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Everything is Broken: The Untold Story of Disaster Under Burma's Military Regime [Paperback]

Emma Larkin
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 July 2010
On May 2, 2008, an enormous tropical cyclone made landfall in Burma. The cyclone wreaked untold havoc, but the regime, in an unfathomable decision of near-genocidal proportions, blocked international aid from entering the country, and provided little relief themselves. Emma Larkin, who has been traveling to and secretly reporting on Burma for years, managed to arrange for a tourist visa in those frenzied days and arrived to chaos. Hundreds of thousands of Burmese citizens lacked food, drinking water, and basic shelter. In "Everything is Broken", Larkin not only exposes the extent of the damage, but provides a singular portrait of the generals responsible for compounding the tragedy, examining in revealing detail the historical, religious, and superstitious setting that created Burma's tenacious and brutal dictatorship.

Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; 1st Edition edition (1 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847081800
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847081803
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 626,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`Larkin's descriptions of Burma's apocalyptic landscape after the cyclone are chilling ... she provides a haunting sense of the Burmese tragedy, -- Sunday Times

`This moving account of the regime's response to a devastating cyclone two years ago is a timely warning against optimism' --Economist

`Written with clarity and insight, it's a harrowing account of the gap between a people and it's rulers' --Big Issue

'Larkin explains that the level of control exerted by the ruling generals is so extreme that no one can be sure of the truth about anything'

About the Author

EMMA LARKIN is the pseudonym for an American who was born and raised in Asia, and studied the Burmese language at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She has been visiting Burma for close to 15 years. Her previous book, Secret Histories: Finding George Orwell in Burma, was published by Penguin Press US and John Murray in 2005.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a natural disaster 19 July 2010
By Arheddis Varkenjaab TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a fascinating insight into Burmese society. I'm not sure whether or not Emma Larkin set out to purely write the story of the Nargis Cyclone and got swept up and bogged down in the mindless petty bureaucracy, inaccessibility, and just pure frustration of trying to find out anything concrete about anything in Burma, but this is much more than the title leads you to expect. Larkin is clearly a very brave, determined, and intensely curious individual.

The Nargis cyclone was much more than a natural disaster. It was a disaster exacerbated by the mindless, careless, ruthless ambition for power of the rulers of Burma. Bogged down by ludicrously restrictive visa requirements, pathetic rule making and just general old-fashioned incompetence, aid never reached many parts of Burma devastated by the cyclone. It would be easy for Larkin to leave it at that, but we go deeper. Exploring some of the potential for revolution in Burma, and how the last best hope of the people is the power of the Buddhist monks, we see how even that desperate hope is fading against the ruthlessness of the ruling junta. Larking allows the reader to contrast the slow, careless reaction to the natural disaster of Nargis with the clean, cool efficiency with which even the slightest hint of rebellion is squashed. It's actually very difficult to believe that the ruling party could actually be this heartless, and Larkin does even genourously suggest that perhaps the very highest echelons of the ruling party don't actually know what's going on, as underlings censor reports in order to not be the bearer of bad news. Larkin calls this 'no bad news for the king'. Indeed, we see how new roads are laid out and towns repainted if the generals are going anywhere near them so it's depressingly plausible.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Glimpse of a Broken Country 19 Aug 2010
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
On the 2nd May, 2008, Cyclone Nargis devastated the Irrawaddy Delta region of Burma. These communities of farmers and fishermen had no warning before disaster struck. And thanks to the incomprehensible actions of their ruling generals, it would be a full month before the international aid community was allowed to help.

This tragic event and the confusion that followed, as people inside and beyond Burma's borders struggled to help, despite the actions of the government, is where Larkin's book begins. Split into three sections, the opening part deals with the first month after Nargis, when the movements of Larkin and other foreigners was restricted to Rangoon, the former capital, trying to co-ordinate the aid mission with inexperienced locals.

Part two is more of a general overview of the ruling general, Than Shwe and his time in power, with a quick skip across Burma's history since the end of colonial rule. It also deals with the shocking events of September 2007, when Buddhist monks were beaten, killed, abducted and imprisoned after peaceful protests against the rising cost of living unsettled the government.

In both of these sections Larkin relies heavily on eye witnesses, some second or third hand, rumours and the propaganda-heavy official reports. As such the truth is very hard to find, giving contradictory views and murky pictures of a leader living in opulent isolation, blind to the suffering of his oppressed people.

