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Ption and imperial bigotry Flory a white timber merchant befriends Dr Veraswami a black enth. There s a map of the village of Kyautada in my edition of Burmese Days a map which is based on a drawing done by Orwell himself My heart skips when I see a map in a book I know immediately that the geography of the place will be somehow important and Orwell s map with little arrows tagged UP and DOWN alongside the roads gives an almost three dimensional idea of the terrain showing that the village was built on the side of a hill The few buildings strewn along the slope are tagged with their owners names At the bottom of the hill he s drawn in the broad expanse of the River Irrawaddy and at the top of the hill a large shaded area which he has simply tagged Jungle When you begin reading you know that the story will take place on this rather narrow slope of land between the jungle and the river and for me that information spelled danger The book opens with the hatching of a rather diabolical plot so the suspicion of danger is confirmed and the tone of the story is set from the beginningI was slightly disappointed that the descriptions of nature promised by this hillscape between jungle and river were so few but the scattering of houses on the map are far significant than they look at first In fact most of the story takes place in one or other of these houses or in the little cube marked Club its back set to the river and to which the main characters make their way before breakfast at noon and every evening of their Kyautada lives They sit in their club as in all such Kipling haunted little Clubs whisky to the right of you Pink un to the left of you listening and eagerly agreeing while Colonel Bodger develops his theory that these bloody Nationalists should be boiled in oil The club needless to say is exclusively white and the plot of the book revolves around it remaining that way Or notThe promising strip of jungle on the upper edge of the map has a role to play in the story as does the river but too much of the book is concerned with the sayings and doings of the sahiblog the little group of agents of the British Empire who gather in the club at Kyautada and they are a particularly unpleasant group But thanks to Orwell s talent as a writer he somehow manages to sueeze an interesting story out of such unpromising material If he were alive today I would love to talk to him about this book and his motivations for writing it Of course that s impossible but the next best thing is to take a look at what he said about this book when he was alive in Why I Write From an early age perhaps the age of five or six I knew that when I grew up I should be a writerWhen I was about sixteen I suddenly discovered the joy of mere wordsAs for the need to describe things I knew that already So it is clear what kind of books I wanted to write in so far as I could be said to want to write books at that time I wanted to write enormous naturalistic novels with unhappy endings full of detailed descriptions and arresting similes and also full of purple passages in which words were partly used for the sake of their sound And in fact my first complete novel Burmese Days which I wrote when I was thirty but projected much earlier is rather that kind of bookBut already in Burmese Days for all his attempts at purple passages and arresting similes there is a definite leaning towards the type of social criticism that was to become the focus of Orwell s later writing The Indian Empire is a despotism benevolent no doubt but still a despotism with theft as its final objectThere is a prevalent idea that the men at the outposts of Empire are at least able and hardworking It is a delusion Outside the Scientific Forces the Forest Department the Public Works Department and the like there is no particular need for a British official in India to do his job competently The real work of administration is done mainly by natives Burmese Days p 69 In Why I Write he explains how he came to definitively turn his back on the Burmese Days type novel In a peaceful age I might have written ornate or merely descriptive books and might have remained almost unaware of my political loyalties As it is I have been forced into becoming something of a pamphleteer First I spent five years in an unsuitable profession the Indian Imperial Police in Burma and then I underwent poverty and the sense of failure This increased my natural hatred of authority and made me for the first time fully aware of the working classes and the job in Burma had given me some understanding of the nature of imperialism Then came Hitler the Spanish Civil War etcFortunately for us those later life experiences gave Orwell material for some of his finest writing Down and Out in Paris and London The Road to Wigan Pier Homage to Catalonia as well as Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty fourI need to read Orwell

