Burma Sahib

Paul Theroux

From the acclaimed author of  The Mosquito Coast  and  The Bad Angel Brothers  comes a riveting new novel exploring one of English literature’s most beloved and controversial figures—George Orwell—and the early years as an officer in colonial Burma that transformed him from Eric Blair, the British Raj policeman, into Orwell the anticolonial writer. At age nineteen, young Eton graduate Eric Blair set sail for India, dreading the assignment ahead. Along with several other young conscripts, he would be trained for three years as a servant of the British Empire, overseeing the local policemen in Burma. more

Historical FictionFictionHistoricalAsiaLiterary FictionIndiaNovels

400 pages, Hardcover
First published Mariner Books

4.25

Rating

102

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26

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Paul Theroux

225 books 2334 followers

Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best known as a travelogue writer, Theroux has also published numerous works of fiction, some of which were made into feature films. He was awarded the 1981 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel The Mosquito Coast.

He is the father of Marcel and Louis Theroux, and the brother of Alexander and Peter. Justin Theroux is his nephew.

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eyes.2c
2721 reviews
75 followers
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At an age when many people have been retired for years, Paul Theroux continues his career as a writer of immeasurable talent and seemingly limitless curiosity. This book could not be more different from the last two of his that I've read -- one about a legendary surfer and a novel woven out of his imagination. Here we learn of the early life of George Orwell, when he was still Eric Blair, newly hatched from Eton in 1921 and sent to Burma to join the police force. It is supposed to toughen him into manhood, which it does, but it also plants the seeds of the writer he is to become. It strengthens his values and opens his eyes in ways he had never thought possible. more


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Geoffrey
583 reviews
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A man of his times, out of place. Insecure, bullied ex-Etonian, Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) becomes a policeman in Burma. Blair is a tall, gangly chap who finds people and relationships a burden. His inner world is far richer. Blair is withdrawn. more


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Rachel-Leah
88 reviews
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(Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) I’ve read several of Theroux’s travel books, but Burma Sahib was my first foray into his fiction. Within the very first chapter, I found myself familiarly ensconced by the same descriptive prowess that has previously and very effectively transported me to numerous places across the globe in the author’s nonfiction works. 1920s British-ruled Myanmar came alive in all of its complexity (albeit viewed specifically through the inescapably biased lens of the book’s main character Englishman). No matter where the narrative took me, from quiet-ish delta towns to lively Rangoon, I found myself immersed. Equally as impressive was Theroux’s management of Blair/Orwell. more


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AndiReads
1186 reviews
128 followers
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I don't know that my rating is necessarily fair, but it's true for me. I think this book is for a very specific type of person, and that person is not me. I can appreciate the amount of details the author included and how it must have been a ton of research and well thought out storylines, but I just did not connect with the writing or the characters. I learned a few things about Blair/Orwell, mainly that he was terribly unlikable and a bit of a drag. Just my opinion, don't come for me. more


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Nancy
1566 reviews
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Following graduation at Eton, young Eric Blair is set for Burma in the 1920's. He will be trained via the British Empire to oversee the local police man. Blair chafes at the abject racism and has a hard time making friends and fitting in. He is moved from station to station as he is unable to make his supervisors proud. As Theroux weaves in the story of George Orwell he paints a deep and realistic picture of Burma. more


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Laura Rogers
288 reviews
161 followers
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“Don’t let us down, Eric,” his father told him gruffly. Eric had played his role in school and was now playing his role as a policeman in colonial Burma. And he hated it, all of it. He hated the club but forced himself to go, pretending to care about a billiards game. He abhorred the racism of his superiors, how they held the native’s lives so cheaply, their diminishment of the men as savages, their easy use of the women. more


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Suanne
859 reviews
1009 followers
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I am struggling with the accents and unfamiliar words, so I am putting it aside for now. more


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scifishm
4 reviews
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I’ve read several of Paul Theroux’s nonfiction books (having just finished The Last Train to Zone Verde), primarily travelogues with deep insights into his various journeys, but this was my first foray into his fiction. I was delighted that he carries through with his usual marvelous depictions of people and places foreign to most readers, in this case Burma of the early 20th century. In Burma Sahib, he fictionalized the life of George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm and 1984. The story follows the primary character, Eric Arthur Blair, a quiet, standoffish, nineteen-year-old graduate of Eton who leaves his home and parents in England and goes to Burma to be part of the British police there. He spends most of his sea voyage there reading. more


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Danae
65 reviews
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Paul Theroux’s latest novel (his 30th, I think) is a fictional account of a formative period in the life of Eric Blair, the man who became George Orwell. The book comes with the usual disclaimers for a work of fiction about a real person: “ “Names [etc. ] … are products of the author’s imagination. . . more


