Sunday, November 16, 2008

Remarks on Outhine Bounyavong's "Mother's Beloved"

Outhine Bounyavong was one of the first Laotian writers translated into English since the end of the war for Laos in 1975. His most widely available collection is Phaeng Mae, or Mother's Beloved, a collection of 14 stories that emphasized Laotian virtues of simplicity, compassion, respect for the elders and other village beliefs. 

These short stories examined his own memories and how to behave with compassion and as part of the great chain of being.  He positions most of his stories as discussions on the lives of ordinary people, which allowed him a lens to examine the subtle textures of Lao culture. It was published in 1999 by the University of Washington Press. 

It also includes an interesting essay by Peter Koret that is essential for anyone starting to understand the current scope of contemporary Laotian literature around the world.

Bounyavong's story "A Voice From The Plain of Jars," covers familiar territory for those of us engaged with issues of UXO and leftover munitions from the War For Laos, but should be recognized as one of the first short stories to actively present the plight of Laotians who face the problem on unexploded bombs over 40 years since the end of the war.

In the coming months ahead, I hope to discuss more of these stories in greater detail and what we can learn from them and expect of ourselves in our own writing.

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