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A fascinating political travelogue that traces the life and work of George Orwell in Southeast Asia Over the years the American writer Emma Larkin has spent traveling in Burma, also known as Myanmar, she's come to know all too well the many ways this brutal police state can be described as "Orwellian." The life of the mind exists in a state of siege in Burma, and it long ha A fascinating political travelogue that traces the life and work of George Orwell in Southeast Asia Over the years the American writer Emma Larkin has spent traveling in Burma, also known as Myanmar, she's come to know all too well the many ways this brutal police state can be described as "Orwellian." The life of the mind exists in a state of siege in Burma, and it long has. But Burma's connection to George Orwell is not merely metaphorical; it is much deeper and more real. Orwell's mother was born in Burma, at the height of the British raj, and Orwell was fundamentally shaped by his experiences in Burma as a young man working for the British Imperial Police. When Orwell died, the novel-in-progress on his desk was set in Burma. It is the place George Orwell's work holds in Burma today, however, that most struck Emma Larkin. She was frequently told by Burmese acquaintances that Orwell did not write one book about their country - his first novel, Burmese Days - but in fact he wrote three, the "trilogy" that included Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. When Larkin quietly asked one Burmese intellectual if he knew the work of George Orwell, he stared blankly for a moment and then said, "Ah, you mean the prophet!" In one of the most intrepid political travelogues in recent memory, Emma Larkin tells of the year she spent traveling through Burma using the life and work of George Orwell as her compass. Going from Mandalay and Rangoon to poor delta backwaters and up to the old hill-station towns in the mountains of Burma's far north, Larkin visits the places where Orwell worked and lived, and the places his books live still. She brings to vivid life a country and a people cut off from the rest of the world, and from one another, by the ruling military junta and its vast network of spies and informers. Using Orwell enables her to show, effortlessly, the weight of the colonial experience on Burma today, the ghosts of which are invisible and everywhere. More important, she finds that the path she charts leads her to the people who have found ways to somehow resist the soul-crushing effects of life in this most cruel police state. And George Orwell's moral clarity, hatred of injustice, and keen powers of observation serve as the author's compass in another sense too: they are qualities she shares and they suffuse her book - the keenest and finest reckoning with life in this police state that has yet been written.


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A fascinating political travelogue that traces the life and work of George Orwell in Southeast Asia Over the years the American writer Emma Larkin has spent traveling in Burma, also known as Myanmar, she's come to know all too well the many ways this brutal police state can be described as "Orwellian." The life of the mind exists in a state of siege in Burma, and it long ha A fascinating political travelogue that traces the life and work of George Orwell in Southeast Asia Over the years the American writer Emma Larkin has spent traveling in Burma, also known as Myanmar, she's come to know all too well the many ways this brutal police state can be described as "Orwellian." The life of the mind exists in a state of siege in Burma, and it long has. But Burma's connection to George Orwell is not merely metaphorical; it is much deeper and more real. Orwell's mother was born in Burma, at the height of the British raj, and Orwell was fundamentally shaped by his experiences in Burma as a young man working for the British Imperial Police. When Orwell died, the novel-in-progress on his desk was set in Burma. It is the place George Orwell's work holds in Burma today, however, that most struck Emma Larkin. She was frequently told by Burmese acquaintances that Orwell did not write one book about their country - his first novel, Burmese Days - but in fact he wrote three, the "trilogy" that included Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. When Larkin quietly asked one Burmese intellectual if he knew the work of George Orwell, he stared blankly for a moment and then said, "Ah, you mean the prophet!" In one of the most intrepid political travelogues in recent memory, Emma Larkin tells of the year she spent traveling through Burma using the life and work of George Orwell as her compass. Going from Mandalay and Rangoon to poor delta backwaters and up to the old hill-station towns in the mountains of Burma's far north, Larkin visits the places where Orwell worked and lived, and the places his books live still. She brings to vivid life a country and a people cut off from the rest of the world, and from one another, by the ruling military junta and its vast network of spies and informers. Using Orwell enables her to show, effortlessly, the weight of the colonial experience on Burma today, the ghosts of which are invisible and everywhere. More important, she finds that the path she charts leads her to the people who have found ways to somehow resist the soul-crushing effects of life in this most cruel police state. And George Orwell's moral clarity, hatred of injustice, and keen powers of observation serve as the author's compass in another sense too: they are qualities she shares and they suffuse her book - the keenest and finest reckoning with life in this police state that has yet been written.

