party to welcome British writer HG Wells, who was visiting Yangon (then Rangoon), at the lawn of Rangoon University Boat Club where politics and literature were discussed.

Wells arrived in Rangoon shortly after the national uprising against colonial rule known as the Revolution of 1300, named after the Burmese calendar. Thousands of students blockaded the Secretariat, the seat of the British government in Rangoon, and student leader Aung Kyaw was killed and hundreds of students injured in the police crackdown.

At the tea party, female writer and journalist Khin Myo Chit, who had helped blockade the Secretariat, showed the 72-year-old writer photos of the police beating students and a bloodstained handkerchief from the uprising.

More than 40 Burmese writers, journalists and academics attended the tea party. In attendance was also the 23-year-old student leader Aung San, the future independence hero. Aung San, however, refused to pose for a photo, saying he was a politician and not a writer. He is not in the photo showing 46 attendees, including Wells.

Wells left for England after three days in Rangoon. The War of the Worlds author later wrote an article, “Trouble in Burma”, for the News Chronicle newspaper in London. He also featured Khin Myo Chit’s photos in his new book “In Search of Hot Water”, publicizing the colonial government’s mistreatment of Burmese students to the world.

The tea party organizers were short of funds and could not pay their bill at the Sun Café, one of Rangoon’s finest restaurants, which catered for the event.

Sun Café owner U Tun Yin, out of his sympathy for the young organizers – who would later become bestselling authors – wrote off the bill.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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