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Burmese Days: A Novel Paperback – March 20, 1974

4.4 out of 5 stars 1,298 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Imagine crossing E.M. Forster with Jane Austen. Stir in a bit of socialist doctrine, a sprig of satire, strong Indian curry, and a couple quarts of good English gin and you get something close to the flavor of George Orwell's intensely readable and deftly plotted Burmese Days. In 1930, Kyauktada, Upper Burma, is one of the least auspicious postings in the ailing British Empire--and then the order comes that the European Club, previously for whites only, must elect one token native member. This edict brings out the worst in this woefully enclosed society, not to mention among the natives who would become the One. Orwell mines his own Anglo-Indian background to evoke both the suffocating heat and the stifling pettiness that are the central facts of colonial life: "Mr. MacGregor told his anecdote about Prome, which could be produced in almost any context. And then the conversation veered back to the old, never-palling subject--the insolence of the natives, the supineness of the Government, the dear dead days when the British Raj was the Raj and please give the bearer fifteen lashes. The topic was never let alone for long, partly because of Ellis's obsession. Besides, you could forgive the Europeans a great deal of their bitterness. Living and working among Orientals would try the temper of a saint."

Protagonist James Flory is a timber merchant, whose facial birthmark serves as an outward expression of the ironic and left-leaning habits of mind that make him inwardly different from his coevals. Flory appreciates the local culture, has native allegiances, and detests the racist machinations of his fellow Club members. Alas, he doesn't always possess the moral courage, or the energy, to stand against them. His almost embarrassingly Anglophile friend, Dr. Veraswami, the highest-ranking native official, seems a shoo-in for Club membership, until Machiavellian magistrate U Po Kyin launches a campaign to discredit him that results, ultimately, in the loss not just of reputations but of lives. Whether to endorse Veraswami or to betray him becomes a kind of litmus test of Flory's character.

Against this backdrop of politics and ethics, Orwell throws the shadow of romance. The arrival of the bobbed blonde, marriageable, and resolutely anti-intellectual Elizabeth Lackersteen not only casts Flory as hapless suitor but gives Orwell the chance to show that he's as astute a reporter of nuanced social interactions as he is of political intrigues. In fact, his combination of an astringently populist sensibility, dead-on observations of human behavior, formidable conjuring skills, and no-frills prose make for historical fiction that stands triumphantly outside of time. --Joyce Thompson

From the Back Cover

In this caustic, fast-paced novel about the waning days of British imperialism, George Orwell draws on his years of experience in India, the country of his birth. The story focuses on a handful of Englishmen living in a small settlement in Upper Burma. They congregate in the European Club, drinking whiskey and arguing over an impending order to admit a token Asian.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Mariner Books; First edition (March 20, 1974)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 288 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0156148501
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0156148504
  • Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ 930L
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 8.1 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 0.73 x 5.31 x 8 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 1,298 ratings

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George Orwell is one of England's most famous writers and social commentators. Among his works are the classic political satire Animal Farm and the dystopian nightmare vision Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell was also a prolific essayist, and it is for these works that he was perhaps best known during his lifetime. They include Why I Write and Politics and the English Language. His writing is at once insightful, poignant and entertaining, and continues to be read widely all over the world.

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) was born in 1903 in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. The family moved to England in 1907 and in 1917 Orwell entered Eton, where he contributed regularly to the various college magazines. From 1922 to 1927 he served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, an experience that inspired his first novel, Burmese Days (1934). Several years of poverty followed. He lived in Paris for two years before returning to England, where he worked successively as a private tutor, schoolteacher and bookshop assistant, and contributed reviews and articles to a number of periodicals. Down and Out in Paris and London was published in 1933. In 1936 he was commissioned by Victor Gollancz to visit areas of mass unemployment in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) is a powerful description of the poverty he saw there.

At the end of 1936 Orwell went to Spain to fight for the Republicans and was wounded. Homage to Catalonia is his account of the civil war. He was admitted to a sanatorium in 1938 and from then on was never fully fit. He spent six months in Morocco and there wrote Coming Up for Air. During the Second World War he served in the Home Guard and worked for the BBC Eastern Service from 1941 to 1943. As literary editor of the Tribune he contributed a regular page of political and literary commentary, and he also wrote for the Observer and later for the Manchester Evening News. His unique political allegory, Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame.

It was around this time that Orwell's unique political allegory Animal Farm (1945) was published. The novel is recognised as a classic of modern political satire and is simultaneously an engaging story and convincing allegory. It was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which finally brought him world-wide fame. Nineteen Eighty-Four's ominous depiction of a repressive, totalitarian regime shocked contemporary readers, but ensures that the book remains perhaps the preeminent dystopian novel of modern literature.

Orwell's fiercely moral writing has consistently struck a chord with each passing generation. The intense honesty and insight of his essays and non-fiction made Orwell one of the foremost social commentators of his age. Added to this, his ability to construct elaborately imaginative fictional worlds, which he imbued with this acute sense of morality, has undoubtedly assured his contemporary and future relevance.

George Orwell died in London in January 1950.

Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
1,298 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on February 18, 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant story centered on racism and colonialism
Reviewed in the United States on February 18, 2021
This is a brilliant and insightful story centered on the nature of racism and colonialism in Burma (now Myanmar) in the timeframe after World War I. Orwell spent considerable time in that country so he has a good understanding of the society he is describing. He also has a great deal to say about the subculture of the British colonists in Burma, and he portrays that subculture as highly insulated and at times nearly suffocating and it’s conformity and judgementalism..

Throughout much of this work people are grasping for status. It is particularly tragic that the status and prosperity of an indigenous person can well depend on a friendly relationship with even one of the British citizens in that country. In such a system, a lot of good people come to a sad end and a lot of small minded and even deeply corrupt and unethical people rise.
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Top reviews from other countries

Nicola S. Smythe
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book For Today.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 28, 2020
11 people found this helpful
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Cynthia Rabet
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 4, 2020
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shoestopper
5.0 out of 5 stars A long gone world of Burmese life under English occupation
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 10, 2021
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Robert
5.0 out of 5 stars The realities of colonialism
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 24, 2021
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Top Banana
5.0 out of 5 stars Racism and vapid lifetsyles
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 24, 2017
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