30 review for Finding George Orwell in Burma

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra

    A mix of a book: history, politics, travelogue, analysis and biography all rolled up into one. Emma Larkin manages to bring all these things together in an interesting way. Tracing George Orwell’s career path in Burma while she is on a trip to Burma, Larkin contrasts her observations, the country’s political situation and the state of the people in present time with Orwell’s experiences as a young, impressionable colonial police officer in his various posts throughout Burma, his observations and A mix of a book: history, politics, travelogue, analysis and biography all rolled up into one. Emma Larkin manages to bring all these things together in an interesting way. Tracing George Orwell’s career path in Burma while she is on a trip to Burma, Larkin contrasts her observations, the country’s political situation and the state of the people in present time with Orwell’s experiences as a young, impressionable colonial police officer in his various posts throughout Burma, his observations and the political situation in his time. She makes the case that Orwell’s books, Burmese Days, Animal Farm and 1984 are a trilogy of Burma and its situation. It’s an interesting perspective. Note: if you haven’t read Orwell’s books there are major spoilers in this book for Burmese Days and Orwell’s essay, Shooting An Elephant. There are more minor spoilers for Animal Farm, 1984, The Road to Wigan Pier and Keep the Aspidistra Flying.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    This was really three inter-related stories - Larkin's search for Orwell's roots in Burma (of which there are surprisingly many), a rough history of Burma under the waning days of the British Raj (which presents a not-surprisingly more critical view than the contemporaneous story of "Elephant Bill" Williams as told in the rousing Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II, which I also recently read), and then the truly ups This was really three inter-related stories - Larkin's search for Orwell's roots in Burma (of which there are surprisingly many), a rough history of Burma under the waning days of the British Raj (which presents a not-surprisingly more critical view than the contemporaneous story of "Elephant Bill" Williams as told in the rousing Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II, which I also recently read), and then the truly upsetting story of life in one of the most classically "Orwellian" societies on earth - present-day Burma. Or at least "present-day" as of the early 2000's. Larkin ends her book recounting the ruling junta's 2004 attack on Aung San Suu Ki, during which some 70+ of her supporters were wounded or killed. Well, the good news is that since then, "the Lady" was finally released from house arrest in 2010, met with President Obama in 2012, and went on to finally be elected Foreign Minister and then "State Counsellor of Myanmar" (equivalent to Prime Minister) in 2016. So...yay?? Well, not really...because turns out she was not only terrible at the job, drawing international criticism for her failure to address Burma's admittedly intractable economic and ethnic problems - particular the brutal suppression (aka, genocide) of the native Muslim Rohingya population, but to then - just this past February - be deposed and rearrested in yet ANOTHER military coup...so that today, TODAY, Burma and its long-suffering people are in pretty much the same desperate situation they were in for decades leading up to Larkin's book, except that they now have even less cause for hope. But I apparently digress. The book does a convincing job arguing that Orwell's three great books Burma Days, Animal Farm and 1984 in fact constitute one "Burma Trilogy," which is just heartbreaking. Larkin interviews and relates the personal stories of a number of everyday Burmans - all of them depressing; but perhaps the saddest are those of the dwindling population of mixed-blood Anglo-Burmans (mostly elderly women), a Eurasian minority that was never accepted by either side). Burma and Laos remain the only Southeast Asian countries where I've never spent any time. And while I would love to someday visit Luang Prabang and see the Plain of Jars, I think I'll take a pass on Burma - at least until its people can look forward to a more hopeful future. But I do think I need to reread me some Orwell...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Re-tracing Orwell's own steps and making many of her own through modern-day Myanmar/Burma, Emma Larkin writes a convincing case that both 1984 and Animal Farm, George Orwell's most well-known works, are inspired by the paranoia and fear-mongering of the Burmese police state. Orwell spent approximately five years in Burma as a British imperial policeman in the 1920s, and traveled widely around the country. Many of his experiences in the country led to his work Burmese Days, and his experiences th Re-tracing Orwell's own steps and making many of her own through modern-day Myanmar/Burma, Emma Larkin writes a convincing case that both 1984 and Animal Farm, George Orwell's most well-known works, are inspired by the paranoia and fear-mongering of the Burmese police state. Orwell spent approximately five years in Burma as a British imperial policeman in the 1920s, and traveled widely around the country. Many of his experiences in the country led to his work Burmese Days, and his experiences there undoubtedly influenced his later work, as well as his philosophies on colonialism, politics, and the future of society. The book is part biography of George Orwell, and part modern-day travelogue and reporting in Myanmar/Burma. Larkin was watched closely as she traveled and researched for this book. The name "Emma Larkin" is actually a pseudonym, to ensure the safety of her many sources, the people she met everyday in her travels.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael Gerald

    "By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' eastward to the sea, There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me; For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say: 'Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!'" - "Mandalay", by Rudyard Kipling George Orwell (Real name: Eric Blair) is most famous for his dystopian and anti-totalitarianism novels Animal Farm and 1984, but he also wrote an earlier novel about colonialism: Burmese Days. Orwell's parents were born i "By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' eastward to the sea, There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me; For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say: 'Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!'" - "Mandalay", by Rudyard Kipling George Orwell (Real name: Eric Blair) is most famous for his dystopian and anti-totalitarianism novels Animal Farm and 1984, but he also wrote an earlier novel about colonialism: Burmese Days. Orwell's parents were born in Burma (now Myanmar) and he spent five years as a member of the British Colonial Police in the country. Those years he stayed in Burma were a major influence in his life, especially in his writing. This fascinating book retraces Orwell's journey through Burma and connects it with the present situation in the country. "Emma Larkin" is a pseudonym of a writer who wanted to retrace Orwell's career in Burma as a Colonial policeman. She started in the city of Mandalay, to the southern Delta town of Myaungmya, to the capital Rangoon (now Yangon); then to Moulmein (now Mawlamnyine), the town of Orwell's parents and the actual inspiration for Kipling's poem "Mandalay"; and to Katha, the last town Orwell was assigned. In her travels, Larkin encountered ordinary Burmese who know Orwell and have read his books. It was delightedly good to learn that many Burmese are literate and that even some working class people have a love of reading (and tea). Perhaps it is a form of resistance to the military dictatorship that used to rule absolutely in their country. It can also be said that novel "Burmese Days" is part of a trilogy that can include "Animal Farm" and "1984". Larkin thinks this is the case, as she often found Burmese intellectuals who relate the three books to their country's plight. Many Burmese call Orwell "The Prophet", because he was said to have accurately foretold the country's suffering under the military dictatorship. Larkin definitely found the country Orwellian, as she was constantly followed by informants and the people she talked to often spoke cautiously. Part literature, part history, and part travelogue, "Finding George Orwell in Burma" is a fascinating look at what was a closed country. Now that the junta had relaxed its grip on the country and has allowed dissidents like Aung San Suu Kyi their freedom (Myanmar now has a relatively more open constitution and a civilian President), it is hoped that this country can rise up. However, recent news about discrimination against non-Buddhists can again tarnish this country's recent history.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    Larkin travels Burma looking for traces of George Orwell. She visits the city of his grandparents' residence, the police academy he attended, his posting, and scenes of his novels and essays. Everywhere she goes she finds Burma "Orwellian". Larkin does a great job of describing how Burma has evolved to this and the prescience of Orwell. Her quotes and references to Burmese Days, Animal Farm and 1984 are perfectly placed with her modern day experiences. Knowing the language, and apparently steeped Larkin travels Burma looking for traces of George Orwell. She visits the city of his grandparents' residence, the police academy he attended, his posting, and scenes of his novels and essays. Everywhere she goes she finds Burma "Orwellian". Larkin does a great job of describing how Burma has evolved to this and the prescience of Orwell. Her quotes and references to Burmese Days, Animal Farm and 1984 are perfectly placed with her modern day experiences. Knowing the language, and apparently steeped in the culture, Larkin can do what few other outsiders can, look beyond the veneer and see what is actually there. A friend visited Burma over a year ago returning with beautiful photos and stories about how friendly and OPEN the people were. This seemed contrary to my understanding of the situation but after a few chapters of Larkin, you're on to the whole thing. Using anecdotes from her interviews and Orwell's words, she shows you step by step how a police state entrenches itself. When I read books like this, I worry about the interviewees. With Burma's perfect infiltration, how they escape notice? While names, including those of the author are pseudo, I hope descriptions of settings, professions and tea houses are well obfuscated. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in Burma, Orwell or the political science, sociology or psychology of totalitarian regimes. As you can see, the cover is absolutely stunning.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Hewitt

