Jan-Philipp Sendker’s The Art of Hearing Heartbeats pulls out all the stops. Set in Burma (now Myanmar), it is the consummately romantic story of an abandoned and traumatized orphan boy, Tin Win, whose adoptive mother and the monks at the local monastery slowly enable him to make connections with the world beyond. It is both a look back at the past and a look forward into the future, as the boy’s story develops and he learns to love. The novel is also a triumph over adversity, as two characters, one blind and one crippled, movingly overcome their “handicaps” and no longer see themselves as any different from anyone else. The blind character learns to listen to the world so carefully that he can find people by listening for their unique heartbeats. The crippled character has a voice so beautiful that people come for miles to hear her sing. And it also a novel of suspense, as Julia Win, the young American daughter of Tin Win, searches for her missing father, traveling into rural Burma in search of the writer of a love letter from almost fifty years ago, which Julia has found among her father’s effects. Throughout the novel, the involvement of Burmese astrologers and helpful Buddhist priests add another dimension, both magical and mystical, to the thinking of the Burmese characters. Stories within stories within stories keep the love stories swirling and the sense of otherworldliness growing.
Category Archive for 'Burma (Myanmar)'
Full of the colors, scents, and sounds of exotic Burma and Malaya in the 1860’s, this novel comes to life within the Glass Palace of the royal family and in the streets of Mandalay, which are sometimes the only “home” of its ordinary citizens, in the final days before Britain’s voracious, imperialist juggernaut shoots its way up the Irrawaddy River. Giving life to the Burmese point of view, Rajkumar and Dolly, orphaned children working as servants when the novel begins, eventually become the founders of a family whose members, in succeeding generations, reflect the economic and the political realities in Burma, Malaya, and India over the 150 years from the British raj to the present day.