Perfect Hostage: A Life of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's Prisoner of Conscience

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Burma is a country where, as one senior UN official puts it, “just to turn your head can mean imprisonment or death.”

Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the world’s foremost inspirational revolutionary leaders. Considered to be Burma’s best hope for freedom, she has waged a war of steadfast nonviolent opposition to the country’s vicious militant regime. Because of her resistance to the brutality of the Burmese government, she has been under house ...

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Perfect Hostage: A Life of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's Prisoner of Conscience

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Burma is a country where, as one senior UN official puts it, “just to turn your head can mean imprisonment or death.”

Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the world’s foremost inspirational revolutionary leaders. Considered to be Burma’s best hope for freedom, she has waged a war of steadfast nonviolent opposition to the country’s vicious militant regime. Because of her resistance to the brutality of the Burmese government, she has been under house arrest since 1989.

She has endured failing health, vilification through the Burmese media, and cruel imprisonment in one of the world’s most dreadful and inhumane jails. Suu Kyi has fought every hardship the junta could put her through, yet she has never once wavered from her position, never once advocated violence, and persevered in her message of peaceful resistance at all costs, earning her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, placing her among the likes of such renowned champions of peace as Gandhi, King, and Mandela. She is a truly heroic revolutionary.

In Perfect Hostage, the most thorough biography of Suu Kyi to date, Justin Wintle tells both the story of the Burmese people and the story of an ordinary person who became a hero.

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Editorial Reviews

“She’s my hero.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“In physical stature she is petite and elegant, but in moral stature she is a giant.”
Senator John McCain
“It is time for all respectable members of the international community to put weight behind their words and take active measures to secure the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese people.”
Seth Mydans
This thoroughly researched biography sets out to explicate the personality of a leader who found herself by chance (though also by birth) at the head of her country's struggling pro-democracy movement. By delving into her childhood and her years as a student at Oxford University, Wintle, a journalist and the author of books on Vietnam, finds the seeds of her commanding personality, her straight-backed moral certainty and a "fierce purity" that gave her, as one friend said, "the knack of putting one on one's best behavior"…the book presents readers with the complexity of Myanmar's history and its present tensions, and of Aung San Suu Kyi herself, who is described as both flexible and inflexible, ready to cooperate with her oppressors but unbending in calling for international sanctions against them.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi seems both the least likely and the most natural person to become "the world's best-known prisoner of conscience," and Wintle's thoroughly engrossing book magnificently illustrates both sides of this elusive yet very public figure. Her education at Oxford and self-effacing demeanor did not prime her for the life of a dissident. Behind her reserve and English veneer, however, was a resolutely stubborn streak and a family life steeped in politics. Wintle's research has been prodigious; he brings encyclopedic knowledge of just about anything that can be linked to Suu Kyi. In rendering his subject, he weaves in Burmese history and folklore, Buddhism, Indian politics and portraits of Suu Kyi's intimates and enemies; that he delivers all this in an absorbing fashion is a marvel. Entertaining and instructive, charming and persuasive, Wintle mingles sober history and gossipy chat. Obscure political in-fighting is made comprehensible; unfamiliar colonial history is made accessible. Still, Wintle (Romancing Vietnam; Furious Interiors) can skewer in a sentence ("About Sanjay [Gandhi] there was something palpably uncouth, while the vainglorious Rajiv [Gandhi] was lacking in intelligence"). Suu Kyi's developing political activism, her house arrests, her honors are delineated in draftsman's detail that Wintle manages to keep vibrant. He is a biographer smitten with his subject, who cares enough to note the smallest detail, such as that Suu Kyi prefers Simenon's Maigret to Christie's Poirot. In making the reader care about the smallest things, Wintle makes the reader really care about the big thing-that "the world's best-known prisoner of conscience" is notfree. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

There have been several publications by and about Myanmar's 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Suu Kyi, whose work for democracy in her country (formerly Burma) has placed her under house arrest in Rangoon for much of the last 20 years. Wintle (New Makers of Modern Culture), a British author who has written extensively on Asia, here compiles an impressively thorough account of Suu Kyi's life, brought up to date with a postscript to cover the Monks' Revolt of November 2007. He sets that uprising and its suppression against the recent tragic history of Myanmar. Unable to meet with his subject, he has drawn upon a wide variety of sources to present a convincingly sympathetic portrait of a woman considered the most courageous of human rights advocates. Wintle explores the network of international relationships and the global economic aspirations of China and India to show why Suu Kyi's struggles are more than just a problem of her backward country and why the West has not been able to resolve the matter. One can hope that Suu Kyi will eventually be able to write and publish her own book. In the meantime, Wintle's book will be sought out in both public and academic libraries.
—Harold M. Otness

The New York Times Book Review
“An admiring biography of one of the most attractive personalities of our time.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620876220
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Publication date: 7/1/2013
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Justin Wintle has a degree in Modern History from Oxford. He is the author of Perfect Hostage, Romancing Vietnam, The Vietnam Wars, Furious Interiors, and the Rough Guide histories of China, Islam, and Spain. He is a contributor to the Financial Times, The Sunday Times, and The Independent.
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Table of Contents

Illustrations     xi
Principal Burmese Personae     xiii
Glossary (including acronyms)     xv
Map     xx
Prologue     xxiii
Land and Father
At the Shwedagon     3
The Shwe Pyidaw     9
After the Mongols     18
The Salami Wars     27
British Burma     41
Saturday's Child     50
From Campus Oddball to National Hero (aged 20)     63
'1300': The Year That Never Was     74
Desperate Times, Desperate Remedies     81
Bo Teza: Reluctant Collaborator     92
Snakes, Ladders and a Wife     104
Old Enemies, New Friends     115
Getting There     124
The Daughter
19th July     141
The Golden Rain is Brown     151
An Indian Idyll: The 'Ugly One' Takes Wing     162
The Daughter of Some or Other Burmese General     172
Things Fall Apart     181
Between Three Continents     196
Thimphu, Kyoto, Simla     209
Sixteen Months
Number One and Number Nine     225
White Bridge, Red Bridge     239
8.8.88     249
Shadow of the HundredFlowers     265
Digging In     277
Squaring Up     287
Suu Kyi's Tightrope     298
Danubyu     308
The Door Slams Shut     317
The Political Madonna
Egg on the Generals' Faces     329
Soldiers at the Gate     341
Famously Alone     354
Freedom on a Leash     370
The Saddest Thing     385
The Widowed Road to Depayin     397
Back to Mandalay     413
Postscript: The Monks' Revolt     430
Acknowledgements     439
Sources/Further Reading/Websites     441
Index     449
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 2, 2010

    An excellent introduction to what is going on in Burma/Myanmar today

    The author of this book does not pretend to be dispassionate or objective. He is on Aung San Suu Kyi's side. Frankly, so am I.

    That said this book is an excellent way to get to know what is going on in Burma/Myanmar if you know little or nothing about it. The author gives you a short history of Burma and a short biography of Aung San, who is Aung San Suu Kyi's father and revered in Burma the way George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are here in America. Both are needed to understand Aung San Suu Kyi's role in what is going on today.

    The book is exciting and dramatic, not because of the way it is written, but because of the events depicted in the book. I'm very glad I read this book and I would recommend it to anyone interested in understanding what is going on in Burma/Myanmar today or how Aung San Suu Kyi came to be known simply as "The Lady".

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2013

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