    Oh, how I adored this book! The author uses George Orwell's writings about Burma to frame her present-day travels in the same country (now called Myanmar). If you have read any George Orwell, you will really appreciate this book in ways I can't even describe. But even if you haven't, you will still come away with a new appreciation for how average people cope living under a strict dictatorship. I still think about this book all of the time...go read it now! Oh, how I adored this book! The author uses George Orwell's writings about Burma to frame her present-day travels in the same country (now called Myanmar). If you have read any George Orwell, you will really appreciate this book in ways I can't even describe. But even if you haven't, you will still come away with a new appreciation for how average people cope living under a strict dictatorship. I still think about this book all of the time...go read it now!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Patrick McCoy

    I have visited Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). I had some misgivings about visiting the military totalitarian state at first. It is sort of a mini version of North Korea, but with less power. But this book helped changed my mind since I am equally interested in George Orwell, one of my favorite writers, and I particularly enjoyed his colonial novel Burmese Days. Thus, I was naturally inclined to read Emma Larkin’s book Secret Histories: Finding George Orwell In A Burmese Tea Shop. It didn’t d I have visited Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). I had some misgivings about visiting the military totalitarian state at first. It is sort of a mini version of North Korea, but with less power. But this book helped changed my mind since I am equally interested in George Orwell, one of my favorite writers, and I particularly enjoyed his colonial novel Burmese Days. Thus, I was naturally inclined to read Emma Larkin’s book Secret Histories: Finding George Orwell In A Burmese Tea Shop. It didn’t disappoint. Larkin is gifted at vividly describing the people and places she visits. Her research into the life of Orwell, the history of Burma, and her political analysis of the current situation are interesting and informative. So it is an unique book in the sense that it is all at once a travel log, history, political analysis, Literary biography and literary analysis. I think she is particularly good in describing how living and working in Burma as a colonial policeman effected Orwell and influenced him to become a political writer championing the exploited and powerless: The few snippets of autobiography that Orwell left behind indicate that his time in Burma was a major turning point in his life, marking his transformation from a snobbish public school boy to a writer with a social conscience who would seek out the underdogs of society and try to tell their stories. Orwell’s hatred toward colonialism, nurtured in the heat and solitude, grew like a hothouse flower. She uses Orwell’s political novels like 1984 and Animal Farm to describe the currently situation in Myanmar where the government controls the people with strict censorship, informers, and military police. Despite the pleas of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s pleas for a boycott on tourism to protest the police state, I visited the country. I had met a Japanese NGO worker who urged me to visit and I feel that I supported local people by eating in their restaurants and staying in their guesthouses. I think I brought some outside influence to the people I met and saw the effects of the regime in person. This author has made it clear that the people appreciate the outside perspective visitors bring.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    I first came across George Orwell when we had to read Animal Farm at school for a set text in the mid-1980s. This was around the time of the cold war and the way he portrayed the takeover by the pigs on the farm and the way that they changed the agenda each time for their own ends was quite chilling. 1984 was the year that everyone was reading Nineteen Eighty-Four, except me; I didn’t read it until 2013… I have since read a few of his books and found him a fascinating author to read, but I knew I first came across George Orwell when we had to read Animal Farm at school for a set text in the mid-1980s. This was around the time of the cold war and the way he portrayed the takeover by the pigs on the farm and the way that they changed the agenda each time for their own ends was quite chilling. 1984 was the year that everyone was reading Nineteen Eighty-Four, except me; I didn’t read it until 2013… I have since read a few of his books and found him a fascinating author to read, but I knew very little about him. Before becoming an author he spent some time working in Burma, now Myanmar. Whilst he was there he was working with the Indian Imperial Police as an Assistant District Superintendent. He chose Burma as his maternal grandmother lived there. He learnt the language very quickly, but his position meant that he was responsible for the security of a couple of hundred thousand people. The imperial regime there oppressed the people and he was a part of it. In 1927 he became ill and was granted leave back in the UK and it was that here he resigned from the police force and decided to become a writer. His short time there was to give us the books, Burmese Days and Shooting An Elephant, but as Emma Larkin finds, it was also to provide inspiration for Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Myanmar is a totalitarian state ruled with a heavy hand by the military with pervasive and constant monitoring and oppression of the populace. She spends a year in the country following his trail and talking overtly and often covertly to people who call him ‘the prophet’ and trying to see the parallels in his brief stay there and how his growing hatred of colonial rule was the fuel behind these two books. It is a fascinating study of the man and the country as she traces the ghosts of his family past whilst trying to keep her nose clean with the authorities. Larkin is a very talented writer, managing to blend travel writing, as well as the biography of Orwell, alongside her take on this country as she tries to move around with the constraints they put on her. It is clear to see that the inspiration for Nineteen Eighty-Four was directly linked to the oppression that he was a part of when he was there. Very much worth reading for insight into Myanmar and Orwell.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Melpomene

    "I'm gonna write a history book about Burma's dictatorship but no one will buy that book, so let's put Orwell's name in the title." I'm not a historian so I don't know if this book was honest about Burma's regime or not but it has nothing to do with Orwell, she just drops Orwell's name for no reason in every chapter and compares Burma's dictatorship to his 1984. (oh what a surprise, a dictatorship resembles Orwell's 1984!!! every fucking dictatorship resembles that book idiot!) p.s: I don't trust "I'm gonna write a history book about Burma's dictatorship but no one will buy that book, so let's put Orwell's name in the title." I'm not a historian so I don't know if this book was honest about Burma's regime or not but it has nothing to do with Orwell, she just drops Orwell's name for no reason in every chapter and compares Burma's dictatorship to his 1984. (oh what a surprise, a dictatorship resembles Orwell's 1984!!! every fucking dictatorship resembles that book idiot!) p.s: I don't trust the book, it felt like she was trying to say "colonized Burma was better than this dictatorship hence British empire was not as bad as you think!"

