The Washington Post
Finding George Orwell in Burmaby Emma Larkin
"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 police state can be described as "Orwellian." The life of the mind exists in a state of siege in Burma, and it long has. The connection between George Orwell and Burma is not simply metaphorical, of course; George Orwell's mother was born in… See more details below
"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 police state can be described as "Orwellian." The life of the mind exists in a state of siege in Burma, and it long has. The connection between George Orwell and Burma is not simply metaphorical, of course; George Orwell's mother was born in Burma, and he was shaped by his experiences there as a young man working for the British Imperial Police. Both his first novel, Burmese Days, and the novel he left unfinished upon his death were set in Burma. And then there is the place of Orwell's work in Burma today: Emma Larkin found it a commonplace observation in Burma that Orwell did not write one book about the country but three - the other two being Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. When Larkin quietly asked one Burmese man if he knew the work of George Orwell, he stared blankly for a moment and then said, "Ah, you mean the prophet."" Finding George Orwell in Burma is the story of the year Emma Larkin spent traveling across this shuttered police state using the life and work of Orwell as her guide. Traveling 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 Orwell worked and lived, and the places his books live still. She brings to 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 network of spies and informers.
The Washington Post
The New York Times
"One of the most unusual travelogues to come out of Southeast Asia in some time, and a truer picture of authoritarianism than anyone has written since, perhaps, Orwell himself."—Mother Jones
"[This] mournful, meditative, appealingly idiosyncratic book is a hybrid, an exercise in literary detection but also a political travelogue that uses Burma to explain Prwell, and Orwell—especially the Orwell of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four—to explain the miseries of present-day Myanmar (as it is now known)."—The New York Times
"This is one of those rare books, a beautifully crafted account of a journey which actually takes the reader somewhere new and unusual. Emma Larkin did not just go searching for Orwell, she found him. Along the way, she made the chilling discovery that in modern-day Burma, the totalitarian tyrannies he evoked in Nineteen Eighty-Four are horrifyingly alive and well."—Jon Lee Anderson
"Combining literary criticism and solid field reporting, [Larkin] captures the country at its best, and more often, its worst."—San Francisco Chronicle
- Penguin Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.78(w) x 8.52(h) x 1.06(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
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Meet the Author
Emma Larkin is the pseudonym for an American journalist who was born and raised in Asia, studied the Burmese language at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and covers Asia widely in her journalism from her base in Bangkok. Larkin is also the author of No Bad News for the King: The True Story of Cyclone Nargis and Its Aftermath in Burma. She has been visiting Burma for close to ten years.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Describes the beauty of the land and people while exploring colonial Burma and the destruction wreaked by the Ne Win military regime. Heartbreaking, beautifully written.
Emma writes a lovely, rythmic narrative of her travels through this rather mysterious and repressed country. I have read several books - non-fiction and fiction - about Burma but finished this book with an excellent understanding of the country, past and present. There is no reason to read George Orwell to enjoy Larkin's book. Highly recommended.
All I have to say about this book is that if you have ever read even a single word of George Orwell's, YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK!
Secret Histories takes you on an enchanting journey onto the heart of one of the most fascinating and sometimes bizarre countries in the world. Larkin¿s easy style paints a colourful picture of South East Asia¿s poorest country where the local¿s natural charm and humour is starkly contrasted against the sinister workings of the state. Her empathy with the people she meets enables her to provide a vivid insight into the lives and hearts of the Burmese and how they cope with their dark surround. This is cleverly interwoven with the Orwell¿s life as a colonial in the 1920s, a life into which he never really fitted. How did this, much changed country, look through his eyes and to what effect? Could any of this explain the striking parallels between his later writings and the course that his former homeland has taken? In short Secret Histories is a book not to be missed by those interested in this fascinating country, fans of Orwell or those just wanting a damn good read. 10 out of 10.