Not Out of Hate—published in Burmese in 1955 and set in 1939–42—was Ma Ma Lay’s fifth novel and one that further cemented her status as one of twentieth-century Burma’s foremost writers and voices for change. A journalist by trade, Lay applied her straightforward observational style with compassion and purpose to the story of Way Way, a teenage village girl whose quiet life assisting her father in his rice-brokerage business is disrupted by the arrival of U Saw Han, the cosmopolitan Burmese rice trader twenty years her senior. When she first encounters him, Way Way is entranced by his Western furnishings, servants, and mannerisms. The two marry, but before long, it becomes clear that U Saw Han’s love is a stifling one that seeks to obliterate her traditional ways.
Not Out of Hate was enormously popular in Burma and went through several editions in the 1950s and 1960s. When Ohio University Press published its English translation, in 1991, it became the first significant fictional account of prewar Burma available in English since George Orwell’s Burmese Days, and provided a Burmese counterpoint to Orwell’s novel. Translated into English here for the first time, the novel is an engaging drama, finely observed work of social realism, and stirring rejection of Western cultural dominance.