  10. 5 out of 5

    AJ LeBlanc

    This was a book club pick and proved to be an interesting challenge because my prior knowledge of Burma was around zero, and I didn’t remember much from school about George Orwell. Emma Larkin is a pseudonym for a writer who has lived in Thailand and has crossed the border into Burma (now Myanmar) several times to write about the country and its human rights issues. In this book, she traces the time George Orwell spent in Burma as a member of the British Imperial Police. His experiences there in This was a book club pick and proved to be an interesting challenge because my prior knowledge of Burma was around zero, and I didn’t remember much from school about George Orwell. Emma Larkin is a pseudonym for a writer who has lived in Thailand and has crossed the border into Burma (now Myanmar) several times to write about the country and its human rights issues. In this book, she traces the time George Orwell spent in Burma as a member of the British Imperial Police. His experiences there influenced his later writings, and he is sometimes refered to as The Prophet because 1984 seems to predict what happened in the country after the British left. When I started the book, I was hopping on and off Wikipedia to refresh my memory of Orwell. I had a disastrous introduction to him with Animal Farm in the eighth grade and never got over it. Who has an eighth grader read Animal Farm as an independent reading choice and gives no background information??! I thought it was a book about talking animals and was horrified at the D on my book report. To this day, I am bitter. At some point I picked up 1984 and read it, but I remembered very little and had twisted it in with the plot of Fahrenheit 451. I was not prepared for this book. Having a foggy memory of Orwell and almost no background on Burma or Myanmar, I struggled with this at first. I tried to find connections to my own life or topics that interested me, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it through. Asian culture is something I do not identify with and the history of the country, the politics and the customs felt completely foreign. I also had to take a detour into the expansion of the British Empire, which is not a quick trip. However, knowing I had a book group to support me when I finished, I slogged through the first chunk and found myself getting more interested. There’s an edge to the story because of the political unrest and I kept expecting Larkin or her friends or interviewees to be imprisoned. She is often followed as she explores Orwell’s path but she knows how to work within the system and manages to stay safe. I didn’t google her until about halfway into the book, but I finally did because I couldn’t figure out how she managed to travel alone in the country without being arrested or deported. “Emma Larkin” sounds like a white woman with blonde hair and blue eyes to me (what does that say about my stereotyped expectations?) but learning this was a pseudonym, it made sense. She needs to remain anonymous so she can publish her stories. She also needs to gain the trust of Burma’s people and she carefully changes names and places and writes in code to protect them, and herself. The political structure in Burma is incredibly depressing, especially because at one point in history it was seen as a flourishing nation. Older generations remember this time. Some of them are beaten down by the changes, while others are angry and quietly fight against their government. As Larkin visits the places where Orwell was, she describes the parallels between what has happened in Burma and the stories Orwell wrote. It is easy to see why he is called The Prophet. Did he write 1984 knowing it would happen in Burma, or was it coincidence? I think the book could be read against many countries’ practices now and would hold up as a prediction. Having this as a book group choice was fantastic because when we met we realized there were a lot of depressing and scary parallels between what had happened and is happening in Burma/Myanmar and what is happening in America. What started out as an alien book turned into a discussion of what our own government is doing. We were mixed in our knowledge of Orwell and Burma, and it made for a great meeting as we pooled knowledge and made connections. The end of the book is both depressing and hopeful. When Larkin finishes writing, Aung San Suu Kyi has disappeared and was feared dead. The government had kept her under house arrest for years and tried to isolate her from the people and the United Nations because she promotes democracy and many of the people support her. However, after the book was published, she was again released and continues her work for free elections. The country is still a disaster in terms of human rights, health care, political corruption and much more. I wonder how much hope the people have, especially the younger generations that don’t remember anything before the current government. Side note: Our next book club choice is 1984 and I look forward to rereading it knowing more about Orwell. It will also be interesting to compare my reaction to reading it on my own in high school and my response to it today.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I read this while headingto the Delta in Burma and after having finished Burmese Days... I really loved her readable style and could really feel her emotions and frustration about the situation in Burma. It's now 2 years after the democratic changes have started to come and I would love to know if its changed at all and what her collection of friends have to say about it all. I also felt cmpletely compelled to read and re-read George Orwell's other books and learn more about him after reading th I read this while headingto the Delta in Burma and after having finished Burmese Days... I really loved her readable style and could really feel her emotions and frustration about the situation in Burma. It's now 2 years after the democratic changes have started to come and I would love to know if its changed at all and what her collection of friends have to say about it all. I also felt cmpletely compelled to read and re-read George Orwell's other books and learn more about him after reading this - that's the mark of a good biographer!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    I first read this book just over 5 years ago – I had to check back to be sure of when it was. I loved it – but rather rashly gave away my copy thinking I could get another copy easily. Well it proved rather harder to get a cheap copy (I balked at the some of the high prices on the internet). So when Kaggsy from Librarything recently offered me a second hand copy she had found I was delighted. It even arrived in time to fit into my month of re-reading. Many years ago I read George Orwell’s Animal I first read this book just over 5 years ago – I had to check back to be sure of when it was. I loved it – but rather rashly gave away my copy thinking I could get another copy easily. Well it proved rather harder to get a cheap copy (I balked at the some of the high prices on the internet). So when Kaggsy from Librarything recently offered me a second hand copy she had found I was delighted. It even arrived in time to fit into my month of re-reading. Many years ago I read George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty Four (which rather terrified me as it was before the real 1984 and I was scared it might come true) The Clergyman’s Daughter and Keeping the Aspidistra Flying. I enjoyed them all – but until I came across this book in 2007 I sort of forgot all about dear old George. This book instantly fascinated me I particularly remembered.. “George Orwell’ I repeated ‘The author of nineteen eighty four’ The old man’s eyes suddenly lit up. He looked at me with a brilliant flash of recognition, slapped his forehead gleefully, and said ‘You mean the Prophet’ In the 1920’s George Orwell (still living under his real name of Eric Blair) lived in Burma for five years working as a police officer for the imperial police force. In her book Secret Histories Emma Larkin explores the impact of this time upon his work. She asks whether there was something about his experiences in Burma that allowed him to foretell the brutal dictatorship which exists today – but was still almost forty years in the future when Orwell lived in Burma. There are those who Emma Larkin tells us – don’t believe that Orwell just wrote one book about Burma, but that he wrote a trilogy, Burmese days, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four. I only read Burmese days this year – it has been in the back of my mind to do so ever since I first read this fascinating book. My re-reading of Secret Histories was enhanced by having read it so recently. In 1950 as George Orwell lay dying of TB – having had his typewriter confiscated – he was working on a novella – also set in Burma. So whether or not Animal Farm and Nineteen Eight-Four were really about Burma or not is probably not clear – and it is something Orwellian scholars can debate I am sure, but it would seem that George Orwell was affected by his time there. His novel Burmese days – published a few years after his sudden return from Burma was a savage and stinging critique of the racist colonialism that he would have been a part of. This was after all the time of Kipling’s Raj. By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' eastward to the sea, There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me; For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say: "Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!" Come you back to Mandalay, Where the old Flotilla lay: Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay? On the road to Mandalay, Where the flyin'-fishes play, An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay! ( R Kipling) It is interesting to note that the name Mandalay is one of the few not changed by the regime – they changed the name of Burma to that of Myanmar – just like in nineteen Eight-four – trying to wipe out the past and re-write history. Secret Histories – is part literary criticism, part travelogue – I found Emma Larkin to be great company. She was a lone woman traveller in a part of the world wary and suspicious at best of foreign visitors – yet she shows no fear. She is careful to protect the identities of the people she meets. These people are wonderful, chatty and book loving. These people are only too aware of the truths that are hidden from them – they have their own ways of deciphering what is really going on by looking for what is missing from the government’s newspaper. Larkin’s affection for Burma and its people is obvious, combining this the way she has with a close examination of Orwell’s work is fascinating and utterly compelling.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Li-Anne

