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Burmese Days (1934)

by George Orwell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,236673,130 (3.77)1 / 200
A corrupt Burmese politician uses the powers of his office to win membership in a British club.
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Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
Before starting this book I had read 3 others by George Orwell and enjoyed all of them. I'm fairly sure this was a recent purchase as the book was in a stack of relatively recent books. I've drifted away a little from the TBR jar and gone back to picking the next read on a whim and it felt like the right time to give this one a go.

The edition I read included a forward by some intellectual which I skipped over as I often do. It also contains a sketch of the location which was done by Orwell at some point. I found the addition of this to be a bit pointless as it is a really basic sketch but I guess some readers will find it useful.

The story is based in the Burmese village of Kyautada and revolves around the club set up and patronised by the English people who have settled there and run the place as occupiers. This collection of people are a pretty unlikeable bunch who are vapid and very racist. I'm confident that this was how it was at the time as history has proved this to be the case. We also have the benefit of the fact that Orwell actually served in Burma as a policeman at the time the book was set. We have an antihero of sorts, John Flory who likes a lot of the locals and wants to try and help get Dr Veraswami membership of the club. The trouble is that he won't stand up in front of the other members of the club to vouch for him because he is too scared. He is a positive character in regards to his attitude towards race and the locals. Despite this I found him unlikeable because he had no backbone and is isn't all good. He has kept a hooker or sorts on retainers for a while and that comes back to bite him in the ass.

Although the people are pretty horrible I really enjoyed the book because I find Orwell's writing to be descriptive without being over the top. He was clearly a very forward thinking and interesting man in his time. I really want to read Down and Out in London and Paris soon so I will have to keep an eye out for it on my book hunting jaunts. ( )
  Brian. | Jul 25, 2021 |
An unsparing, cynical view of British colonialism in Burma forms Orwell's first novel. It has been many years since I first read this but after reading Emma Larkin's Finding George Orwell in Burma I was prompted to re-read it. The picture of Flory and his disgust for colonialism, his compatriots, and even his own love/hate feelings for Burma, suggests Flory was to some extent a self portrait. I have enjoyed all of Orwell's writing since I first encountered the essay Shooting an Elephant when I was a teenager. As a political writer, he is outstanding.

Burma continued to endure strife after the country gained independence in 1948. The renaming of Burma to Myanmar in a military takeover is still contested. Like Emma Larkin, and even Aung San Suu Kyi, I will continue to use the older name, Burma. ( )
1 vote VivienneR | Apr 27, 2021 |
A very interesting book about life in a small outpost in Burma when it was still under British ruling.
The petty fights, jealousy, loves and hates, nature, climate, the attitude towards natives and how they treat one another: hardly a dull moment in this book.
I feared it might be something like A Passage to India, but luckily for me I liked it much better😃 ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | May 23, 2020 |
Reading Burmese Days after 1984, indeed allows one to comprehend the maturity of Orwell's writing he showed in his later works.

Pages after pages, almost until half way through the book, Burmese Days is nothing but a good, detailed description of what's the life of an Englishman in Burma (during 1900s). However, things pick up pace when a new member, a beautiful, young Ingleikma joins the group of local Englishmen.

Burmese Days might leave you in confused emotional state, fuelled with a lot of questions. Whatever happened through the entire book, brought almost to a sudden, trivial halt leaves you with an uncomfortable, unsatisfying feel. Why?, you ask. ( )
  raivivek | Mar 22, 2020 |
Rated: B+
What an amazing time when England ruled the world and the sun never set on the British Empire. Colonialism at it's worst as "civilized" British businesses demeaned and dismiss natives residents. Elements of racism 100 years ago in far away places are still with us here today. ( )
  jmcdbooks | Dec 23, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
Not only is the book thick with information about Burma in the 1920s and Orwell’s lefting political thought in the ’30s but it’s a damn good read, simply as a story told. The leading man, Flory, a timber merchant in Upper Burma, who has resigned himself to gin before breakfast and a Burmese mistress, is smitten when a young Englishwoman. Elizabeth, appears at the Club, making an extended stay with her Aunt and lecherous Uncle. Flory inadvertently displays himself as a heroic man by rescuing the naive Miss Lackersteen from a cud chewing water buffalo. He seems to win her heart during a hunting expedition, and without ever discerning the inborn, and growing, colonialist racism in the young lady –which he himself, is mostly bereft of– commits his future happiness to marriage with her. An earthquake interrupts his proposal of marriage.

A dashing young horse officer intervenes. Romance is kindled. A riot by villagers in response to the blinding of one of their youth by a Club member gives Flory a second chance to be a hero.
 
Overall, Burmese Days is a thoroughly impressive piece of work which is a suspenseful, tragic and at times beautiful depiction of upper Burma. It marks a great contribution towards an artistic reflection of the issue of race (and more subtly in the text, gender) as well as providing insight into the corruption and immorality behind Anglo- Indian imperialism.
An undeniable masterpiece.
added by John_Vaughan | editInspired Quill, Tom Cobb (Jul 23, 2011)
 

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Orwell, Georgeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Larkin, EmmaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rees, RichardAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
This desert inaccessible under the shade of melancholy boughs.
~As You Like It
Dedication
First words
U Po Kyin, Sub-divisional Magistrate of Kyauktada, in Upper Burma, was sitting in his veranda.
Quotations
For somehow, he had never been able to talk to her as he longed to talk. To talk, simply to talk! It sounds so little, and how much it is! When you have existed to the brink of middle age in bitter loneliness, among people to whom your true opinion on every subject on earth is blasphemy, the need to talk is the greatest of all needs. Yet with Elizabeth serious talk seemed impossible. It was as though there had been a spell upon them that made all their conversation lapse into banality: gramophone records, dogs, tennis racquets—all that desolating Club-chatter. She seemed not to want to talk of anything but that. He had only to touch upon a subject of any conceivable interest to hear the evasion, the 'I shan't play' , coming into her voice. … Later, no doubt, she would understand him and give him the companionship he needed. Perhaps it was only that he had not won her confidence yet. 
For a moment it seemed to him that an endless procession of Burmese women, a regiment of ghosts, were marching past him in the moonlight. Heavens, what numbers of them!A thousand- no, but a full hundred at least!" Eyes Right!" he thought despondently. Their faces turned towards him, but they had no faces, only featureless discs. He remembered a blue longyi here, a pair of ruby earrings there,but hardly a face or a name. The gods are just and of our pleasant vices (pleasant, indeed) make instruments to plague us.He had dirtied himself beyond redemption, and this was his just punishment.
He stood at the gate, watching them as they went. Elizabeth- lovely name, too rare nowadays.He hoped she spelt it with a 'z'. Ko S'la trotted after her at a queer and uncomfortable gait, reaching the umbrella over her head and keeping his body as far away from her as possible.
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A corrupt Burmese politician uses the powers of his office to win membership in a British club.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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