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Burmese Days

Usiast for the Empire whose downfall can only be prevented by membership at an all white clu. This always happens to me I seem to forget how beautiful and almost effortless Orwell s prose is only to be stunned by his talent the next time I pick up one of his books Even when he writes about mundane things his turn of phrase has an elegance that few others have mastered and that dry razor sharp British sense of humor adds a colorful layer to his narratives Just a couple of pages into Burmese Days I was both laughing bitterly and sighing in admiration at the wonderful language he used to tell this rather devastating story I also could hardly put the book down and growled at anyone who interrupted my readingIn some ways Burmese Days reminded me of EM Forster s A Passage to India but harsher grittier in its description of bigotry and corruption Just like Forster Orwell lived in South East Asia and saw how his fellow Englishmen saw the native population and treated both them and their local resources and the different ways the Burmese and Indians reacted to this imperialism Obviously he hated what he saw This is not 1984 or Animal Farm but it is nevertheless a scathing social criticism of colonialism and its repercussion both on the colonists and colonized Orwell knew that the problems faced by everyone involved in this situation were complex and intricate and had no easy solutionsDr Veraswami s only hope of avoiding the persecution of a corrupt magistrate is to be elected as a member of an all white Club as this strange power of association would give him enough prestige to stay safe He has one hope that his friend John Flory who loathes the open racism his compatriots spew all day long over drinks will help him acuire this coveted membership But Flory doesn t have the strength of his convictions and U Po Kyin the slimy magistrate will exploit this weakness of character to his own endsOrwell never really seems to write likable characters but he makes his pathetic and despicable ones very layered and well rounded Flory s sense of alienation and despair is perfectly captured I kept hoping he d get his shit together but I didn t think it was very likely He feels enormous guilt for being complicit in the exploitation and abuse he witnesses but can t bring himself to rebel against it entirely I wondered how much of himself or a young version of himself Orwell poured into this tormented timber merchant how much of what Flory experiences echoes how Orwell felt during the five years he spent in Burma He did say that much of the book was simply reporting things he had seen during his stay there to the point where his publishers were originally worried about libel suitsOrwell didn t think this was his most political work and later decided that he would no longer indulge in what he felt was purple and decorative writing because the world he lived in was not a peaceful place which made him feel he had a responsibility to infuse his writing with political purpose It might not have been the driving inspiration behind Burmese Days but it is nevertheless a beautifully written but heartbreaking and unflinching look at a terrible time and place of our history A must read for Orwell fans

