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Burmese Days (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

George Orwell , Emma Larkin
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Nov 2001 Penguin Modern Classics

George Orwell's first novel, inspired by his experiences in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, Burmese Days includes a new introduction by Emma Larkin in Penguin Modern Classics.

Based on his experiences as a policeman in Burma, George Orwell's first novel presents a devastating picture of British colonial rule. It describes corruption and imperial bigotry in a society where, 'after all, natives were natives - interesting, no doubt, but finally ... an inferior people'. When Flory, a white timber merchant, befriends Indian Dr Veraswami, he defies this orthodoxy. The doctor is in danger: U Po Kyin, a corrupt magistrate, is plotting his downfall. The only thing that can save him is membership of the all-white Club, and Flory can help. Flory's life is changed further by the arrival of beautiful Elizabeth Lackersteen from Paris, who offers an escape from loneliness and the 'lie' of colonial life.

Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), better known by his pen-name, George Orwell, was born in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. An author and journalist, Orwell was one of the most prominent and influential figures in twentieth-century literature. His unique political allegory Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with the dystopia of Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame. All his novels and non-fiction, including Burmese Days (1934), Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) and Homage to Catalonia (1938) are published in Penguin Modern Classics.

If you enjoyed Burmese Days you might like Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'The greatest writer of the twentieth century'

Philip French, Observer


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Burmese Days (Penguin Modern Classics) + Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Re-issue edition (29 Nov 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141185376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141185378
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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.

Product Description

Book Description

Three key novels from the 1930s by the author who later became world-famous for his political satires, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) was born in India in 1903. He was educated at Eton, served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, and worked in Britain as a private tutor, schoolteacher, bookshop assistant and journalist. In 1936, Orwell went to fight for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War and was wounded. In 1938 he was admitted into a sanatorium and from then on was never fully fit. George Orwell died in London in 1950.

Emma Larkin is the pseudonym for an American journalist who was born and raised in Asia, studied the Burmese language at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and covers Asia in her journalism from her base in Bangkok. She has been visiting Burma for close to ten years.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
U Po Kyin, Sub-divisional Magistrate of Kyauktada, in Upper Burma, was sitting in his veranda. Read the first page
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Orwell's four great novels 23 July 2004
By Anthony Lynas VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
That the imagery and language of 1984 have become so indelibly printed on the minds of modern society should be enough on its own to make people investigate Orwell's other novels. Sadly, this isn't the case so most people miss out on the joys of the greatest English writer of the 20th Century.
Burmese Days is Orwell's homage to the Raj, if you like; a caustic look at the miserable and meaningless existence of ex-pats in the dying days of the Empire. Like all Orwell's writing, it is informed by his own personal experiences. He also writes with a clarity and simplicity that means his images and meanings are never in doubt.
Ultimately, Burmese Days is a tragedy and there is scant little hope or jollity to be found anywhere in it, but this doesn't detract from a wholly engaging read. Like Homage to Catalonia, Orwell's great work about the Spanish Civil War, you are left understanding what life was like for the writer in his days in the service of the Crown. As with all Orwell's novels except, ironically, 1984, the author's humanist tendencies shine through, meaning you feel sympathy and empathy with everyone in the book; Orwell is not helping you to understand the processes of life, rather their impact, in the hope that you can do something about it.
Just so you know, the four Orwell novels everyone should read are 1984, Animal Farm, Coming up for Air and Burmese Days (in that order), and everyone should also read Homage to Catalonia and The Road to Wigan Pier as well. His essays are equally wonderful and the most startling thing about all his writing is how relevant its themes and observations still are 60 or 70 years on.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orwell's forgotten masterpiece 22 Jun 2002
Format:Paperback
A work of amazing power which deserves to rank up there with 1984 and Animal Farm. Orwell delivers a wonderful character study of Flory (the main character)and uses the novel to express his own absolute disgust at the way the British Empire was run. Some of the passages contain such wonderful insight into the human condition that they stay in the brain forever. If the ending does not leave you moved, you're made of stone.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orwell's forgotten masterpiece 22 Jun 2002
Format:Paperback
A work of power and depth which deserves to rank up there with Animal Farm and 1984. Orwell delivers such a wonderful character study of Flory that I cannot believe it is not based at least partly on himself. He writes passages which are so striking in their insight into the human condition that they stay in your brain forever. If the ending does not leave you moved, you're made of stone.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Like most of Orwell's novels, 'Burmese Days' is principally about social alienation, here against the backdrop of a remote jungle outpost of the British empire in the 1920s. The book is steeped in the atmosphere of the country in which it is set, the oppressive climate, the colour of the jungle and the native population, the repulsively racist and materialistic circle of English businessmen and colonial administrators among whom Flory, the main character, socializes at the 'European Club'.
You get the impression that Flory is actually the same misanthropic ineffectual character that appears in all Orwell's novels (a portrait of Orwell himself presumably), although in 'Burmese Days' he is in his formative stage, reluctant to take a confrontational stand against the colonialist attitudes which surround him.
The novel is half satire, half tragedy, and catches the contrast between the beauty of the tropical backdrop and the moral ugliness which pervades the existence of most of the characters, Burmese and Europeans alike. Totally captivating, this book left me unable to shake off the stifling atmosphere it evoked for days. Always the sign of good writing...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good read, strange errors 6 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the book, it's an easy read but quite sickening in its description of the unpleasantness of British colonialism. Orwell makes virtually all the characters unpleasant and narrow-minded, and it's difficult to sympathise with even the main protagonist.

