“[B]rilliant . . .
The River of Lost Footsteps is a balanced, thorough, and serious history, but it is also a polemic, firm in its view that the current international campaignpursuing 'this policy of isolating one of the most isolated countries in the world'is moving in the wrong direction.” New Yorker
“Mr. Thant eloquently and mournfully recites the dismal history of the last half century and, in analyzing the country's nascent democracy movement, holds out only the slimmest of hopes for a better future. It will not come through economic and diplomatic sanctions, of that he is convinced. Trade and more engagement, especially more tourism, might let in badly needed light and air. But trying to topple the regime by isolating it would, he argues, be disastrous.”
William Grimes, The New York Times
“Thant Myint-U's narrative is full of rich details and colorful characters like Bayinnaung, a 16th-century king who led a mighty elephant corps into battle, defeating neighboring Siam . . . If it could somehow be set on a different course, Thant Myint-U suggests, Burma could once again become an important player in Asia.”
Joshua Kurlantzick, The Washington Monthly
“Fascinating . . . [Thant] gives us both the savory details and the cruelties of colonialism, as well as a rare for feel for palace intrigue. In the process, he suggests that isolation is in fact just what the military regime feeds on. It's in its blood.”
Pico Iyer, Time
“Vivid and well-told history.... With wide interest in Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and others opposing the ruling generals, this warrants attention.”
“Profiling 20th-century Burmese leaders such as Aung San, U Nu and Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Aung San Suu Kyi, Thant Myint-U beautifully captures the complex identity of a little-understood country, concluding with a trenchant analysis of Burma's current predicament under an oppressive regime.”
“The best introduction yet available to the modern history of Burma. Sad and poignant, intelligent and thought-provoking.”
“A balanced, fascinating, sometimes humorous account of nation-building.”
Rory Stewart, author of The Places in Between and The Prince of the Marshes
A balanced, fascinating, sometimes humorous account of nation-building.
author of The Places in Between and The Prince of Rory Stewart
Analysis of Burma has been "singularly ahistorical," Thant Myint-U (The Making of Modern Burma), a senior officer at the U.N., observes. With an eye to what the past might say about Burma's present status as a country in crisis, Thant Myint-U examines the legacy of imperialism, war and invasion. Recounting in a well-crafted narrative the colorful histories of Burmese dynastic empires from ancient times to the 18th century, Thant Myint-U then focuses on how, during the 19th century, the Burmese kingdom of Ava fought and lost a series of border wars with the British East India Company, culminating in a treaty that marked the beginning of Burma's loss of independence. Considering the country's longstanding global isolation in the context of its geographic and cultural singularity, Thant Myint-U interweaves his own family's history, writing extensively about his maternal grandfather, U Thant, who rose from humble origins to become secretary-general of the U.N. in the 1960s. Profiling 20th-century Burmese leaders such as Aung San, U Nu and Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Aung San Suu Kyi, Thant Myint-U beautifully captures the complex identity of a little-understood country, concluding with a trenchant analysis of Burma's current predicament under an oppressive regime. (Dec.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Former UN Secretary-General U Thant's grandson traces the little-understood history of modern Burma, arguing that present trade sanctions by Western powers are the worst possible policy for bringing democracy to the already-isolated dictatorship. A Cambridge Ph.D. and veteran UN officer, the author grew up in a Burmese compound in Riverdale, N.Y., amid a family with ties to Burma's government that date back to the 1880s. He first visited Burma in 1971, at age 5, to help bury his maternal grandfather, who led the UN from 1961 to 1971. This vivid and well-told history opens in the watershed year 1885, when the British seized Burma, abolished the monarchy and made the country part of British India. The trauma transformed Burmese life and fostered a pervasive feeling of humiliation-the author highlights an incident in Rangoon when an elderly Englishman tapped young U Thant on the shoulder with a cane to force him to give up his seat on a bench. Somehow, the British view of Burma as undisciplined morphed into the Burmese self-perception that they were unsuited to democratic government, says the author. The book's main focus is on the modern era, especially the time since World War II, which devastated Burma and led to independence and the still-ongoing civil war. Foreign interventions (by the U.S., Thailand, the Soviet Union, China) worsened the chaos. Since 1962, a military dictatorship installed by the late General Ne Win has ruled, weakening institutions and isolating Burma from the world community. Hampered by past failures and a misplaced penchant for utopian thinking, the Burmese must open up to different ideas and build new institutions if they are ever to achieve democracy, says theauthor. Further isolation by the West will not help. With wide interest in Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and others opposing the ruling generals, this warrants attention.