    Emma Larkin - a pseudonym for an American journalist living in Bangkok who hypothesizes that George Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984 were set in Burma (and not the Soviet Union). After all Burmese Days his first book, and his last novella (untitled) which he wrote upon his death bed, were both set in Burma. He lived there for 5 years as an Imperial policeman and of course, also wrote the beautiful short story Shooting an Eleplant. I'm a big Orwell fan. I was so excited to read this book and she doe Emma Larkin - a pseudonym for an American journalist living in Bangkok who hypothesizes that George Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984 were set in Burma (and not the Soviet Union). After all Burmese Days his first book, and his last novella (untitled) which he wrote upon his death bed, were both set in Burma. He lived there for 5 years as an Imperial policeman and of course, also wrote the beautiful short story Shooting an Eleplant. I'm a big Orwell fan. I was so excited to read this book and she does make a very strong case. - "Why would we need to read 1984 (on the book being banned in Burma), we LIVE 1984" says one old man she interviewed. Yes, she makes a very compelling case, because she takes us through her Burma, painted as an Orwellian State, and she gives us so many vivid and specific details to prove her point, but as I'm prepping for my trip to Burma, now, I am not so sure myself. I don't want to believe her. People know so little about Burma and what we do know, we know from CNN - Aung San Suu Kyi's ongoing house arrest, the human rights abuses, the military regime seemingly randomly moving their capital into the middle of the jungle - enough to make us think "What really does go on in that country". But I'm optimist and I'm convinced there are many other sides to Burma, stories that need to be told, the beautiful Burma, it's grand history, its Colonial past, its fleeting moment with democracy, the forgotten Monarchy, the temples of Pagan, surely there's so very much to be told about this country than just about being an Orwellian State.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Larkin (a pseudonym to protect her Burmese contacts), explores the places George Orwell, product of empire, worked during his posting in Burma, tying these experiences closely to both Burmese Days and his subsequent work. The Burmese, for their part, regard Orwell as both an obnoxious colonialist and a prophet, joking that he wrote a prescient trilogy about Burma--adding Animal Farm and 1984.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chitra Ahanthem

    A non fiction that is part travelogue, part literary overview of the works of George Orwell AND part commentary on the socio political journey of Burma (the name Myanmar is an imposition by the junta there), here’s a book you have to read if you are a fan of Orwell or been fascinated by his writings. It is a book that takes you behind the scenes of a country that has been presented as idyllic and puts you face to face with its oppressive surveillance. Emma Larkin (a pseudonym of an American Journ A non fiction that is part travelogue, part literary overview of the works of George Orwell AND part commentary on the socio political journey of Burma (the name Myanmar is an imposition by the junta there), here’s a book you have to read if you are a fan of Orwell or been fascinated by his writings. It is a book that takes you behind the scenes of a country that has been presented as idyllic and puts you face to face with its oppressive surveillance. Emma Larkin (a pseudonym of an American Journalist) traces the places and influences of Eric Arthur Blake better known as Orwell through Burma, a country he spent five years of his life as an officer in the then British administration and which inspired a majority of his writings. Through Larkin’s meetings and interactions with dissidents, academics and more important, the common men and women of the country, we are treated to an intimate look at Burma and its people and how Orwell’s writings well reflect the various stages of his own literary positioning: the push and pull between colonial rulers and natives in Burmese Days, the growing control by authoritarian forces in Animal Farm and the oppressive air aided by fear and monitoring in 1984. Apart from the three well-known works of Orwell, his essays and poetry too find a place in this book. 

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Pretty much anything about Myanmar is bound to pique my interest, and Larkin's travelogue was no exception. Granted, if you've read much about Myanmar before, and especially if you've actually been, you're not going to find that many surprises. It's mostly just a recapitulation of shit you know about already, as the stories of wise, witty Burmese people confronting their complete hopelessness is something you encounter time and time again, both in the books about Myanmar and in an actual visit ( Pretty much anything about Myanmar is bound to pique my interest, and Larkin's travelogue was no exception. Granted, if you've read much about Myanmar before, and especially if you've actually been, you're not going to find that many surprises. It's mostly just a recapitulation of shit you know about already, as the stories of wise, witty Burmese people confronting their complete hopelessness is something you encounter time and time again, both in the books about Myanmar and in an actual visit (my own memories of green tea with a Shan princess, for instance, come to mind). However, it's quite a well-written travelogue, and if you don't know much about the country, it's a pretty good introduction.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hubert

    A very readable "political travelogue" from a writer who has followed the political situation in Burma very closely. Burma for a long time has been ruled by a military junta that suppresses free speech and thought, denouncing any criticism of its one-party military rule. Larkin interviews many brave souls through whom we learn the most about the state of the country, one whose history is being constantly erased. Larkin retraces Orwell's early career as an imperial soldier in the country, constan A very readable "political travelogue" from a writer who has followed the political situation in Burma very closely. Burma for a long time has been ruled by a military junta that suppresses free speech and thought, denouncing any criticism of its one-party military rule. Larkin interviews many brave souls through whom we learn the most about the state of the country, one whose history is being constantly erased. Larkin retraces Orwell's early career as an imperial soldier in the country, constantly questioning Orwell's motivations for choosing to be in Burma as a young man in the first place. The complications surrounding British colonialism, the independence movement post WWII, and the subsequent failed socialism, leave a haunting legacy in this repressed country who inhabitants make an average of the equivalent of a few US dollars per month. A worthy introduction to Burmese political history, and motivates one to get more in-depth on its history and culture.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    When I first started researching Burma, I tried to start with Burma: The Curse of Independence (see my bookshelf for another review) but couldn't get into it at first because it was so mind-boggling to keep track of the many peoples, languages, and organization acronyms that co-exist with Burma's borders. I needed a toe-hold on the country first. Larkin's book gave me the overview on the history and the current situation in Burma which allowed me to make sense of Burma: The Curse of Independence When I first started researching Burma, I tried to start with Burma: The Curse of Independence (see my bookshelf for another review) but couldn't get into it at first because it was so mind-boggling to keep track of the many peoples, languages, and organization acronyms that co-exist with Burma's borders. I needed a toe-hold on the country first. Larkin's book gave me the overview on the history and the current situation in Burma which allowed me to make sense of Burma: The Curse of Independence (which I read afterwards). Besides this overview, the most compelling thing I found about Larkin's book was her experience of learning how to pass as a Western tourist (instead of a reporter) through the country, and the stories she heard from those Burmese people she spoke with who offered their stories of quiet resistance. The text is focused almost entirely on the plight of the Burmese people and only occasionally comes up on the borders between the ethnic Burmese and the many other distinct ethnicities who live in the country. This is due, in part, to the author's restrictions (passing as a Western tourist, speaking only Burmese and none of the other local languages) but is also due to the direct action of the military junta in power. It is the history of the Burmese people that is the history that matters, skewed through the iron control of censorship as it may be. Reading this book first helped me get a sense of the overall picture -- the things said and the things unsaid -- while Burma: The Curse of Independence helped fill in some of the blanks.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jayme

