Publication Date: Oct 23, 2018
From the author of the internationally bestselling The Art of Hearing Heartbeats comes this charming collection of folktales that offer a window into Burma’s fascinating history and culture.
Since 1995 Jan-Philipp Sendker has visited Myanmar (Burma) dozens of times, and while doing research for his novels The Art of Hearing Heartbeats and A Well-Tempered Heart, he encountered numerous folktales and fables. These moving stories speak to the rich mythology of the diverse peoples of Burma, the spirituality of humankind, and the profound social impact of Buddhist thought. Some are so strange he couldn’t classify them or identify a familiar moral, while others reminded him of the fairy tales of his childhood, except that here monkeys, tigers, elephants, and crocodiles inhabited the fantastic lands instead of hedgehogs, donkeys, or geese. Their morals resemble those of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen, illustrating how all cultures draw on a universal wisdom to create their myths.
The Long Path to Wisdom’s evocative stories run the gamut of human emotions, from the familiar to the shocking, and are sure to delight Heartbeats fans as well as those newly discovering the magic of Sendker’s incandescent writing.
Excerpt from The Long Path to Wisdom
During my first visit to Yangon, a young man drove me through the city in a vehicle that was barely roadworthy, with a steering wheel on the right in a country that drives on the right, a circumstance that made passing difficult, even life-threatening. He told me that many years ago the traffic direction had been switched from left to right overnight on the advice of an astrologer. I did not get the impression that he found this at all shocking.
Stuck to his dashboard was a black-and-white photo of a young woman with an infant in her arms. Curious, I asked who it was. He smiled proudly and explained that it was his wife and baby daughter. She was four months old, but, alas, he saw far too little of her because he had to work so much. He had big debts.
I was surprised that such a young man already had creditors and asked whether he had taken a loan to buy the car.
Not for that, he said, but for his daughter’s birth. An astrologer had calculated the best day, even the best hour for the birth. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, they had elected to have a caesarian. And that was very, very expensive.
For me that was the beginning of a journey into an utterly unfamiliar world populated by spirits, ghosts, demons, and other mystical apparitions. A world full of cryptic rituals and magical numerology, where it is not uncommon for an astrologer, an exorcist, or a medium to have the final say.
“Delicately balanced between cultural ethnography and poetic vision, Sendker’s collection of folk tales, legends and parables takes us on a journey to a lost paradise of the imagination and to a world of real lives whose substance and existence is but a twilight glimmer of all that it was.” —Bookanista
Praise for The Art of Hearing Heartbeats:
“A lush tale of romance and family set in mid-twentieth-century Burma…beautiful…bound to enchant readers.” —Booklist
“Magical…It’s stories like The Art of Hearing Heartbeats that show how our very existence is important…What a gift that is.” —Huffington Post
“Brilliant…Sendker’s novel proves to be a love story of the most masterful variety…Coupled with an unusual glimpse into the Burma of the 1950s and today, readers will delight in the emotional power of Sendker’s storytelling.” —Shelf Awareness for Readers
“A love story set in Burma…imbued with Eastern spirituality and fairy-tale romanticism.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Sweetly tragic.” —Library Journal
“No matter what I even attempt to say, I can’t possibly capture the absolute magic of this book. Like a spell, it haunts. Like love, it’s going to endure.” —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You