Saturday, August 10, 2013
Back to Burma with Emma Larkin
Some years ago we read and enjoyed Emma Larkin's Finding George Orwell in Burma, in which the author explores both the life of the British writer, whose experience as an officer in the British Imperial Police in Burma was formative of his political consciousness, and life for ordinary people under the 'Orwellian' control of the ruling junta's repressive government.
She followed up that book with Everything Is Broken: A Tale of Catastrophe in Burma an account of the impact of Cyclone Nargis on Burma. Tens of thousands of people were killed as a result of the cylone and the Burmese regime not only failed to organize domestic relief efforts but also barred international aid, causing untold needless suffering. It was always my intention to put this book into our selection pool, but it appeared not to be available in paper, one of our criteria for selection. In the meantime, as so often happens after a major catastrophe, the exposure of the regime's underlying weakness in failing to provide for it's people has led to reforms, including the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political dissidents from house arrest or prison, and parliamentary elections held over a year ago. Eventually I learned that the book was available in paper, but the title of the book had been changed (No Bad News for the King: The True Story of Cyclone Nargis and Its Aftermath in Burma). But the disaster topic now seemed a little dated. (Note to publishers: Don't change titles in midstream!) Nevertheless, I went ahead and read the book and quite enjoyed it, even if it leaves off before the going gets good, and just wanted to put this out there for those who enjoyed the Orwell journey and would like a follow-up. What I am really hoping now is that Ms. Larkin is out there gathering up stories-- from what we hope is a Burma transitioning to democracy-- and a new book will let us know how that project is going soon. In the meantime, you can read a New Republic article by Larkin, "The Awakening" which reports on the post-Nargis human rights thaw, and check out her book recommendations at Five Books.
You can read more about Amnesty International's concerns for the current human rights concerns in Burma (Myanmar) and take action on behalf of a detained Burmese activist here.