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The Trouser People: A Story of Burma in the Shadow of the Empireby Andrew Marshall
Synopses & Reviews
Part travelogue, part history, part reportage, The Trouser People is a vivid account of two adventures, a century apart, into the heart of Burma.
Sir George Scott was a largely-forgotten Victorian adventurer who hacked, bullied, and charmed his way through uncharted jungle to help establish British colonial rule in Burma. Born in Scotland in 1851, Scott was a die-hard imperialist with a fondness for gargantuan pith helmets and a bluffness of expression that bordered on the Pythonesque. He spent years mapping the lawless frontiers of this "geographical nowhere," the British Empire's easternmost land border with China. Scott was also the author of The Burman, a book that is in print to this day, a photographer of rare sensibility, and the man who introduced soccer to Burma.
Modern-day Burma (Myanmar) is a hermit nation misruled by a brutal military dictatorship and numerous drug lords. Its soldiers, like the British colonialists before them, are nicknamed "the trouser people" by the country's sarong-wearing civilians. Inspired by Scott's unpublished diaries, Andrew Marshall retraced the explorer's intrepid footsteps from the moldering colonial splendor of Rangoon to the fabled royal capital of Mandalay, then up into the remote Shan hills, the tribal heartland where Scott had his greatest adventures and closest shaves. Wonderfully observed, mordantly funny, and skillfully recounted, The Trouser People is an offbeat and thrilling journey through Britain's lost colonial heritage — and a powerful expose of Burma's modern tragedy.
"Marshall uses the tale of Scott's travels and football's rise as the architecture for a witty account of life in today's diverse and suppressed Burma....Casually weaving relevant political and cultural history into his wry note taking on what he sees in this largely inaccessible country, Marshall gives us a rare glimpse into the jukes and jibes — both on the field an off — of Burma's mysterious balance of power." Brian Bennett, Time
"[Marshall] is an adventurous traveler, but is also determined to observe indigenous tribes facing a shaky future that is threatened by the ruling military forces on one side and the ruthless power of regional drug lords on the other....Those with the inner zeal of the committed traveler will at least imagine the possibility as they experience in words the lush and dramatic environment characterizing this enigmatic place." Lew Lefranz, The Bloomsbury Review
"Travels, both madcap and somber, into the terra incognita of Burma....Marshall emerges from these pages as an extraordinary intrepid traveler and trustworthy narrator whose finely detailed account will want to make readers hop on the next plane to Rangoon to help overthrow the generals' corrupt, narcodollar-fed regime. Excellent from first word to last." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"All of the author's adventures will hold readers' interest, but his difficult journeys to tribal villages of the Shan Plateau, through drug-trafficking territory where head-hunting only ended in the 1970s, are particularly enthralling...this is a valuable firsthand look at areas and living conditions in a country relatively unknown in the West. Avid readers of travel literature will love it." Publishers Weekly
Andrew Marshall has written an unforgettable adventure story, the wry account of two journeys into the untraveled heart of Burma. Part travelogue, part history, part reportage, The Trouser People recounts the story of George Scott, the eccentric British explorer, photographer, adventurer, and later Colonial Administrator of Burma, who introduced the Empire's best game (soccer!) to Burmese natives and to the forbidden Wa state of headhunters, who were similarly enthusiastic about it. The second, contrasting journey is Marshall's own, taking the same dangerous path one hundred years later in a country now devastated by colonial incompetence, war, and totalitarianism. Wonderfully observed, mordantly funny, and skillfully recounted, this is journalistic travel writing at its best.
About the Author
Andrew Marshall is also co-author of The Cult at the End of the World, an account of the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult. He started his career in journalism at age 21 as a features editor and writer at the Daily Telegraph. He then worked on freelance assignments in post-revolutionary Romania and Albania, before joining Tokyo's leading English-language magazine as deputy editor. Since 1993, he has traveled across Asia on assignments which include hunting a mythical yeti in the forests of central China; joining successionist rebels on the Pacific island of Bougainville; exploring the corrupt world of match-rigging in Japanese sumo wrestling; and interviewing contract killers in Thailand. He now lives in Bangkok, Thailand, and contributes to magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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History and Social Science » Asia » Burma and Myanmar