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The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma Paperback – 3 Jan 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (3 Jan. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571217591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571217595
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 137,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'A wonderfully informative and readable history.' -- Sunday Times

'It is enriched by Myint-U's experiences and those of his progenitors ... This is salutary history at its best.' -- The Times

'[It] appeals through the intimacy and passion with which Myint-U conveys the complex, civil-war-torn history of his native Burma.' -- Observer Sunday Telegraph

'[The book] is as much an endeavour of the heart as of the mind.' -- Observer

Book Description

The River of Lost Footsteps is Thant Myint-U's engaging combination of contemporary travelogue, history and personal recollections that places Burma at the geopolitical heart of Asia.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The River of Lost Footsteps is mainly a straight-forward history of Burma, focusing on the modern period (with about half the book on the last sixty years or so), but including earlier (ancient and medieval)history as well. It is fast-paced, very well-written, and full of colourful, sometimes sad, and sometimes quite funny anecdotes and stories.

The book interweaves Burma's history with the history of the author's own family (on his mother's side, his grandfather was U Thant, the former UN Secretary-General and on his father's side the author is descended from 18th and 19th century Burmese aristocrats and courtiers). It also includes the author's own travels and experiences in Burma and recollection, such as his account of his U Thant's funeral in 1974 which led to a near uprising against the then military government. All this makes the book much more personal and interesting than a straight-forward history.

The author concludes (in the last few pages) which his analysis of present-day Burma and his criticisms of international policy. He is very at times devastatingly critical of the military government but believes that sanctions against Burma are counter-productive and based on a misunderstanding of Burma's problems.

There's a lot of British history this book as well, with a whole chapter on the first Anglo-Burmese war and much on Burma's colonial history and the British withdrawal from Burma in the 1940s. I'd recommend it to any armchair historian with an interest in the British empire, or Asia and certainly to anyone interested in Burma.
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By Spider Monkey HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 Mar. 2008
Format: Paperback
'The River of Lost Footsteps' is a beautiful, eloquent history of Burma. It looks at the events from pre-colonial days that shaped the country's identity and allegiances, from various invasions and conquests to the rise and fall of internal kingdoms. It then looks at the British control and the implications this had on trade and the infra-structure and then lastly focuses upon Burmese life since independence and the struggles against dictatorship. Although my description may sound a touch dry this book is in fact very readable and is written in beautiful prose that really helps you imagine the life and scenes portrayed. The authors chosen chronology of the history and some of the unusual names created some confusion for me at times, but this is really a minor flaw in what is a masterly introduction to this fascinating and troubled country. This is well worth a read if you have even a remote passing interest in this country or region, you should not be disappointed.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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Format: Paperback
The grandson of the former UN Secretary-General U Thant, the author is in a uniquely privileged position to comment on Burma.
For many Burma watchers in the West, the situation in Burma is seen in strictly polarised terms, in which Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) are pitted against the demonical generals of the military regime, and any wider picture runs the danger of being ignored. Thant Myint-U, while clearly a believer in democracy, helps give a more historical dimension to this situation, showing that many of the problems faced by Burma today have their roots in British colonialism and the way in which the British brutally and humiliatingly deposed the Burmese monarchy, leaving a power vacuum that has never really been filled.
In fluid and eminently readable prose, his historical and very human narrative is interwoven with information on his own family, among the most famous Burma has ever produced. The final section is a reflection on the seemingly insurmountable hurdle the opposition would have to mount in order to get into power; not only an increasingly powerful military who talk at cross-purposes to democratic politics and whose support from China and India make them almost invincible, but (pre Cyclone Nargis) increased material well-being and a population the majority of whom no longer remember the events of 1988.
Although he is far from being an apologist for the military regime, he is equally dismissive of Western sanctions, making a persuasive argument that in a world where China is increasingly dominant they have little impact, and in many ways are counter-productive, as they serve to increase Burma's isolation, thus playing into the hands of the military generals.
Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Burma.
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Format: Paperback
Post colonial Burma hits the headlines for all the wrong reasons. During colonial times Burma has more recognition, though shamefully it was treated as a part of India from full colonization until 1935. Even little Sri Lanka always had a separate government quite divorced from the Indian administration.

This book is part ancient history, part modern history and also semi autobiographical weaving in the author's own involvement through his Burmese UN Secretary General grandfather U Thant, and his lineage to the last king of Burma Thibaw, leading to U Thant's relationship to Burma's last popular Prime Minister U Nu and rise as secretary general of the UN.

What were the mistakes and events that made Burma a modern basket case for a military dictatorship given it was a land full of potential in agriculture and natural resources with a theoretical head start under British imperialism? Surprisingly the author does not blame the British except in a subtle way, starting with Randolph Churchill to whom the takeover of Burma was an electoral ploy with disastrous consequences for its history.

This book is quite gripping and describes the entity that is Burma from its very beginnings to its peoples and diverse regions. I don't think the book pays enough attention to the relationship Burma had to Sri Lanka. Southern Buddhism more likely came to Burma from Ceylon rather than South India along with a number of cultural influences placed in South India. This aside, the book charts the rise of militaristic kings who were the bane of neighboring states like Thailand. The capitulation of Burma to the British in 1885 is both shameful and tragic and brought the country under Indian rule.
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