Finding George Orwell in Burma – an Alternative Travel Guide for Myanmar
Readability & Style8.5
Scope of Content & Depth of Information8
Suitability as Travel Guide7.5
Burma and George Orwell share an intriguing past. Setting out to find any traces left of Orwell in today`s Myanmar, Emma Larkin travels in the footsteps of the famous British writer through a country that has just begun to change.
Larkin`s attempts to find Orwell in Myanmar as the officer of the Imperial Police Force he was back then in the 1920s are not as successful as finding Orwell as the writer he later became. Orwell`s novels Burmese Days, Animal Farm or Nineteen Eighty-Four are still read and known in Myanmar, although the regime has forbidden them for more than two generations. Since “all his novels explore the idea of individuals being trapped within their environment, controlled by their family, the society around them or an all-powerful government” (p. 4), the military regime had as many reasons to ban them as the people of Myanmar have to read them with great enthusiasm. However, due to the very difficult environment for journalistic research in the country, Larkin could not find out much about that Orwell who actually lived and worked in different places in Myanmar, such as Mandalay, Yangon or Mawlamyine.
Emma Larkin`s style of writing is simple enough so that even non-native English speaker won`t have problems to fully understand it or to extract the main messages of the book. And its structure is even more simple due to its geographical logic; there are five chapters, each carrying the name of Burmese towns or regions. Finding George Orwell in Burma gives great insights into the main problems the people of Myanmar are facing in everyday life, in particular authors, poets, publishers, newspaper producers and students. Larkin successfully connects the past of Burma (the Burma Orwell used to know) with the Myanmar of the early 2000s by addressing different aspects that bothered not only George Orwell, but also most of the population of Myanmar in recent years; poverty, politics, society, family and power.
To sum up, the book is exactly about what Larkin adequately summarized in the book`s title: An inspiring travel to find George Orwell in Burma. Or at least the attempt to find out more about Orwell`s rather unknown past as an officer of the Imperial Police Force in former Myanmar.
If it is the first time for you to travel to Myanmar and if you want to recognize some of the places the author writes about, I would recommend to read the book while in Myanmar (it`s light enough to carry around), especially if you`re going to visit the specific places that Emma Larkin describes in Finding George Orwell in Burma.