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In this first book, Larkin charts a course through the country based on landmarks and people that are significant in the life of George Orwell. Orwell's first novel, Burmese Days, is actually only one of four major works to which Larkin continually refers. As Burma is on intellectual lockdown, it is a clear influence on Orwell's ideas of governance and censorship in Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. The novel Orwell was working on when he died was also set in Burma. Durante reports Larkin's observations as objectively as possible. Her voice work is detached but factually astounding, appropriately emotive but not overly polemical. Like Orwell's deep characterizations, Durante lets Larkin's prose speak for itself. The moral of the story becomes all too obvious and the outcomes descend with a resounding inevitability.
For those not familiar with Orwell's work, this book stands alone by providing enough background and appropriate quotation to keep the flow of information both interesting and logical (but beware of spoilers here, if you intend to read Orwell's work in future). For die-hard Orwell fans, the very many parallels to modern Burma will be a striking new way of reading your old favorites. And no matter how much or how little you know about Burma, Durante's approach to Larkin's approach to Orwell's approach to Burma will shed a unique and much-needed light on the secretive police state through an incredibly rare first-hand account. Megan Volpert
Finding George Orwell in Burma is the story of the year Larkin spent traveling across this shuttered police state, using the life and work of Orwell as her guide. Traveling from Mandalay and Rangoon to poor delta backwaters and up to the old hill-station towns in the mountains of Burma's far north, Larkin visits the places Orwell worked and lived and the places his books live still. She brings to vivid life a country and a people cut off from the rest of the world, and from one another, by the ruling military junta and its network of spies and informers.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Roger on 09-21-10
Orwell's Horrors Brought to Life
This book has 3 intertwined themes: it’s part travelogue, describing the sights, sounds and smells of different parts of Burma; it’s part literary criticism, exploring the influence of Orwell’s experiences in Burma on his writing; and its main theme is using Orwell’s writings to illustrate the horrendous conditions in Burma today.
In expounding this main theme, Ms. Larkin draws out the eerie confluence of 3 factors: Orwell’s having worked in, and written about, Burma; his chilling novels about life under authoritarianism; and the realities of such rule in Burma today. Larkin does a good job of using Orwell’s writings to bring descriptions of life under authoritarian rule home on a personal level.
At times, the 3 themes get in the way of each other, but, at others, the contrasts between the natural beauty and current reality highlight Larkin’s descriptions of how bad things are.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
By Nathan on 04-17-11
This book was absolutely excellent. It takes the reader on a trip through Burma while giving the information needed to empathize with the oppression that the Burmese face. It follows the path of George Orwell and frequently uses quotes from 1984 and Burmese Days.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful