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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Orwell's four great novels
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...
Published on 23 July 2004 by Anthony Lynas

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good read, strange errors
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...
Published 18 months ago by Boglebadger


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The End of Empire, 22 April 2006
Orwell was himself a Colonial policeman and this experience seared an impression of the last gasps of the Raj into his psyche, allowing him to express the anger he felt in his first novel. The corruption of the ruling white Europeans present in South Asia is clear to the reader, and the questioning mind of the central character demonstrates the difficulty any person could have in questioning what was deemed correct during the days of Empire-building by the British. Any reader of this book should also look at 'The Malayan Trilogy' by Anthony Burgess, who was also posted into service within the far-flung reaches of the Empire. This is one of Orwell's classic statements.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pukka sahibs and burra memsahibs..., 24 Jan 2014
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
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... and their allies, at a far corner of the Empire.

George Orwell was a policeman for five years in Burma during the 1920's. Thus, he acquired the gritty experience to write his first novel, which is a scathing portrait of the inner workings of the British Empire, when it was still near its zenith, though "the writing was on the wall." I visited Burma four times in the early `80's, each time for the maximum period allotted by the visas in those days: 7 days. I was enthralled with the country. It was like entering a vast open-air museum, with the clock stopped in 1948 when the British left. Most obviously, the cars dated from that era, and much else probably dated from the `20's when Orwell was there. Everything, people, places, structures was so "photogenic" as a result. I read Orwell's account about the same time, with what now appears to be rosy-colo(u)red filters on my mind's camera. I felt he was far too negative. On my recent re-read, I realize that he got it right, all too right, in this well-crafted novel.

The setting is in the small town of Kyauktada, in Upper Burma, unchanged since the days of Marco Polo, as Orwell says, until the railroad came, and it was now a convenient commercial hub, with the obligatory jails for the natives who got too "uppity." There are eight white Englishman there, and one English woman, soon to be supplemented with another, Elizabeth, with dreams of obtaining a husband so she can enter the ranks of the burra memshabibs (the great ladies). She truly has a natural aptitude for that role. Flory is roughly Orwell's alter-ego, particularly if he had stayed longer himself. Flory is a bachelor, 35, still hoping to find the "brass ring" of a happy marriage, when the ever-so-calculating Elizabeth arrives on the scene. As the other members of the inner sanctum, the "Club" say: Flory is the only one with some "bolshie" ideas.

The non-British inhabitants of Burma are not portrayed very sympathetically either. First and foremost, there is U Po Kyin, who as a young boy, saw the British enter Mandalay in 1880, and decided to be like them. At 50, he is corpulent, sleek and utterly corrupt, with a honed skill for manipulating events, and his British overlords, to his advantage. Dr. Veraswami is an Indian (as in, from India), and is more British than the British, grasping any excuse as an apologist for their rule. Flory and Veraswami are friends of sort, with the "color barrier" between them always a factor.

It was on the re-read that I realized that Orwell's description of mid-20's life in Upper Burma is applicable to us, today, and the many organizations with which we must deal, particularly if we are a member, because they all too often incorporate their own "pukka sahaib" code. Consider Orwell's words, long before he wrote 1984 (Nineteen Eighty-Four): "It is a stifling, stultifying world in which to live...You are free to be a drunkard, an idler, a coward, a backbiter, a fornicator; but you are not free to think for yourself. Your opinion on every subject of any conceivable importance is dictated for you by the pukka sahibs' code."

And what is that code? Orwell calls them the "five chief beatitudes": "Keeping up our prestige; the firm hand (without the velvet glove); we white men must hang together; give them an inch and they'll take an ell: and, Esprit de Corps."

Add a bit of color so as to have a darker shade of pale, and stir in a few women, but heighten still the barriers to entry, and the "code" is applicable today. Kyauktada was / is a microcosm for the point 1% ruling the 99.9%. 5-stars, plus.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dull title for a very good book, 26 Jun 2014
By 
Officer Dibble (Zummerzet) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Burmese Days (Penguin Modern Classics) (Kindle Edition)
Orwell posits that there is a very short period in everyone's life when one's character is fixed forever. Given the semi-autobiographical nature of this work, it would come as no surprise to anyone that Orwell himself drifted to the emotional Left in the face of such staggering racism and snobbery. However, given his schooling, the period could have started sooner.

