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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding Pleasure in Orwell
This is a wonderful book. The author, who obviously has extensive knowledge about (and affection for) both Orwell and Burma, traces Orwell's life and experiences in the various outposts in Burma to which he was assigned as an imperial British policeman in the 1920s. It gracefully intermingles commentary on modern-day Burma, historical information about Orwell's time and...
Published on June 20, 2005 by Paul Bunyan

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3.0 out of 5 stars Finding Orwell?
I downloaded the book on the Kindle and read it while in Myanmar 2013. I was expecting more of a historical account of Burma during Orwell's time and about his family's connection to the country. The book uses Orwell's writing to describe some of that period but mostly focuses on modern political history. I was disappointed that documented conversations with those...
Published 23 months ago by Not a big reader


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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding Pleasure in Orwell, June 20, 2005
This is a wonderful book. The author, who obviously has extensive knowledge about (and affection for) both Orwell and Burma, traces Orwell's life and experiences in the various outposts in Burma to which he was assigned as an imperial British policeman in the 1920s. It gracefully intermingles commentary on modern-day Burma, historical information about Orwell's time and life there, and prophetic connections between Orwell's themes in "1984" and "Animal Farm" and the 40-year dictatorship in Burma (renamed by its tyrants "Myanmar"). Reading this book has caused me to go back and re-read, with much greater insight, "Burmese Days." Among the very pleasing features of this book is that the author does not try to overstate her case or engage in excessive conjecture about Orwell's experiences in Burma. Instead, she offers very thoughtful, subtle opinions on matters for which historical evidence is not there (apart from Orwell's writings). Another joy is that the author's politics (except for her revulsion at the brutal Burmese dictatorship) are not apparent, so Orwell is not used as a tool to promote some left or right ideology. Highly recommended, especially to Orwell fans and readers.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, July 10, 2005
While it's hard to categorise this book, it could be filed under `must read' for fans of Orwell and everyone interested in modern international politics. This book falls into to genres of literary biography, travel and modern politics, and `Emma Larkin' succeeds brilliantly in all three.

As a literary biography she sheds new light onto Orwell as a person and the background to his books. In particular, I was fascinated by her informed speculation into how Orwell's experiences in Burma contributed to his transformation from a privileged child of Empire into the champion of the lower classes who came to write `1984'.

As a travel book Larkin brings Burma to life. Her descriptions of the Burmese landscape and Burmese people are wonderful and suggest that she dearly loves the country despite its hideous government.

As a book on modern politics, Larkin is extremely successful in describing how a totalitarian dictatorship operates and the devastation such forms of government inflict upon their people. In particular, Larkin's descriptions of how the Burmese regime has corrupted almost every aspect of civil society offers very valuable insights into how such regimes survive in the face of their brutality and incompetence. More subtly, the fact that Larkin had to write this book under a pseudonym and was unable to reveal any details about herself for fear of being identified and expelled from Burma brings to life the grim realities of living under a repressive regime.

All up, this is an impressive book which deserves a wide readership.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside today's Burma, June 12, 2006
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A remarkable inside look at life in a totalitarian state. The Burmese people that the author encounters reveal an inner strength of character forged in an atmosphere of oppression and constant observation reminiscent of Orwell's 1984.

The author travels extensively through this country tracing the footsteps of George Orwell when he was stationed there as an imperial policeman. Along the way the not so subtle effects of a state where none of the freedoms we take for granted exist become more and more evident to the reader.

The author presents these people and their stories in a very objective fashion and doesn't seek to sensationalize their struggles for political purpose. The effect of this style is actually very powerful because the reader gradually draws the only possible conclusion regarding the current regime in Burma.

This is a fine book that is part travelogue, part biography, but more than anything a testament to how people survive in a country where human rights and freedom are essentially non-existent.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Brilliant in Every Sense, March 20, 2007
By 
Michael H. Frederick (Gaithersburg, MD USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I've been savoring this book over many weeks, reading only bits at a time, not wanting it to end.

Emma Larkin (a "nom de plume") has managed to focus on what must surely be a unique perspective when it comes to 21st century Burma. She ties the modern totalitarian regime with George Orwell's classics, particularly "1984" and "Animal Farm." Her insight into the workings of the country and knowledge of the language have resulted in a fascinating tale of her travels through Burma, tracing the career of Orwell during his five-year stint as a British colonial policeman.

Having made numerous trips to Burma, Larkin has accumulated quite a following of contacts and friends, whose names have been changed to protect them from the very real danger of torture and imprisonment for talking to a foreign journalist. This collection of locals, however, gives the author a window into what must be the second most repressive nation on the planet (after North Korea). The reader is treated to tales of what is happening in that beautiful and tragic place, eyes opened to the situation for the average citizen. The military junta that rules Burma is responsible for unspeakable human rights violations and remains, justifiably, paranoid about its tenuous hold on power. Larkin relates the tenseness of the situation in an informative and enlightening way.

