HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma…
Loading...

Finding George Orwell in Burma (original 2004; edition 2006)

by Emma Larkin

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5112419,861 (3.95)100
Member:Citizenjoyce
Title:Finding George Orwell in Burma
Authors:Emma Larkin
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2006), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Wishlist
Rating:
Tags:None

Work details

Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin (2004)

Recently added bychorn369, BangkokYankee, emily.youngster, private library, Gushle, aliciamay, andersongs
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 100 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Emma Larkin first went to Burma in 1995 in search of George Orwell. Not just a literary detective, Larkin writes about totalitarianism in Burma with an insight appropriate to an Orwell scholar. The analogy of three of Orwell's novels with the history of Burma is uncannily prophetic: Burmese Days tells of the country under British rule; in Animal Farm the pigs take over the running of the farm just as the military took over the running of Burma; and 1984 describes the current tyrannical regime. Although Larkin writes extensively about Burma and its people, she does not lose focus of the main topic, that of Orwell in Burma. The result is excellent.

For anyone interested in Orwell and his life this is essential reading. That it is fascinating and well-written is a bonus. Larkin accepts no credit for the bravery required in such an undertaking, but reflects all respect and admiration on the gentle Burmese people.

Like Larkin, I will reject the name Myanmar, a name made up by the current military oppressors. ( )
3 vote VivienneR | May 11, 2014 |
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!" ( )
  MarkBeronte | Mar 4, 2014 |
Emma Larkin is the pseudonym for an American journalist living in Thailand who studied Burmese in London, and who writes often about events in Burma. This book was first published in 2004; my Granta edition contains an epilogue written in 2011. Larkin’s other book on Burma is entitled Everything is Broken: Life Inside Burma; it details with the aftermath of the 2008 cyclone that struck Burma killing an estimated 138,000 people and leaving millions homeless without food or adequate shelter while the military government then in control refused outside assistance, maintaining that it could take care of things.

Finding George Orwell in Burma is a travelogue, a review of current events and society, and some history of the Burmese experience under British colonial rule followed by a focus on the reign of the Generals that started in 1962 with what Larkin calls, “Burma’s miserable experiment with socialism” under Ne Win. The connecting thread throughout the book is Larkin visiting various sites where George Orwell (then Eric Blair) was posted in Burma as a member of the Imperial Police Force, 1922-1927. Some of the buildings that Orwell would have known still exist, some were identifiable but decrepit, and others have simply disappeared.

Larkin frames her book with the argument that Orwell in effect wrote a trilogy about Burma: his novel Burmese Days was based on his time in Burma, an experience that greatly informed his views on colonialism and classes, while Animal Farm and 1984, describe and reflect what Burma has become politically and socially under military rule, through the pervasive use of “propaganda, surveillance, censorship, and the ever present threat of violence.”

Larkin argues that one of the most pernicious effects of the military rule, a principal theme in 1984, is the constant reshaping and rewriting of history: “Events happen in Burma and then they are systematically unhappened. By maintaining an effective gag order on all public forums, the regime ensures that there is no space for any collective remembrance, and recent historical events—no matter how earth-shattering or all-consuming—can only be remembered in private, within the confines of the human skull’s, ‘few cubic centimeters.’ As personal memories become corrupted with time and age, the stories of Burma are, quite literally, vanishing.” Orwellian echoes abound in Burma; what could be more appropriate than a government organization called the “Committee for Propaganda and Agitation to Intensify Patriotism”?

Larkin meets a wide range of people, some through happenstance, some through contacts: older Burmese and British who remember life under the British Raj, young people who might or might not be able to get into the erratically functioning universities, students who might or might not be able to graduate from those universities, people who can find no employment, writers who write for the drawer or in their minds because they can never be published, publishers who live under total control of censors, dissidents and ethnic minority peoples subjected to brutal treatment and prisons, readers of George Orwell, people happy to meet briefly but only once with a foreigner, bureaucrats and police officials….all living under an atmosphere of surveillance that makes everyone suspicious and watchful and careful, very careful, with what they say, especially in public places, and with whom they are seen.

Larkin’s knowledge of, and sympathy for, Burma and its people and its history is clear. She writes well: descriptions of cities, towns, villages, countryside, rivers, are colourful and evocative; she conveys well the atmosphere of the places she sees and visits.

The search for Orwell’s roots is sometimes a little tentative, but I like the framework that it provides to the book. For any who also read and enjoy this book, I would suggest two others by the Canadian writer, Karen Connelly: Burmese Lessons and The Lizard Cage; both are excellent in their exploration and portrayal of life under the repressive military regime in Burma.
1 vote John | Jun 18, 2013 |
What a wonderful find! I only wish I had read Burmese Days and Larkin's trek through Burma following in the footsteps of Orwell's five year stint there BEFORE attending the lecture series on this country at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. It would have helped me tremendously, since I had no real "connection" to this place, its people or its history.

Larkin sets upon her journey from Mandalay, moving from town to town in the pattern writer George Orwell took during his youth as an imperial police stationed in Burma. She explores his possible experiences, wonders about what made him suddenly leave after five years, and ponders how this critical man of words--a man noted for his focus on the underdog, the trodden upon, the disenfranchised--came to think the way he did.

Ever cautious and aware of her surroundings, Larkin provides the reader with a succinct taste of the overwhelming and all-encompassing nature of a totalitarian state, and how individuals fight to maintain dignity and a sense of freedom within the confines of severe censorship, ever-changing laws and rules, and threat of torture, imprisonment or death.

Although much has recently changed in Burma during the past year or so, there seems to remain a looming cloud of possible return to the despotic, militaristic state. And as uprisings of intolerance commence (Buddhists and Muslims), it makes one wonder whether the current government factions will succumb to "business as usual" policies and controls to re-establish the "peace" that is tyranny. ( )
  Ellesee | Apr 15, 2013 |
Petra dug this and it's all kinds of interesting. I'd have to add that other book about Burma to my reading list, but so what?
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
As Ms. Larkin makes her way across the country, her movements are tracked, sometimes blocked, by the police, military personnel, bureaucrats, spies, informers and ordinary citizens instructed to report on any encounters with foreigners. When registering at a guest house she must fill out forms to be sent to nine separate departments. Shopping at a local market, a police informer dogs her heels, asking, over and over, who she is, where she is going and what she is trying to find out. She has changed the names of most of the Burmese she talked to and, lest she be barred from returning to Myanmar, has published this book under a pseudonym.
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, William Grimes (Jul 22, 2011)
 
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
For my friends in Burma
First words
George Orwell,' I said slowly.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
First published in Great Britain under the title Secret History by John Murray (2004)
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143037110, Paperback)

Read Emma Larkin's posts on the Penguin Blog

Over the years the American writer Emma Larkin has spent traveling in Burma, 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:34 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A profile of the police state in Burma and its effect on the writings of George Orwell discusses the author's mother's origins in Burma, Orwell's work with the British Imperial Police, and local reverence for his literary works.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
65 wanted4 pay7 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.95)
0.5
1 2
1.5
2 2
2.5 1
3 24
3.5 5
4 49
4.5 11
5 26

Audible.com

An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 92,351,738 books! | Top bar: Always visible