George Orwell Ò 6 review

Set in the days of the Empire with the British ruling in Burma Orwell's book describes corru. Totally rewritten 19th May 2013Set in the days of the Empire with the British ruling in Burma this book describes corruption and imperial bigotry Although this was Orwell s first book and no doubt based in part on his experiences in his first job as a policeman in Burma his talent is already fully developed the writing is superb the characterisations rounded and lively Another of his stories from this time and location is also a favourite of mine Shooting an ElephantBurmese Days is essentially all about a load of unlikeable vapid people who belong to an extremely boring club where nothing happens except occasional arguments and a lot of drinking Now why would anyone want to be a member of a club like that Because it is a colonial society where the whites run everything and the native people no matter what their status in the local community have no overt power and can t even get into a club full of stupid men whose only attribute is that they are white the ruling class But if they could get in then they would have power by associationThe club is told they have to elect one local member Two men try to get in One the honest and straightforward Dr Veraswami tries to get his good friend John Flory an English timber merchant and the main character to use his influence on the club members But Flory a rather unattractive character who isn t prejudiced but is weak and so won t support the good doctor against the club members he so thoroughly dislikes but because of race and class identifies with The other man the slimy sociopathic U Po Kyinis prepared to wreck Veraswami s character and livelihood and see many lives be ruined and people die just in order to put himself in such a position that he becomes the only possible candidate Then there is the love interest another shallow dislikeable character who can t attract anyone back home so she s been sent husband shopping into a place where any single white woman is a rare orchid Even her I read the book very tongue in cheek because I also live in a colonial society but I am either beyond the pale or have the right credentials depending on what side you are on as I married into a local black family A top political family at that The thing for locals to get into is the yacht club and the local rescue association neither of which admit locals unless they are top politicians or lawyers and therefore useful or at least best not offended But as political power on the island is all in black hands the snobbery of the yacht club is ignored but the racism notedA while back one of the islands a private island resort the sort you can helicopter into wouldn t let blacks in as guests The only ones there were the workers none in managerial or even supervisory positions A government minister sailed his very impressive 60 yacht there anchored and dinghied to the beach The beach staff black of course but from poorer islands so they didn t recognise him wouldn t let him stay told him it was against management policy didn t believe he owned the yacht and threw him offThe following week the island was uite suddenly sold to a company with uite different policies Result Now we can all sail up for free on their guest ferry for Sunday lunch reasonable price but the price of the drinks or a very pleasant if expensive dinner hanging out with the millionaires and pretending to be one for the day Everyone is welcomeBut what happened to the club in India to the service organisations in the Caribbean They are all run by posh locals now who apply their own rules for membership Sometimes they are generous and everyone is welcome but sometimes they continue the inherited snobbery and racism of the club founders just from the other side not being any liberal than their predecessors We have the girls who come husband shopping too Admin staff and secretaries they are looking for white guys far from home who might go out with but would never marry a local girl and so they are the rare orchids with a two year plan contract in which to snag their man and a modified version of Jane Austen s first line in Pride and Prejudice as their mantra It is a truth universally acknowledged that a banker or accountant in possession of an obscenely large salary must be in want of a white wifePlus a change plus c est la m me chose Read 2012 Review rewritten 2013 and 2015 Maybe next year too view spoilerThe things change the they stay the same hide spoiler

10 thoughts on “Burmese Days

  1. says:

    Totally rewritten 19th May 2013Set in the days of the Empire with the British ruling in Burma this book describes corruption and impe

  2. says:

    In the 1920's an obscure young Englishman named John Flory obviously modeled after George Orwell himself goes to colonial Burma to make his fortune The Road to Mandalay this is not The writer had been a policeman there also for five

  3. says:

    Poor Flory If only he'd had the good sense to be born into an EM Forster novel instead of one by George Orwell he might have had half a chance Burmese Days Orwell’s second book draws on his own experiences as a police off

  4. says:

    Burmese Days George Orwell Burmese Days is a novel by British writer George Orwell It was first published in the United Kingdom in 1934 It is

  5. says:

    I like Orwell's politics and vision It is amazing to see how far he has gone in exposing 'untruths' and fighting 'injustices 'Throughout his life he remained steadfast in his politics This makes him an admirable figure We need writers like him even today but I wonder if there is any scope for such a man especially in Firs

  6. says:

    There’s a map of the village of Kyautada in my edition of Burmese Days a map which is based on a drawing done by Orwell himself My heart skips when I see a map in a book; I know immediately that the geography of the place will be somehow important and Orwell’s map with little arrows tagged UP and DOWN alon

  7. says:

    Imagine sitting in a small dark room with George Orwell sitting ten inches away from you shouting the words RACISM and IMPERIALISM at you for two hours That's what it's like reading this novel Orwell wants to get his message across so strongly that he completely forgets that coherent plots and characters are essential in fiction However I m

  8. says:

    The whole body of policemen military and civil about a hundred and fifty men in all had attacked the crowd from the rear armed only with sticks They had been utterly engulfed The crowd was so dense that it was like an enormous swarm of bees seething and rotating Everywhere one could see policemen wedged helplessly among the hordes of Burmans struggling furiously but uselessly and too cramped even to use their sticks Whol

  9. says:

    This always happens to me I seem to forget how beautiful and almost effortless Orwell’s prose is only to be stunned by h

  10. says:

    George Orwell spent five years in Burma now Myanmar as an imperial policeman He eventually became disillusioned enough by his experiences to res