- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First edition (January 8, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780374531164
- ISBN-13: 978-0374531164
- ASIN: 0374531161
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 81 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #341,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma Paperback – January 8, 2008
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“[B]rilliant . . . The River of Lost Footsteps is a balanced, thorough, and serious history, but it is also a polemic, firm in its view that the current international campaign--pursuing 'this policy of isolating one of the most isolated countries in the world'--is moving in the wrong direction.” ―New Yorker
“Mr. Thant eloquently and mournfully recites the dismal history of the last half century and, in analyzing the country's nascent democracy movement, holds out only the slimmest of hopes for a better future. It will not come through economic and diplomatic sanctions, of that he is convinced. Trade and more engagement, especially more tourism, might let in badly needed light and air. But trying to topple the regime by isolating it would, he argues, be disastrous.” ―William Grimes, The New York Times
“Thant Myint-U's narrative is full of rich details and colorful characters like Bayinnaung, a 16th-century king who led a mighty elephant corps into battle, defeating neighboring Siam . . . If it could somehow be set on a different course, Thant Myint-U suggests, Burma could once again become an important player in Asia.” ―Joshua Kurlantzick, The Washington Monthly
“Fascinating . . . [Thant] gives us both the savory details and the cruelties of colonialism, as well as a rare for feel for palace intrigue. In the process, he suggests that isolation is in fact just what the military regime feeds on. It's in its blood.” ―Pico Iyer, Time
“Vivid and well-told history.... With wide interest in Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and others opposing the ruling generals, this warrants attention.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Profiling 20th-century Burmese leaders such as Aung San, U Nu and Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Aung San Suu Kyi, Thant Myint-U beautifully captures the complex identity of a little-understood country, concluding with a trenchant analysis of Burma's current predicament under an oppressive regime.” ―Publishers Weekly
“The best introduction yet available to the modern history of Burma. Sad and poignant, intelligent and thought-provoking.” ―William Dalrymple
“A balanced, fascinating, sometimes humorous account of nation-building.” ―Rory Stewart, author of The Places in Between and The Prince of the Marshes
About the Author
Thant Myint-U, born in 1966, was educated at Harvard and Cambridge. He has served on United Nations peacekeeping operations in Cambodia and Bosnia, and was more recently the head of policy planning in the UN Department of Political Affairs.
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I found the book by turns amusing and sad and generally very engaging. It's definately something non-experts can enjoy, including those without any prior knowledge at all of Asian history, let alone Burma. In a way, there is something in it for everyone, from military history, to travelogue, to political commentary, to archeology.
My only wish would be that the author spent a little more time on the present day.
Who knew? The author belongs to Burma's elite class. Thus, no surprise that he focused
on royals & military history. Very detailed, informative.
And the book has changed my personal opinion about sanctions and Burma policy as it has evolved over the last few decades. As much as those of us in the West would like the countries of SE Asia to be functional Western style democracies I am not sure it is fair to expect such systems to develop and evolve overnight given the starting points these places have to work with. While democratic ideals are certainly a goal to which we would want all countries and people to aspire I think we forget that Western countries' democracies have taken hundreds of years to reach the point the have achieved. To expect SE Asian countries, with little to no democratic historical contexts or institutions, to become democrat in a short period of time is not realistic. The author lays out in the final chapter how it will take some time for Burma to become a real democracy. And it rang true with me when I read it. And let's also not forget that current Western democracies aren't all they are cracked up to be either as they more and more exist for the enrichment of the already rich at the expense of the rest of us.
This neighborhood is full of countries where corruption is rife, economic and human rights are regularly abused, and the vast majority of people are barely eking out a life with little prospect of economic mobility. How do we help these people move themselves forward? Does sanctions on the Burmese government, which has itself sought isolation anyway, do anything to advance the cause of Burmese freedom? Or do they stand a better chance of a better life if we engage with them, visit them, trade with them, and try to bring them into the "family of nations"? We are always quick to punish, but is there much evidence that this punishment brings about the sorts of changes we are hoping for?