In the Silence

International Fiction, Poetry, Essays, and Performance

Guest-edited by
Alok Bhalla, Penny Edwards
ko ko thett, Kenneth Wong
Series Editor Frank Stewart

 In the Silence features international poetry, prose, and art that reflect on forced migration, war, and violence.

“An Angel Passes By,” an essay by Argentinian artist Claudia Bernardi, describes the exhuming of women, men, and children massacred by government troops in El Mozote, El Salvadore, in 1981. “Forgiving the Unforgivable,” an essay by international reporter Anna Badkhen, recounts an Apache ceremony in southwestern Chihuahua that is meant as a gesture of forgiveness to those responsible for the genocide of indigenous people.

Works from South Asia describe the region’s history of caste conflict, mob violence, and religious bigotry. Punjabi writer Ajeet Cour’s terrifying story “Dead End” recounts the killings triggered by right-wing politicians. In another disquieting short story, “The Pain Merchant,” Manjula Padmanabhan depicts a surreal world in which pain is a commodity to bargain with.

In their introduction to writings from Burma/Myanmar, coeditors Penny Edwards, ko ko thett, and Kenneth Wong ask how it is possible to publish literature under authoritarian regimes prepared to kill dissenters. Rohingya poet Thida Shania asks in her poem “An Ox for a Wad of Paan”: “What happened to the Queen of Justice?/I search for her everywhere—/nowhere I find her.”

Kyaw Zwa Moe discusses the paradox of oppression: “The government put us in jail because they wanted us to be ignorant ... but we came out of prison different from how they expected.” Reggae artist Saw Phoe Kwar calls land mines “The soiled fruits of a hate doctrine” and their victims “Little flowers of Dawna’s earth.” Poet Aung Khin Myint interrogates a border town: “Where's work permit? Where's the boat? Where's the new life? the light? Where's the stupa where lovebirds can die of broken hearts?”

Works from the U.S. include the famous oration of Frederick Douglass “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”; the reportage of Walter F. White, long-time director of the NAACP, on an election day in Florida in 1921; poetry by Terese Svoboda; fiction by novelists Ann Pancake and Joseph Matthews; and a play by writer-activist Catherine Filloux.

Other writers include forgotten British poet Charlotte Mew, called by Virginia Woolf and Thomas Hardy the greatest living poet of her time; and Senegalese Boubacar Boris Diop, whose book Doomi Golo was the first novel to be translated from Wolof into English.

Throughout the issue, stunning images by American/Canadian photographer Greg Constantine show Rohingya refugees trying to flee oppression in their country.

Guest Editors and Translators 

Alok Bhalla is a scholar, translator, and poet based in Delhi, India. Among his books are Partition Dialogues: Memories of a Lost Home, The Place of Translation in a Literary Habitat, and the four-volume collection Stories About the Partition of India, which he edited. His books of translation into English include Dharamvir Bharati’s Andha Yug, Intizar Husain’s A Chronicle of the Peacocks, Ram Kumar’s The Sea and Other Stories, and Nirmal Verma’s Dark Dispatches.

Penny Edwards is a cultural historian. Her second book, Kingdoms of the Mind: Burma’s Fugitive Prince and the Fracturing of Empire, is forthcoming from Columbia University Press. Her translations from French and Chinese include Soth Polin’s novel L’anarchiste and Yo Yo’s short fiction “Once Upon a Mountain.” She is professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

ko ko thett is a bilingual poet and author of several collections of poetry and poetry translations in Burmese and English. He has been featured at literary events from Sharjah to Shanghai, and his poems and translations have appeared in literary journals and anthologies worldwide. He was the poetry editor for Mekong Review from 2017 to 2022. His most recent volume is Bamboophobia (Zephyr, 2022). He lives in Norwich, U.K.

Kenneth Wong is a Burmese-American author and language instructor. His short stories, essays, and poetry translations have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle magazine, AGNI, Eleven Eleven, The Irrawaddy, and Myanmar Times. He teaches Burmese language at the University of California, Berkeley.


Greg Constantine is an American/Canadian documentary photographer based in British Columbia, Canada. He has dedicated his career to long-term, independent projects about underreported or neglected global stories. His work explores the intersection of human rights, inequality, injustice, identity, belonging, and the power of the state.

272 pp., winter 2022 (34:2), $25
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