Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin
Published by Penguin
After years of studying about and traveling in Burma, American writer Emma Larkin began to realize that George Orwell had a major connection to this country. His mother was born there, and Orwell’s writing was very much inspired by the time he spent living and working in Burma. It has been said that three of his books – Burmese Days, Animal Farm, and Nineteen Eighty-Four – were based on his experiences there. Inspired by this knowledge, Emma Larkin decided to take a year to travel through Burma using George Orwell as her guide. She traveled to the places he lived and worked, and in Finding George Orwell in Burma, she illuminates for the reader how this country has been shaped by its history.
Last year, I read Everything is Broken: A Tale of Catastrophe in Burma for a book tour [my review] which got me really intrigued and wanting to know more about Burma’s history and the people there. Finally, a year later I picked up Larkin’s first book about Burma, Finding George Orwell in Burma, in an attempt to learn more about this country.
I’m definitely glad to have experienced this book. Like Everything is Broken, it was definitely a difficult read emotionally. The country of Burma has been through a LOT, most of it not pleasant, and Larkin doesn’t shy away from giving the reader insight into these events. Much of the book deals with Larkin’s conversations with various Burmese citizens, which was eye-opening to say the least. To read about their experiences directly from them (well, from Larkin’s translations of what they told her if you want to get technical) was interesting and at times hurt my heart. But difficult reads can sometimes be the most important ones, so I’m glad I gave myself this experience.
If you typically don’t read much nonfiction, I am not going to lie, this book might be difficult to get through. It’s not “fun” nonfiction like some other narrative nonfiction reads are, but it certainly is important. If you have patience and an interest in learning more about the country of Burma, I would definitely recommend reading the book. If you enjoy travelogues, read it. If you enjoy history, read it. If you are the kind of person who knows bad things happen in the world and is okay with reading about them, read it. So yes I would recommend the book, however I am aware that not everybody is interested in this sort of thing.
While I have to admit that Everything is Broken had a greater impact on me than this book did, Finding George Orwell in Burma was certainly a worthwhile read for me and I’m glad I picked it up.