    In Emma Larkin's memoir Finding George Orwell in Burma Larkin hopes to discover more about Orwell by retracing Orwell's 5 years of service in the Imperial Police Force when he was stationed in Burma. With a battered copy of Orwell's Burmese Days Larkin discovers a Burma exploited in the past by colonial Britain and currently (published in 2004) being terrorized by one of the world's most brutal dictatorships. With insight and honesty Larkin shows us the dignity and grace of the Burmese people as In Emma Larkin's memoir Finding George Orwell in Burma Larkin hopes to discover more about Orwell by retracing Orwell's 5 years of service in the Imperial Police Force when he was stationed in Burma. With a battered copy of Orwell's Burmese Days Larkin discovers a Burma exploited in the past by colonial Britain and currently (published in 2004) being terrorized by one of the world's most brutal dictatorships. With insight and honesty Larkin shows us the dignity and grace of the Burmese people as they try to circumvent a century of political upheaval - a must read for those trying to understand the events dictating our 21st century world.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    Really fascinating look at the extreme totalitarian world that the Burmese live under. I just finished rereading 1984, and I was glad that I had because the parallels between Oceania of Orwell's novel and modern Myanmar are just astounding. Orwell was using the Soviet Union as his model, but he definitely described certain aspects of Burma accurately which just goes to show that totalitarian regimes will be much the same, regardless of the country they are ruling. The despair and hopelessness of Really fascinating look at the extreme totalitarian world that the Burmese live under. I just finished rereading 1984, and I was glad that I had because the parallels between Oceania of Orwell's novel and modern Myanmar are just astounding. Orwell was using the Soviet Union as his model, but he definitely described certain aspects of Burma accurately which just goes to show that totalitarian regimes will be much the same, regardless of the country they are ruling. The despair and hopelessness of the Burmese people that Larkin encountered over and over was heartrending.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jon Rees

    I read this book while travelling in Myanmar with my father this April. I read it almost immediately following George Orwell's Burmese Days and it was really rewarding to see and imagine the environment in which Orwell once lived and walked. The opening of Larkin's text deals with a confused conversation between the author and a professor of literature living in Myanmar: a language barrier means that they can't immediately establish the identity of their shared favourite author. It reminded me o I read this book while travelling in Myanmar with my father this April. I read it almost immediately following George Orwell's Burmese Days and it was really rewarding to see and imagine the environment in which Orwell once lived and walked. The opening of Larkin's text deals with a confused conversation between the author and a professor of literature living in Myanmar: a language barrier means that they can't immediately establish the identity of their shared favourite author. It reminded me of a similar conversation I had with our tour guide in Yangon who was not aware of him--but then Orwell, or Eric Arthur Blair as he was then known, had never lived in Yangon. But the crumbling edifices of Empire were all around us. We were glad to leave the sweltering heat of Yangon to Lake Inle and Bagan, yet Orwell was never stationed in either of these places. He was sent to the darkest, mosquito-ridden backwaters where violent crime was rife. It was these years, according to the author, that broke Orwell both physically and mentally. She states that all his protagnosists are scarred, borken and incapable of sustaining healthy relationships: be it Winston Smith in 1984, whose broken body flaps and flails in front of the mandatory aerobics exercises beamed into his apartment by Big Brother, or the birth-marked face of John Flory, the 35-year-old timber merchant and flawed protagonist of Burmese Days. They carry physical scars redolent of the emotional ones inflicted by living lives which have been compromised and debased by the avarices of totalitarian regimes. What was really interesting in Larkin's account was the additional historical detail regarding political life in Myanmar post-British colonialism, with the 50 year imposition of the military dictatorship that stagnated the countries economic and social development. At the time Larkin writes, Aung San Suu Kyi was still interred as part of her 15 year house arrest. Myanmar is beset by many problems, not least the recent massacres that have been reported of the nationaless Muslim Rohingya population. But there is certainly a cause for hope given the optimism and kindness of the people we met everywhere in our travels, and the natural splendour of the country itself. Hopefully there are still enough natural resources to be extracted in a sustainable way for the benefit of the people of Myanmar, and/or opportunities offered them in the wave of tourism that will surely increase given the beauty of the country and the relaxation of military rule following Aung San Suu Kyi's release from prison and period as President the country.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eric B. Kennedy

    Sometimes a book is good enough, but just doesn't click. That was my experience with "Finding George Orwell in Burma." It fits a number of genres I often enjoy (e.g., travel writing, political analysis), but somehow just didn't really resonate. In Finding, Emma Larkin recounts a trip through Burma spurred on by a desire to follow in the footsteps of George Orwell. Orwell had been stationed as a British officer in Burma, and much of his writing - including 1984 - exudes influence from his time in Sometimes a book is good enough, but just doesn't click. That was my experience with "Finding George Orwell in Burma." It fits a number of genres I often enjoy (e.g., travel writing, political analysis), but somehow just didn't really resonate. In Finding, Emma Larkin recounts a trip through Burma spurred on by a desire to follow in the footsteps of George Orwell. Orwell had been stationed as a British officer in Burma, and much of his writing - including 1984 - exudes influence from his time in the country. Larkin attempts to find shreds of his past, hunting for a story that both explains Orwell's writing and explains Burma's condition. It's a slow, plodding travelogue, which is to be expected given the subject and the roadblocks she encounters. But, it's also more than a little frustrating for the reader, as Larkin seems to glean much more from her own notes on Orwell and various non-Burmese archival work than she extracts from these travels. Part of this stems from an unwillingness, repeatedly documented, by her informants to discuss anything to do with the political landscape within the country. This reticence is telling, of course, and its prevalence is a major theme throughout the book... but it results in a travel story that is fundamentally unsatisfying. We only really gain hints of understanding about Burma and Orwell when Larkin interrupts the firsthand accounts, and when we return to Burma we re-enter the shadows. It's not to say that there aren't interesting figures and contrasts hidden within the darkness (for instance, the returning motif of Larkin being monitored by a ubiquitous military intelligence is profound, especially given the permanent sense it fosters of never knowing who is a true friend and who is a military informant), but it becomes slow and slightly difficult to grok the needed context and details about either Orwell or Burma. Ultimately, I think this is a good book - even if one where the pacing and narrative didn't work quite as well as I had hoped. Larkin is a linguistically gifted writer and the stories are worth telling. Perhaps with a bit more pre-study on Burma and Orwell I could have gotten a little more from the volume. But, there's material lurking in the shadows, if you're willing to take the slow journey to tease it out.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Virgil