I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of the remnants of British colonialism and how Orwell and his colleagues must have lived. It's a tale of a bygone era when Britain ruled a third of the world, "memsahibs" could thrash a servant for incompetence and a struggling civil servant feared for his life thanks to a high crime rate and the threat of vengenance from resentful colonial subjects. It's touching, however, to learn of long-forgotten graveyards behind English churches, the tombstones broken and discarded or used as garden ornaments by Rangoon businessmen. The epitaphs ring hollow when one realizes that the Burmese government considers the markers nothing more than impediments to a planned parking lot or housing development.

Frequent quotes from Orwell's work illustrate the similarities between his works of fiction and what has actually transpired today. It's almost as if Orwell had predicted what would happen to the country where he spent part of his youth. His semi-autobiographical work based on his time in Burma, "Burmese Days," is also put to good use, providing a feel for what it must have been like in the 1920s as a lonely cop in far-off outposts, isolated and alienated. For Orwell this not only applies to his status as a representative of the Raj but the fact that he was usually seen as an outsider and loner amongst his colleagues.

"Finding George Orwell in Burma" is simply brilliant. In fact, it's made me want to go to the country more than ever and I'm in the process of planning a trip there next month. I wouldn't dare try to take the book with me on the journey (it would probably be confiscated at the airport in Rangoon) but it'll be in my heart as I travel around what promises to be a fascinating and beautiful place.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In the land of "labor donation" vs. "forced labor", February 13, 2006
Larkin, writing under a psuedonym as an American born in Asia, educated in London, and resident in Bangkok, brings the right balance of an insider--being able to speak the language and get into the feel of Burma--and outsider--marked obviously by her presence. I wondered how the Burmese reacted to her as she suddenly must have entered many situations and places in which the local people probably never expected that a Westerner would be able to converse, interview, and delve into their own relatively unknown (to outsiders) language. Humbling too to note how many of the people she met had mastered English and were better read than many to whom Dickens is an author in a native language and not one learned with considerable effort so far away from much contact with the West.

However, Larkin diminishes her own role to highlight the conditions endured in a police state. I never knew that on 8--8-88 3,000 people were killed while demonstrating; the fate of "The Lady" is about all many of us have heard about "Myanmar", unfortunately for that nation and for human rights. This is why her linking today's experiences to previous conditions at first perpetrated and then rebelled against by Orwell himself makes for a well-chosen structural foundation for her book. Written calmly and even detached from her surroundings somewhat, Larkin lets the people she talks to tell the stories. I do sense that much of Burma was left out--I would have liked, seeing the map, to know more about the peninsular strip adjoining Thailand, the border areas with Bangladesh, India, and China, and the Himalayan frontiers, but her travels seem to have been more limited to the center of the nation. This may be, however, due to surveillance. I was amazed she was able to get away with as much as she did given her "not blending in."

She conveys information calmly and clearly, and her own quest to retrace Orwell's steps results in a lot of sensibly established parallels that I doubt any previous reader of Orwell or traveler to Burma had been able to make--quite an accomplishment for this modest book. I hope too that it reaches a wider audience and that more of us learn about the regime strangling this nation. Larkin's lack of self-importance makes her book a quiet but effective voice against tyranny, and Orwell would be proud of her.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Surprise, July 7, 2006
By 
J. A Carty "Jessie Carty" (Charlotte, NC United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Finding George Orwell in Burma (Paperback)
I was on a book shopping trip about a month ago and saw this on the New Voices section of the bookstore shelf. I decided to buy it because the title appealed to me and I had just seen a documentary about the lake dwelling people of Burma (see the cover photo). I was amazed by this book and would highly recommend this to most readers.

"Larkin" is a wonderful writing. Her style is strong. She presents the story of present day Burma by weaving the present, the past and the views of George Orwell. She uses her own journalism in the country (under stealth) as well as scholarly research to present a depiction that was often shocking and usually quite sad.

It is hard for Americans sometimes to really understand and believe that a world like 1984 could exist in modern society but this book certainly paints a picture of what other parts of the world must deal with everyday.

