Jonathan Mirsky

A Subversive Infusion

Secret Histories: Finding George Orwell in a Burmese Teashop

By

John Murray 232pp £15.99 order from our bookshop

Burma is a terrible place, and Emma Larkin writes beautifully about it. Here is an example: Larkin, a Burmese speaker and a frequent visitor to Burma (or Myanmar, as it is now called), is taking tea with four genteel elderly Anglo-Burmese ladies left behind by the Empire. The chipped tea things are relics of another time. The women can barely mention how awful life is for them in a police state where it is especially awful to have English blood. Larkin mentions Aung San Suu Kyi, the imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize-winning champion of Burmese freedom. ‘Nobody said anything. The pinch-faced woman’s eyes followed the lilies around the rim of her teacup. Beatrice busied herself with folding up a napkin. After a painfully long silence I reached for a piece of peanut brittle and commented on how delicious it was.’ An acutely observed passage that says a lot about an oppressive police state.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Lecture on war and peace in 19th-century Europe by Professor Sir Richard Evans, Thurs 25 Oct, 6.30pm Europe House… ,
    • 'Why, throughout the world, are so many people fascinated by the fiction and reality of espionage? And why of all p… ,
    • . here on books, Muriel Spark and life's tangled dance ,
    • RT : There aren't enough aggressive subtitles these days: ,
    • Churchill's on the cover of the October edition of the magazine. Piers Brendon reviews two new books about the Brit… ,
    • 'Readers have no more power to predict where the next story is going to take them than the prisoners had to determi… ,
    • 'Ho was no Soviet or Chinese puppet. He was a nationalist first and foremost. Had the Americans just realised this.… ,