    This book is unique and a pleasant, though anticlimactic read. It's probably more travelogue than biography or political history, though its blend of the three makes for descriptive, light, but interesting reading for the avid South East Asian political reader and 1984 fan. I found that, although I had some preconceptions about what life under authoritarian rule looked like, this book really gave a clear picture of what life is like for regular people in this most nightmarish form of government. This book is unique and a pleasant, though anticlimactic read. It's probably more travelogue than biography or political history, though its blend of the three makes for descriptive, light, but interesting reading for the avid South East Asian political reader and 1984 fan. I found that, although I had some preconceptions about what life under authoritarian rule looked like, this book really gave a clear picture of what life is like for regular people in this most nightmarish form of government. The descriptions of countless encounters and conversations with regular people abruptly cut short by fear of saying or thinking the wrong thing, were vivid and so numerous that the sense of tremendous unrelenting oppression was inescapable. Meanwhile, following the path of George Orwell's life as a colonial police officer in Burma reveals something of life in the cruel and grotesquely racist British Empire that the author of 1984 apparently grew to despise. This periscope into his life in Burma brought to my attention previously unknown potential influences and inspiration for his writing of 1984, giving said masterpiece new meaning for me. All in all, the book is visual and revealing, but a must read for few. Appreciating that there are real limitations to research and travel in and on Burma, the travelogue format of the writing, while full of imagery, made for a slow-paced development of any story with every chapter feeling identical to the previous. I recommend this book to those interested in Burma (Myanmar) and dystopian stories, for light indulgent reading.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Eric Blair served on the Imperial police force in the 1920s and quit suddenly to write in the UK. Burma achieved independence in 1948 when the military dictator closed it off and socialism made it the poorest Asian country. Orwell’s first book, Burmese Days, depicts colonialism from 1885 when British banished the king to India. The author contends that Animal farm, as story of socialist revolution gone badly, and 1984’s depiction of a brutal dictatorship, also refer to Burma. Certainly all his b Eric Blair served on the Imperial police force in the 1920s and quit suddenly to write in the UK. Burma achieved independence in 1948 when the military dictator closed it off and socialism made it the poorest Asian country. Orwell’s first book, Burmese Days, depicts colonialism from 1885 when British banished the king to India. The author contends that Animal farm, as story of socialist revolution gone badly, and 1984’s depiction of a brutal dictatorship, also refer to Burma. Certainly all his books are about people trapped in their environment and controlled by government. I’m not convinced that much of the history outlined in this book is intended to be specific to Burmese politics as the author claims. Just as I’m pretty certain that Lion King isn’t an allegory of Burmese dictatorship as forced in the book. Dictatorships are dictatorships and have much in common whether historically like Burma or fictionally like 1984. I learned a lot in preparation for my trip to Burma and she was honest about the 1988 uprising when soldiers killed 3000. At the time this was written Suu Kyi had returned from oxford to care for her mother and was still the hero on home detention.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hunter Marston

    Larkin's book was thoroughly enjoyable. She imparts a deep understanding of the country based on her extensive time there. Clearly her ability to speak Burmese facilitates her interactions with people and the places she traveled to for this book. Her ability to weave between Orwell's life in Burma, his written works, and modern-day Myanmar society were extremely interesting and moving. But most of all, I think her ability to really analytically explore the culture of disinformation and lack of f Larkin's book was thoroughly enjoyable. She imparts a deep understanding of the country based on her extensive time there. Clearly her ability to speak Burmese facilitates her interactions with people and the places she traveled to for this book. Her ability to weave between Orwell's life in Burma, his written works, and modern-day Myanmar society were extremely interesting and moving. But most of all, I think her ability to really analytically explore the culture of disinformation and lack of free press in the country was incredibly perceptive.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy Tonkin

    This was a fascinating book. I struggled a little to follow along with some of the storytelling as I have next to no context for life & culture in Burma/Myanmar. Since this was published in 2004, I’m curious how the situation has or hasn’t changed in the past 17 years. Will definitely be spending some time researching this. Now off to listening to the Myanmar Oral History podcast I found…