This is a thought provoking work whether you approach it as literay criticism, socialology or editoral. Again, I highly recommend this book and am looking forward to going back and reading 1984 in light of what I have read here.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Larkin masterfully explores the political and cultural forces that honed much of Orwell's thinking., June 25, 2005
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Sunny (Washington) - See all my reviews
The setting is the tropical beauty of Burma, its colorful villages and vibrant culture, all overlaying and obscuring the political oppression busy beneath the surface. Orwell experienced all this while posted in Burma as a member of the British Imperial Police. Larkin brings all this together in a literate tour of time and place that brings the reader back to Orwell's own writings with new insights and sensitivities.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Burma in the Raw, May 26, 2006
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Well the book exceeded my expectations in every way. It does provide a good deal of really fascinating information about Orwell and his adventures in Burma as an agent of the British Empire, but it does a lot more than that. It is a brilliant travel book that describes in beautiful prose the towns and countryside of central Burma. More significantly it describes the political nightmare that has afflicted Burma since the days of Ne Win (1962). The author follows Orwell's postings as a police officer in Burma and provides fascinating descriptions of the places he was stationed and more interestingly presents wonderful stories of the people now living in those places. This book is undoubtedly banned in Burma because it presents a devastating account of the repressive and corrupt rule of the Burmese Army over the last 40 odd years. Yet I think the author is both fair and accurate in describing present day Burma.

The author of this book is a remarkable person in his or her own right. "Emma Larkin" (a pseudonym) is a unique American who has actually taken the time to learn to speak and read Burmese. Written Burmese is based on Sanskrit and looks to the uninformed, like myself, as a serious of small circle or half circles tied on lines. Anybody who can read it certainly has my admiration. Further `Larkin's' affection for Burma and the Burmese is obvious and as a result the book provides a very sympathetic picture of the people of central Burma. My one disappointment in the book is the author spends very little time discussing the non-Burmese hill tribes (Shan, Kachin, etc.), but that wasn't the intent of the book. This is a wonderful book about as little known and reclusive country by a well informed and perceptive observer.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orwellian Inspiration Found in a Police State Known as Burma, September 14, 2005
I was completely unaware of author George Orwell's inextricable ties with Burma until I read this fascinating history by "Emma Larkin", a pseudonym for a female and Caucasian journalist based in Bangkok, who speaks Burmese and has been visiting the country for the past decade. She decided to make it her destiny to retrace all the steps Orwell took as a young police officer in the British colonial service there and expand upon her research to claim his experience gave birth to a trilogy of classic books, the first being "Burmese Days" followed by his classics, "Animal Farm" and "1984". Orwell, then known as Eric Blair, spent five years in the country in the 1920s before trading his Billy club for a pen. It is Larkin's contention that Burma today may be the most Orwellian place on earth.

What the author manages to do extremely well is balance her obsession with Orwell with a skillful and often moving depiction of a militarized country in turmoil run by the ironically dubbed State Peace and Development Council. Her ability to interweave the past with what she sees in contemporary Burma makes both accounts resonate more especially as she wanders looking for dissidents or people who knew Orwell. In penetrating detail, she finds remnants of the Orwell legacy - his old home, a street named for his mother's family, and people with dim memories of "Uncle Eric." Within this context, the author paints evocative pictures of a vibrant culture - Rangoon, Mandalay and the Irrawaddy River, nighttime markets twinkling with fairy lights and old, somewhat dilapidated colonial mansions.

However, she also captures the dampened spirit of individuals. In one encounter, she talks to an impassive old woman who suddenly breaks down and tells Larkin she has no hope for the future. In another, the author joins in with a little group of Anglo-Burmese spinsters who meet for tea to talk about the current state of affairs. One can immediately see a place where the principles and practices of "1984" are not the unrepentant fantasies of the upper-middle-class in the UK but simply dictatorial business as usual. Almost every other person is a spy for the government -- or could be. The author is dexterous in conveying this pervasive sense of paranoia amid an unfulfilled country rich in resources that should be as wealthy as its neighbor Thailand. In a powerful, eminently readable style, Larkin draws back the bamboo curtain just far enough for show us the brutal tyranny behind it. Superb reading.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Commendable, August 8, 2006
This review is from: Finding George Orwell in Burma (Paperback)
Finding George Orwell in Burma is brilliantly written. It is an amazing look on the inside of a forgotten country whose people are torturously isolated and restricted on so many levels. Emma Larkin conducted outstandingly thorough research for this book, and I can't imagine that anything was missed. The parallels between George Orwell's works and the political situations in the history of Burma are jaw-dropping. I feel that Myanmar is a forgotten nation that many overlook, and this book brings to the attention that its people need help, and they need it soon. The current regime is a group of repulsive, greedy, power-hungry monsters, and it greatly saddens me that the international community has let this go on for so long, with very little being done. This book is a real eye-opener, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in anything from human rights to English Literature. My heart goes out to the people of Myanmar.
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Finding George Orwell in Burma
Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin (Paperback - March 6, 2006)
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