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The couple lived in Bhutan and London, then settled in Oxford when Aris got an academic post. Mrs. Suu Kyi looked after sons Alexander and Kim and pursued doctoral studies.

Ms. Frayn said the future Nobel peace laureate embraced her role as academic wife and “utterly devoted mother.”

“She was famed for her exquisitely organized birthday parties,” Ms.  Frayn said. “The common thing is that she did whatever she did to the nth degree.”

In March 1988, Suu Kyi returned to Myanmar to nurse her dying mother and found herself on the front line of mass pro-democracy protests that erupted soon after. The hospital where her mother was being treated was inundated with injured demonstrators.

As the daughter of a national hero, Mrs. Suu Kyi was an instant emblem of the movement. She embraced her destiny and helped form the National League for Democracy — with the support of her far-off husband.

“From the outset, they knew it was a tough decision to go into politics,” Mr. Popham said, “but I don’t think any of them had an idea of how hard it was going to be. Michael thought the regime would collapse within months and they would be reunited by Christmas 1988.”

In fact, Aris saw his wife only a handful of times after she left Oxford.

The NLD won elections in 1990 but was kept from power by the military junta. Mrs. Suu Kyi spent much of the next 20 years under house arrest, finally being released in November 2010. In April, she won a seat in the country’s national assembly and is campaigning for further reform.

The couple’s predicament took a cruel twist in 1997, when Aris was diagnosed with what turned out to be terminal prostate cancer. The junta would have allowed Mrs. Suu Kyi to leave Myanmar to visit him, but she feared she would not be allowed to return. He applied 30 times for visas to visit her; all were rejected.

“He was adamant she shouldn’t come back,” Ms. Frayn said. “He was convinced (his visa) would be granted and he would die in her arms.”

Aris died in Oxford on his 53rd birthday in 1999. He had not seen his wife in more than three years.

Ms. Frayn said the years of separation had left a “complex emotional legacy” for Mrs. Suu Kyi’s sons, now in their 30s.

Kim Aris lives in Oxford and has visited his mother several times since her release from house arrest. Elder brother Alexander — who at age 18 delivered the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize address on behalf of his mother — lives in a Buddhist community in Portland, Ore. Neither has given interviews to the media.

Mrs. Suu Kyi, too, rarely speaks of her emotions — a reflection, Ms. Frayn said, both of her Buddhist faith and of her political convictions.

“She is surrounded in the National League for Democracy by people who spent many years in prison, and in some senses her context is that she got off lightly compared to a lot of her close political colleagues,” Ms. Frayn said. “She has said that this is in a sense her cross to bear, the long-term separation from her sons.

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