Katherine Brown, January 3, 2012 (view all comments by Katherine Brown)
This book gave me a glimpse into a world I knew nothing about. It could have been science fiction, but for the fact that it is based on current day Burma. A beautiful memoir, it entwines history and the present day reflecting a country that makes the news rarely and continues on a course that is Orwellian in its oppression of its people and its surveillance of visitors. Orwell lived here 100 years ago or so, and the impact of this country on him may have been the catalyst for some of his greatest works.
Katherine Brown, September 10, 2011 (view all comments by Katherine Brown)
The first thing that you need to know about this book is that the author's name is a pen name. If she had used her real name, she would never be allowed back into Burma (or Myanmar). This memoir of the time the author spent exploring George Orwell's connection to Burma is a fascinating and exotic account of a country that we learn little about from our media or in schools.
The author draws us in by connecting George Orwell's novels to his time spent in the country as a police officer for the British Empire. She deftly uses her own experiences researching the book as a back drop, revealing to us the challenges of travelling in this police state. Ms. Larkin reveals Burma as a country with many challenges, not the least of which is the Orwellian experience of its citizens who worry about police informers and political payback. Dare I say it? Its almost like 1984.
by Mother Jones,
"A truer picture of authoritarianism than anyone has written since, perhaps, Orwell himself."
by The New York Times,
"Mournful, meditative, appealingly idiosyncratic...an exercise in literary detection but also a political travelogue."
by San Francisco Chronicle,
"Combining literary criticism with solid field reporting, [Larkin] captures the country at its best and, more often, its worst."
"[A] sobering, journalistic memoir....A disquieting profile of a country and its people." Newsweek
by Washington Post,
"[A] highly original, idiosyncratic book....Larkin paints evocative pictures of Rangoon and Mandalay and the magnificent Irrawaddy River, of nighttime markets twinkling with fairy lights, old colonial mansions...children playing in the streets, adults laughing in teahouses."
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.
In one of the most intrepid travelogues in recent memory, Emma Larkin tells of the year she spent traveling through Burma, using as a compass the life and work of George Orwell, whom many of Burma's underground teahouse intellectuals call simply ?the Prophet.? In stirring prose, she provides a powerful reckoning with one of the world's least free countries. Finding George Orwell in Burma is a brave and revelatory reconnaissance of modern Burma, one of the world's grimmest and most shuttered police states, where the term ?Orwellian? aptly describes the life endured by the country's people. BACKCOVER: ?A truer picture of authoritarianism than anyone has written since, perhaps, Orwell himself.?
?Mournful, meditative, appealingly idiosyncratic . . . an exercise in literary detection but also a political travelogue.?
?The New York Times
?Combining literary criticism with solid field reporting, Larkin] captures the country at its best and, more often, its worst.?
?San Francisco Chronicle
? A] sobering, journalistic memoir . . . A disquieting profile of a country and its people.?
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