  27. 4 out of 5

    thereadytraveller

    Finding George Orwell in Burma is part travelogue and part political discourse on the country of Myanmar detailing Emma Larkin's journey through the country following George Orwell's postings in the five years that he spent there as an Officer in the Imperial Police Force. Originally published as Secret Histories in 2004, the book was first written under the pseudonym John Murray. Republished a year later, a pseudonym was again used to protect both the author and the people with whom she interact Finding George Orwell in Burma is part travelogue and part political discourse on the country of Myanmar detailing Emma Larkin's journey through the country following George Orwell's postings in the five years that he spent there as an Officer in the Imperial Police Force. Originally published as Secret Histories in 2004, the book was first written under the pseudonym John Murray. Republished a year later, a pseudonym was again used to protect both the author and the people with whom she interacts. What is known about the author is that she was born and raised in Asia, is fluent in Burmese and first visited Myanmar in 1995. Having covered Myanmar in her role as journalist for a considerable number of years, Larkin's extensive knowledge of the country, its people and the oppressive military junta that has ruled it since independence in 1962, has been very much brought to the fore when writing this book. What is also probably unknown to most people who haven't studied George Orwell, is that he used a pseudonym himself and only adopted his pen name after returning to England following five years he spent in Myanmar during the 1920's working as an Officer in the Indian Imperial Police. Burma played a significant part in Orwell's life as he matured into adulthood and one of his very earliest novels, Burmese Days, was based on his experiences in the country. On his death bed he also had composed a rough outline sketch of a novella, that again would be based in Burma. However, it is for the novels Animal Farm and 1984, that George Orwell will always be best known. Larkin adroitly combines all three of these books and classifies them as a trilogy and from here is able to draw parallels to the military junta of Burma and the abuses of power that sadly describes the modern history of Myanmar. Finding George Orwell in Burma concentrates mostly on the conversations that Larkin has with people in places she visits, rather than on physical surroundings. This enables here to draw attention to the lives of ordinary citizens having to live under the oppressive regime. Additionally, she also is able to impart a good amount of information about Orwell himself and his life in Burma as she travels through the country. Since Larkin wrote her book considerable progress on humans rights issues have been made within Myanmar. In 2011 the military junta was officially dissolved and in 2015 the country held, and more importantly, were also able to implement a government based on what were free elections. The landslide victory saw Aung San Suu Kyi elected as the de facto head of government by being appointed to the newly created office of State Counsellor of Myanmar due to her being constitutionally barred from being elected President. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this review, Myanmar is again embroiled in human rights abuses towards its ethnic minorities, as the military takes revenge for insurgent attacks on police and paramilitary posts. As a result, nearly 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the Rakhine state into Bangladesh. That Larkin makes mention of the cultural genocide taking place in Arakan State (the former name for Rakhine state) towards the Rohingya who "bear the brunt" of the regime's racial hegemony, illustrates how long persecution has been ongoing. Aung San Suu Kyi claims that the crisis in Rakhine state is being distorted by a "huge iceberg of misinformation" on the face of it seems woefully inadequate from someone who alongside Nelson Mandela was viewed as one of the most important global symbols of defiance against tyranny. Whilst there definitely has been a large amount of “fake news” surrounding this issue, a lot of this is due to Suu Kyi’s government continuing to restrict access to areas of conflict, where mostly ethnic minorities reside. Whilst it is clear that Suu Kyi does not control the military, her refusal to condemn well-documented military abuses provides the generals with necessary political cover. Whether her refusal is due to fear that any condemnation might prompt the former junta into retaking full control of Myanmar once again, is unknown. What is known, is that this is a complex issue, and the world can ill-afford to once again do nothing and stand on the sidelines as another genocide event potentially unfolds. Larkin's book provides us with a better understanding of what life was like for those people who were living under the military regime in the early 2000's. Whilst it is well written, the same messages and comparisons tend to be repeated which makes it feel somewhat short on content, even though the book itself is a relatively short read. All up, Finding George Orwell in Burma is a cleverly composed, good read which brings attention to some serious human rights issues, that is every more important in light of current events.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Subvert

    After The Trouser People this was the second book I read in Burma about Burma. This book was actually my preferred choice, but I couldn't find it in Bangkok before going to Burma. Finding "Finding George Orwell in Burma" in Burma took me a while and was quite difficult, but not as impossible as you would think after reading the book. It is crazy how different I experienced Burma than the writers of these two books barely 8-10 years ago. At times the country now feels annoyingly touristic and esp After The Trouser People this was the second book I read in Burma about Burma. This book was actually my preferred choice, but I couldn't find it in Bangkok before going to Burma. Finding "Finding George Orwell in Burma" in Burma took me a while and was quite difficult, but not as impossible as you would think after reading the book. It is crazy how different I experienced Burma than the writers of these two books barely 8-10 years ago. At times the country now feels annoyingly touristic and especially in the last half year there have been some big changes (lets see how permanent they will be...), so books like this are now sold more and more and people started speaking out publicly more often. The bookshop owner of Hsipaw was delighted when I told him this book was now openly sold in Yangon, which means he could start selling it too. When visiting Burma today you won't be as much hassled as Emma Larkin was while writing the book. Still reading the book in teashops in Burma is sometimes a bit of a surreal experience. The book works well, the Burmese joke (/prophecy) on how Orwell ended up writing three books about Burma is cruelly funny. And I'm sold to the basic premise that Burma did a lot more to change and shape Orwell's future outlook on life than generally understood. The idea of writing about Burma using Orwell generally works rather well and better than I expected. Although, the author does not really end up finding all that much of Orwell himself in Burma. As for books about Burma, I slightly prefer the Trouser People to this one, even though I've always been a big fan of George Orwell. But if you're more interested in George Orwell rather than Burma, the choice should be clear.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rick Silva

    Author George Orwell spent five years serving as a police officer in Burma (now Myanmar) in the 1920s when the country was a British colony. Emma Larkin traces Orwell's steps through the cities and villages of modern Myanmar, a country ruled by one of the longest-reigning totalitarian dictatorships on Earth. Combining travel writing with politics and literature, Larkin parallels life in Myanmar with Orwell's dystopian world of 1984. She also examines colonial Burma, exploring the ruins of the Brit Author George Orwell spent five years serving as a police officer in Burma (now Myanmar) in the 1920s when the country was a British colony. Emma Larkin traces Orwell's steps through the cities and villages of modern Myanmar, a country ruled by one of the longest-reigning totalitarian dictatorships on Earth. Combining travel writing with politics and literature, Larkin parallels life in Myanmar with Orwell's dystopian world of 1984. She also examines colonial Burma, exploring the ruins of the British overseas empire and referencing Orwell's Burma Days, an early novel he wrote set in Burma which was clearly drawn from his personal experiences there. This hit a lot of subject areas that I am interested in, nicely blending vivid and engaging descriptions of the people and scenery in Mandalay, Rangoon, and the Irawaddy River Delta with literary critique. Larkin describes her encounters with the seemingly omnipresent Burmese Military Intelligence, and her interviews with dissidents and former political prisoners, both living in Myanmar and in exile. The book was published in 2004, and this edition includes an epilogue written in 2011 to bring the reader up to speed on some of the more recent developments in Myanmar.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Finding George Orwell in Burma takes a unique approach to both travel and foreign reporting. First, the travels through the country follow George Orwell's stations when he was an imperial police officer in the country (experiences that led to his first novel, Burmese Days ). But Orwell serves as a focus in another way. The author tries to take us inside the rampant government paranoia and repressiveness, comparing the country's current state directly to Orwell's 1984 . I read the book Finding George Orwell in Burma takes a unique approach to both travel and foreign reporting. First, the travels through the country follow George Orwell's stations when he was an imperial police officer in the country (experiences that led to his first novel, Burmese Days ). But Orwell serves as a focus in another way. The author tries to take us inside the rampant government paranoia and repressiveness, comparing the country's current state directly to Orwell's 1984 . I read the book roughly a month before the recent protests in Burma and it made me fully aware of just how brave the Buddhist monks were in taking the forefront in peaceful resistance to a horrible regime.[return][return]Originally posted at http://prairieprogressive.com/2007/10...

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