General Aung San’s Literary Bent

General Aung San
General Aung San

By Khaing Hsu

The late Bogyoke (General) Aung San has been accepted as a national leader, as architect of Myanma independence, and as father of Myanma Tatmadaw. However, few people knew about his literary bent. U Aung San was well versed in both Myanmar and English, both spoken and written. What an avid reader he was related thus by a schoolmate of his, Thakin Ba Aye, who at one time served as his personal secretary.
Bogyoke was an avid reader. He would read for over half-an-hour seated on the “throne of china”, and had to be called out of the bathroom.
Two months after the re-occupation of Yangon by the British Forces, Bogyoke Aung San requested Sayagyi U Razak and Ludu U Hla to come down to Yangon. On arrival they attended an AFPFL Conference. After the meeting, Bogyoke invited them to dinner at his Tower Lane house. At dinner they discussed politics and literature. With regard to the discussion, U Hla recorded that Bogyoke Aung San expressed his intention of retiring from politics once independence has been won and the country has settled down. Healso showed us the manuscript of his autobiography in English he has just started to write.
In April 1947 in Pyin-Oo-Lwin, Bogyoke was supposed to have told his aide Bo Tun Hla (pen name Tekkatho Ne Win):
After independence I will retire from politics and take up a writing career. I want to write about politics, history, marriage, child-rearing.
Futhermore at the press conference held to AFPFL’ Headquarters on May 30, 1947, Bogyoke Aung San stated:
I’ll be in politics till independence. When interparty conflicts arise after independence, I don’t want to be part of it. I’ll retire and observe all that goes on and write books.
On Monday the 14th of July 1947, five days before the assassinations, U Khin Zaw, U Thein Han (Saya Zawgyi), U Htin Fatt (Maung Htin), and U Wun (Saya Minthuwun) went to the Secretariat on business. When they got to the front of the Constituent Assembly building they saw Deedok U Ba Choe and Bogyoke Aung San on the verandah chatting away. U Htin Fatt and party greeted them and joined in the conversation. In course of the conversation Deedok U Ba Choe said that on the attainment of independence, he would retire from politics to study education and culture. Then pointing his finger at U Htin Fatt and party, Sayagyi Deedok U Ba Choe added,
I’d love to go with them on a cultural study tour of Southeast Asia.
At that, Bogyoke Aung San, then clad in a pale yellow Bangkok longyi and a closed silk jacket, interjected with his lips curled in emphasis, saying:
Saya, I too would be quitting politics then to take up a writing career. At college, I studied both Pali and Myanmar. I got good marks in Myanmar language and would have gained distinctions if only I had worked harder.
He also added:
We need a lot of works of translation as well as biographies.
I don’t know why we don’t have them.
When the conversation got round to the need for publicizing Myanmar culture and art, Bogyoke said:
In Myanmar dancing and music, there are things that came from there. We should investigate the connections between Asian cultures.
He then claimed: “I’m also a student of art and culture.”
Reporter U Ohn Pe who at one time worked together with Bogyoke as news editors at New Burma newspaper said this of Bogyoke’s literary work.
In writing English or Myanmar (for Dagon and Oway Magazines), he was precise… When I was my temporary news editor of New Burma newspaper, he was my temporary co-editor. Because his English editorials were up to the standard and logical, they were attentively read in governmental and political quarters.
About Bogyoke Aung San’s literary bent, his colleague U Thein Pe Myint expressed regret in his book entitled Communalism and We Bamars that though Thakin Aung San was a keen writer, he had no time to produce a book.

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