A desperately sad story of an 'outsider' who didn't 'fit in' and was 'unsound'. Read this and you will wonder how the map was pink.

Note that the book contains highly offensive language.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but flawed first novel, 31 Mar 2014
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
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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. John Flory is an expatriate timber merchant who has lived in Burma for 15 years and become thoroughly jaded, spending his days drinking and whoring in a miserable haze. Then Dr Veraswami, his Indian friend, desperately implores Flory for membership to the European Club which he knows is the only thing that would save him from corrupt and evil local powermonger, U Po Kyin, who is out to destroy him.

With the expatriate community up in arms over the thought of a non-white club member, U Po Kyin's machinations to usurp Veraswami's intentions and become the club's token native member, the arrival of the attractive but shallow Elizabeth Lackersteen, and an increasingly discontented native people, the stage is set for dramatic change for everyone.

The novel looks at the imperial bigotry of the British expatriates and the dirty side of colonialism, showing how the British Empire exploited third world countries under the guise of improving the "uncivilised" natives' lives by imposing British culture upon them. But it also examines the ways colonialism damages the expatriates psychologically, and sometimes physically, as Flory says to Veraswami: "It corrupts us, it corrupts us in ways you can't imagine."

It takes an unflinching look at the racism and bigotry prevalent in the British expatriates' views toward the natives and is at times hard to read for its unblemished dialogue filled with disgusting epithets uttered by many of the British characters, especially Ellis. Orwell is condemning of all of the British characters, including the anti-hero Flory, whom he writes as lazy, drunken sots sitting around aimlessly with an undeserved sense of superiority. Flory is perhaps more despicable as he is aware of the terrible nature of their behaviour but is too cowardly to stand up to them for fear of losing his comfortable existence.

But the novel isn't entirely successful in its execution. It reads like Orwell attempting to do his versions of two classic novels - Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham - and falling short. His criticisms of the expatriate community and its effects on the Burmese population are certainly valid and are rendered in a convincing way, but they lack the memorable excoriation that Conrad gave in his novella - it simply doesn't possess the same intensity. The same is true of the Flory/Elizabeth Lackersteen romance which feels like a compressed, less powerful rendition of the tragic courtship of Philip Carey and Mildred Rogers in Of Human Bondage.

In attempting to do two very different novels in one, much shorter novel - a searing critique of British colonialism and its effects, and a sweeping, complex romance - Orwell doesn't accomplish either with any high degree of success. The romance is rushed and unconvincing, not to mention predictable, leading to a near hysterical and melodramatic finale that sits awkwardly in comparison to the rest of the novel. The damning of colonialism doesn't really rise above mocking the easy targets of racist old British men - Orwell shies away from looking too deeply into U Po Kyin and Dr Veraswami's lives, the latter of which is a key character to the story and is criminally unserved and largely ignored.

Burmese Days is a decent debut novel. Orwell spent a few years in Burma as a police officer and his experiences lend weight to the descriptions of the country - the reader can feel the stifling heat of the country and tense atmosphere between the natives and the British. And Burmese Days' anti-establishment leanings and subversive, wry tone hint at the direction Orwell's writing would take in later novels like Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. But while Burmese Days possesses Orwell's effortless high quality writing and piercing eye for human behaviour, it's at times unfocused and underdeveloped in its themes and direction, both aspects that Orwell would go on to become much better at in later books.