The Kindle version though is quite good but there are some weird errors. Did they digitise it with some OCR software? It keeps saying "mere" where "there" was intended, and particularly strange was the use of "tiling" instead of "thing". While the book isn't particularly expensive, proof reading would undoubtedly have caught these, so it gets a bit irritating.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indictment of the colonial system 17 Feb 2012
By oggy
Format:Paperback
This review is of the Penguin "Modern Classics" edition of Burmese Days, with the introduction by Emma Larkin.

There are 25 chapters to this 300-page book and most of the important characters are introduced in the first two chapters which cover 34 pages. I found it a little difficult to get going with the story because sorting out the many characters who are introduced at the beginning was, for me, a little challenging ... for example, U Po Kyin is also known as Ko Po Kyin; Ma Kin is also known as Kin Kin.

So, I wound up making a list of characters, rather like the cast of characters one might see prefacing a play, and, hey presto, it all fell into place. In fact, there are no more than a dozen important characters, Flory, an English timber merchant, being the character around whom the story is based ..... otherwise there are a hotch-potch of colonials, "Eurasians", an Indian doctor, Burmese, etc.

It's a bit of an adventure story in that a minor revolt is taking place, dacoits (bandits) are running around, and Flory gets himself all messed up in some kind of doomed romance (on the one hand he has a Burmese mistress, on the other he falls in love with a newly-arrived young female fellow-colonial) .... but more than that it's an indictment of British colonial rule in 1920's Burma.

There is quite a lot of news coming out of Myanmar at the moment in which we hear of the undemocratic and autocratic government that presides, but reading this book makes one realize that life was much worse under the British.

In later works Orwell wrote about the poverty of the least fortunate in the 1920's-&-1930's in Western Europe, and later wrote criticisms of totalitarianism and fascism, but this book is all about the British colonies.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Shocking account of Colonial Life.
Recommended to me by my sister in law when she heard I was visiting Myanmar. It is always interesting to read novels set in the countries one is visiting or indeed has visited. Read more
Published 20 days ago by LindyLouMac
5.0 out of 5 stars Those who believe in the excellence of Empire should read this.
There is little that I can add to other peoples reviews. However I find it surprising that there are so many typographical errors in this book. Read more
Published 22 days ago by M. W. F. Swann
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but flawed first novel
George Orwell's first novel, Burmese Days, is a damning look at British Imperialism and the effects of colonialism on both the British and the native populace. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Noel
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Depressing but still loved it. A book doesn't have to be all sweetness and light for you to enjoy it and be gripped by the story.
Published 1 month ago by Rebecca Lynch
3.0 out of 5 stars Will persevere
Started but haven't completed yet. I found The Trouser People, about Burma, captured my attention more, but I shall return to this one.
Published 1 month ago by scottie
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I think it helps that I'm a history buff but that aside, Orwell is a good writer and his stuff is interesting. He's clearly critical of the old raj in Burma.
Published 1 month ago by Roy
5.0 out of 5 stars ....colonialism
perhaps not on a par with 1984 but still a great read. orwell puts his intense antipathy of colonialism in the the words of the main protagonist,John Flory
Published 2 months ago by James Harding
5.0 out of 5 stars Burmese Days
The book arrived promptly in good condition. A good read if you are interested in the history of Burma and enjoy the works of George Orwell.
Published 2 months ago by indigo
5.0 out of 5 stars Pukka sahibs and burra memsahibs...
... and their allies, at a far corner of the Empire.

George Orwell was a policeman for five years in Burma during the 1920's. Read more
Published 2 months ago by John P. Jones III
5.0 out of 5 stars A must if you are visiting Myanmar
A brilliant account of what living in Burma was like pre WW2 and really sets the scene for colonial life and where
it met with Burmese culture.
Published 3 months ago by Mrs J M Edington
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