Book Review: Burmese Days by George Orwell

George Orwell is without a doubt one of the best English writers of the 20th century. But unlike most of the English writers of his time, he did not write all about how awesome white people were, or how helpful the British Empire was to all those poor, backward countries they owned. Instead Orwell wrote about the injustices he saw in everyday life in England as well as abroad. Burmese Days is one of those books. Considering Orwell served as a member of the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, we can safely assume he is not talking out of his ass.

The book focuses around a lonely English bureaucrat who’s days consist of wandering around the Burmese village he inhabits, talking to his Burmese friend, and visiting the English club where he is a member. His dull and isolated life changes however, when he finds that his friend is being blackmailed by a corrupt politician and when an English girl arrives from France. This story is ultimately about the main character’s experiences and guilt while being an Englishman in Burma under the British crown. The character cannot communicate his experiences to anyone because they are so involved in the indoctrination of the culture with British imperialism.

Burmese Days is one of the most depressing books I have ever read, but it is well worth the read. Although not as much of a page turner as say, 1984 or Animal Farm, Orwell realistically and emotionally builds up our relationship with the main character as well as providing a very historically accurate background for the hypocrisy and tyranny of British imperialism.

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