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Burma Sahib : a novel

Theroux, Paul2024
Books, Manuscripts
Before George Orwell was Orwell - the pen name he took on becoming a writer - he was Eric Blair, an unlikely policeman in Burma. 19 years old, unusually tall, highly intelligent, a diffident loner fresh from Eton, Blair stood out amongst his fellow trainees in 1920s Mandalay. It was here, over five years in the narrow colonial world of the Raj - a decaying system steeped in overt racism and petty class-conflict - that Eric Blair became the George Orwell we know- an anti-imperialist, a socialist and a writer of rare commitment. The inner journey he made in these years is remarkable, but in the absence of letters or diaries from the period, this richly complex transformation can only be told in fiction, as it is here by Paul Theroux, in one of his most striking and accomplished novels. Drawing on all his powers of observation and imagination, Theroux brings Orwell's Burma years to radiant life, tracing the development of the young man's consciousness as he confronts both the social, racial and class politics of his colonial colleagues, and the reality of the Burma beyond, which he yearns to grasp. Through one writer, we come to understand another - and to see how what Orwell called 'five boring years within the sound of bugles' were in fact the years that made him.
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