Leik-p'ya! Immortal Butterflies
The Tale of a Shan Family during Burma's Era of the British Raj
by Nell Murry

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Nell Murry telling the tale of the Chinthe

at Yale University.

Leik-p'ya! Immortal Butterflies

A Debut Novel

Let us first share the beauty and mystery of this most delicately titled novel, ‘Leik-p’ya’, for it is here that our story begins. The Burmese word ‘Leik-p’ya’ is a homonym; it is the word for the beautifully-winged insect; it also means the soul. And since a majority of the people of Burma believe in reincarnation, or rebirth of the soul, the delicately titled ‘Leik-p’ya’ refers to the souls of those whose stories are immortalised in this book. 
 

Leik-p’ya! Immortal Butterflies is a work of biographical fiction. Spanning the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it is set in the Southeast Asian nation of Burma (Myanmar), a country whose independence from British rule was set in 1948. Leik-pya casts a rich, historic light on a nation and period long shrouded in mystery. Told through the experiences of a family whose lives span multiple generations, this epic drama bridges the exoticism of Burma's natives with the British rulers who sought to colonize it. 

 

With a belief in reincarnation a guiding principle, we follow Mair, a prosperous landowner and paddy farmer, and her husband Hpoo, a compassionate herbalist-healer of strong Buddhist values. Together, they weather life, love, loss, betrayal, war and scandal with compassion and stoicism, while their children grow to take on challenges and adventure of their own.

Facing difficulties, yet rising unbowed, again and again from the ashes, their story is, indeed, one of the  Leik-p’ya! Immortal Butterflies. Lifting the veil of Burma’s dark past, this debut novel captures a rich majesty of a colonial time long since past, allowing readers to delight in the mystifying customs of its peoples for generations anew. 

The novel ends tantalisingly with the first life-defining moments of the adventures of a new generation. Vol. 2 of Leik-p'ya! Immortal Butterflies will follow this remarkable debut, extending the fortunes of this Northern Burmese family into the second half of the twentieth century - a period defined by cultural shifts, war, devastation and, above all, hope.