In the final section Larkin actually visits the Irrawaddy Delta, six months after Nargis. At last able to describe the destruction with her own eyes, see the lack of support and take down personal accounts from the broken survivors, this is where the human cost is truly felt.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Caleb Williams VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I know the review title is terrible, but I couldn't think of anything clever. The book, is truly superb from start to finish. Covering the Cyclone Nargis tragedy of 2008 and the Burmese monk protests of 2007, Larkin paints a terrifying picture of a country under an extremely oppressive military regime. She paints a picture of terror, brutality and callousness on an unimaginable level. I wasn't much familiar with Burma and its military rule, and only vaguely recall the protests of 2007 and hearing about the shocking brutality used to quash the protests. The story of the Cyclone was new to me, but no less shocking when reading the personal stories of those involved whose lives were destroyed by the regime's refusal to allow international aid. The book delves further into the personal lives and spirituality of the Burmese people, and attempts to shed some light on the military regime and its history, but makes very clear that the regime do everything within their power to ensure that as little information on the regime escapes the country as possible.

Really good book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insight into the hidden story of Burma 6 Aug 2010
By Mark Shackelford TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My first impression of the book was opening the first page and seeing "Mandalay" on the map. This brought back all sorts of memories of stories of the Raj and half-forgotten family history.

My vision of Burma (before reading this book) is based on hazy memories of stories and history, of the British Empire, and of exotic lands.

This book tells the real story of modern Burma - or, at least, as real as one journalist can get in this apparently Stalinist State - ruled by a secretive military Junta for the past few decades.

The story is hard to believe, but we have to assume it is true. In Burma, all news is "edited" to show the ruling Generals in a good light, and any bad news is supressed.

In the aftermath of a terrible cyclone which devastated large parts of the country, the junta refused the aid offered by the rest of the world, and instead, for several weeks, did nothing. When the aid did arrive much was syphoned off into their own coffers.

The author attempts to explain this bizarre behaviour - as a result of years of mistrust of foreign powers - perhaps the after affects of the British Empire? But this does not explain (or endorse) the behaviour of a government allowing its own people to suffer, just for the sake of appearences!

A heart-breaking tale - and one that brings to light the reason for the long term opposition by Aung San Suu Kyi - and why she has been under house arrest for so long.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
A brilliantly written account of a heart breaking story. This is gripping and hard to put down. How brave some people are.
Published 15 months ago by Emma Grigg
5.0 out of 5 stars Another "failed state"...
I first read Emma Larkin's Finding George Orwell in Burma a few years back, and was impressed. One of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, George Orwell, was a policeman in... Read more
Published on 23 Jan 2012 by John P. Jones III
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting reading
As I have been to Burma several times and saw evidence of the allmighty military junta, the army and of the great poverty of the people, I found this book interesting reading.
Published on 3 Oct 2011 by Baudouin De Witte
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insight
With tourism to Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi in the news so much recently, it's great to have a reminder of the devastation in Burma caused by the military regime. Read more
Published on 21 April 2011 by F. R. Lewis
3.0 out of 5 stars A Cyclone of Misery
I feel very sorry for the people of Burma and all they've had to put up with through the decades under one useless and cruel regime after another. Read more
Published on 2 April 2011 by Paul Pinn
3.0 out of 5 stars An important work, if not a great read
This book's the subject is both a harrowing and enlightening one. Burma is an unusual dictatorship, unlike North Koreas bizarre attempts for international recognition, Burma seems... Read more
Published on 24 Feb 2011 by D. Salmon
4.0 out of 5 stars A look inside one of the world's lesser-known dictatorships
Everyone knows about history's and today's famous dictators. From Hitler and Stalin to Kim Jong Il, but the lesser-known story of Burma's General Than Shwe is arguably just as... Read more
Published on 2 Nov 2010 by Ian Shine
5.0 out of 5 stars The history of a near unknown disaster...
The disasters of recent years such as Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquakes or Indonesian tsunami have all been massively reported and documented with global responses. Read more
Published on 21 Oct 2010 by David Lovie
5.0 out of 5 stars A harrowing account
This is an important book as it highlights the plight of so many Burmese people, who not only have to endure the brutality of the totalitarian military regime and the fear they... Read more
Published on 13 Oct 2010 by M. V. Clarke
4.0 out of 5 stars I want to go there!
Fantastically written book shining light on a country that I no little of subsequent to 1945, indeed my second thought on Burma is always Lord Mountbatten such is my paucity of... Read more
Published on 23 Sep 2010 by A. Betts
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