Following Orwell across Myanmar

Following Orwell across Myanmar
Photo Credit: Outlook Traveller

Using George Orwell's books as a guide, Emma Larkin travels to Myanmar to study and compare Orwell's time there and the present day

Mitali Saran
September 17 , 2015
Less than 1 Min Read

Secret Histories (John Murray; Rs 1,055) is Emma Larkin’s account of her travel in Myanmar, which was structured around the life and writings of its most famous 20th-century exponent, George Orwell—at that time the young and complicated Eric Blair—officer of the crown, anti-colonialist, observer, and dark prophet. Larkin reads his 1984, Burmese Days and other writings, finding chilling parallels in Burma today. Larkin uses her ostensible project—tracking Orwell’s time in Burma—to fuel her other, more important interest: to find in teahouse conversations across Rangoon, Mandalay, Moulmein, Katha and the Delta, the stories of ordinary Burmese citizens who live with the daily horrors of the military junta. She talks to serving boys, writers, political prisoners, historians and Anglo-Burmese relics; sometimes obliquely, sometimes with open rage or despair, they tell her what they cannot tell even each other. This is a sociopolitical tract-cum-literary thesis in the attractive garb of a travelogue—if you are even remotely interested in either Burma or George Orwell, it’s a must-buy.

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