by George Orwell
Paperback, 288 pages
Typically the name George Orwell brings to mind his dystopian novels 1984 and Animal Farm, which together by 2009 had sold more copies than any two books by any other 20th Century author. Those who have delved deeper usually come up with Homage to Catalonia, an account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, and Down and Out in Paris and London, the account of his deliberately living the low-life in those European cities in the late 20’s. Buried yet deeper is his novel Burmese Days that portrays the dark and sordid life of colonial society in the waning days of the British Raj. Orwell had spent five years (1922-27) as a police officer in the Indian Imperial Police Force in Burma (now Myanmar). One of his postings was Kathar, a backwater village in the up-country teak forest, which provides the setting for the story. His depiction of the malignant culture of the colonial functionaries and their “burra memsahibs” is alternately humorous and horrifying, but always gripping.