Debut novels are rarely perfect, and Orwell's certainly isn't, but some of its critiques at third world exploitation by richer, western countries, remain valid today and as such, Burmese Days is still a relevant novel, thought certainly one of his lesser efforts, by one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Solid Orwell, 25 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Burmese Days (Penguin Modern Classics) (Kindle Edition)
Good solid George Orwell. Entertaining and well written he draws on his own experiences to highlight the impact of Empire not only on the locals but also on the British Officials who administered and exploited others. Different attitudes within this are made apparent and fascinating to read. The attitudes of some of the Colonials can make you shudder and you realise that whilst some of us have moved on, others have residual thoughts and would feel comfortable in "The Club.". But the damage the system did to the British involved is shown here. Isolation, loneliness and being brutalised as well as an unjustified feeling of superiority. This was fed and fed into so many missed opportunities for friendships and developing genuine relationships with people from another culture as well as learning from them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The English of the East, 15 May 2013
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I didn't expect to enjoy this, but it is beautifully written. You can feel the clamminess of Flory's 'sweat-damp bed', smell the vegetation and sense the suffocation of both the jungle, the climate and the stifling colonial snobbery. It is vivid with the colour of plants, and eastern clothing, a paradise spoiled by pretentious British officials clinging to shreds of European rule and sozzled with unlimited supplies of gin and whisky. Flory has been out of England too long to be able to return, but doesn't belong in Burma either. This book is an eloquent portrayal of the loneliness of an Englishman abroad in the 1920s and an unblinking observation of British rule abroad. Well worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written but sad, 25 April 2013
By 
W. Tegner "Bill" (Cheshire UK) - See all my reviews
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I was an avid reader of George Orwell in my student days fifty years ago and was quite influenced by him. But I had forgotten what a good writer he was. The fact that he has a very definite stand point does not detract from this. He uses English very well, and is descriptive without being unduly wordy. The book is also very interesting historically.

Orwell's books never fill you with optimism, and this one paints a gloomy picture, not least of the British expatriate community: hot, damp, disconnected and cut off, and, to quote the book, "all as alien as a distant planet", even choosing to endure awful "English" food. It's difficult to feel any sympathy for them. And Orwell also resists painting a patronising picture of the Burmese, who are portrayed very much "warts and all". The book comes across as realistic.......and depressing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Enlightening Book, 3 April 2013
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Chose this rating as thought this book a vitally important piece of literature, very enlightening about life in Burma under the rule of the British Empire during the 1920's. Disliked the way some of the characters behaved, rather over emotional and cruel, the hero so detests his life in Burma, that he grasps at his only chance of happiness and redemption with a young woman fresh from Paris. This was not to be, thus resulting in the hero killing his own dog and committing suicide. Very sad.
One of the only likeable characters was Dr. Veraswami who liked the British and wanted to aspire to their ideals blind to the fact that they were living a 'lie'.
A good read, would recommend the book to anyone who likes stories of the British Raj, though this is probably closer to the truth of what really went on than maybe other stories of the time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably adept, 27 Nov 2012
By 
Friend of Dorothy (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
This is a good book to read if you want to understand why it was inevitable that the British would give India and Burma independence after the Second World War.

It's pretty clear why this was in the interests of the Indians and the Burmese. However, Burmese Days also explains why it was in the interests of the British. Colonial rule, as depicted by Orwell, was a cancer eating away at the people who made it possible, because it trapped so many of them in a false position: morally, financially and socially.

I also admire how the narrative is constructed, with every character and event having a clear function. Remarkably adept for someone's first novel.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blair Into Orwell - Catharsis or Crisis?, 27 Jun 2003
By 
A. Reynolds "adrian_j_r" (Mexico) - See all my reviews
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It is mainly forgotten that Eric Blair spent a good long time in Burma as an agent of the Imperial government. Undoubtedly, his experience there has coloured his perception of life in such an outpost. 'Burmese Days' could only have been so credibly written by one with such experience and it marks an important stage in the development of Eric Blair becoming the writer 'George Orwell'
The descriptions of the landscapes are superbly illustrative - even if some of the characters border on the barely-credible (Ellis, for example, and his rants about the 'uppity ni**ers' predates Alf Garnett by a good 40 years!). The character of 'Flory' may well have allowed the author Blair/Orwell to explore his own feelings about Burma and its occupation by a foreign power as well as experience a final catharsis of the ill-will he accumulated there.
Strangely, Orwell's two following novels ('A Clergyman's Daughter' and 'Keep The Aspidistra Flying') were of a lesser quality in many ways and the depth of character found in 'Burmese Days' was not to be seen again until 'Coming Up For Air' - another cathartic story that dwells lovingly on descriptive passages about the landscape.
'Burmese Days' is an excellent example of Orwell as novelist and is, in my opinion (and that of others?), a unrecognised work of excellence written by a man on the cusp of identity change.
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