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Candace
612 reviews
71 followers
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I think I automatically resent any book that slows me down this much from my to-read list and that I have to struggle to make progress through. I seemed to read and read and read and still find myself 10%, or 11%, or 14% complete. (Note: 82% to 96%, for example, went by in a flash). Though it is a fairly long book, almost as long as this review, my progress was slow regardless of the length. I was also frustrated by the fact that this disturbing man Eric Blair, and there’s no other way to describe him, is portrayed through a novel that is practically one continuous unfiltered inner monologue, also somewhat like this review. more


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Paul Ataua
1607 reviews
179 followers
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I requested this novel to review based entirely because it is written by Paul Theroux, and it did not disappoint. Theroux is such a master, presenting a sense of place with ease and the internal workings of his characters with great skill, especially when those workings are complex and conflicted. And so it is with "Burma Sahib. " Eric Blair is a nineteen year old whose family has arranged a place for him in the Burma police as opposed to funding a university degree. Blair is a bookish public school boy who has no idea of the classism, racism, cruelty, he'll encounter, and even less idea of what his reaction will be. more


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Ernest Spoon
511 reviews
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Theroux takes a slice of George Orwell’s life as a police officer in Burma in his early twenties to explore the transformation from Eric Blair, the young bullied Etonian schoolboy, to George Orwell, the anti-colonial writer. It is such a long time since I read Theroux and I was quite surprised how good his prose and story telling are. I was less convinced about his attempt to seemingly suggest a major transformation in that period of Orwell’s life. The number of times he returns to talk of Orwell’s desire to be left alone, to read, and his unhappiness at the attitude of the colonists to the Asians, became irritating. I imagine those traits were probably well established prior to his time in Burma. more


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Sharlene
497 reviews
8 followers
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Many, many years ago it seems that I read George Orwell's essay Shooting An Elephant. It was so long ago I can't recall the particulars so while reading Burma Sahib I knew the incident that made the colonial policeman Eric Blair into the anti-imperialist George Orwell would materialize. This is such a masterfully written historical-novel I wondered where the fictional ended and the factual began. Is Mrs. Jellicoe fiction. more


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Philip Reari
157 reviews
5 followers
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An intriguing, well-researched look at a young Eric Blair, aged 19, set off for Burma as a provisional policeman at the height of the Raj. This Eton educated lad spent four years supervising native troops and learning local languages. He always wanted to be a writer and eventually became who we know as George Orwell. Don't miss this if you want a look at colonialism and a glimpse into the early life of a well-known figure. more


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MarySue
150 reviews
7 followers
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Coincidentally I read Orwell’s Burmese Days last year (free on Kindle I think) so was very excited to learn of this book. Haven’t read Theroux in a long time but he came up with a fascinating and credible narrative about Orwells early years as a policeman in Burma that weaves in elements from Burmese Days. Takes an author to know one I guess. more


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David V.
826 reviews
81 followers
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This is an interesting story about George Orwell's earlier years when he served in Burma for the British police. The portrayal of British rule in this large country provides the background of his novels yet to come. more


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Betty Adams
704 reviews
7 followers
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Received as an ARC via my employer Barnes & Noble. Started 1-22-24; finished 1-28-24. Novelized history of Eric Blair's early years as a Burmese Police Officer serving in India as part of England's colonial forces in that country. He begins as the same type of officer as all the rest, denigrating the indigenous people whose country is being raped of its wealth by British troops who send it all to England, destroying the country . As he becomes disenchanted, he begins his writing career using his pen name "George Orwell," and writes fictionalized accounts of his days as "Burma Sahib. more


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Mar Preston
47 reviews
50 followers
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A rec from the New Yorker which explores the protagonist's experience with the brutal, exploitive, and horrorific British colonial regime in Burma. One wonders why the British Empire lasted as long as it did. more


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Alex Norton
274 reviews
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Uncomfortable read from the comfort of our air conditioned and heated homes in a post-colonial era 100 years later. But I kept returning to it. I had to know what happened. It was grim and awful and I loved the book. . more


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Kathleen A.
1 reviews
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Recommended by Adrian McKinty this did not disappoint. It is hard to remember that it is fiction but I want it to ring true. In all cases it is a carefully crafted view of the moral turpitude of British colonialism. more


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Zea Zantua
27 reviews
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Orwell before he was Orwell. Fascinating fjctionalized account of how the exposure to the casual racism and arrogance of colonial Burma changed the attitudes and set in motion a different trajectory for the life of young Eric Blair, who would one day be better known to history as George Orwell. . more


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Irene Mladjan
24 reviews
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too many sexual references. more


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Zuvielekatzen
304 reviews
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Interesting read that got better as the story progressed. Enjoyed it. more


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Mary Brown
531 reviews
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"At that time failure seemed to me to be the only virtue. "Reading this book was like having to swallow horrible tasting medicine. I hope it was good for me. Eric Blair: what a freaking loser. more


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Gail
171 reviews
5 followers
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Interesting look at Orwell's 5 years as a Burma policeman. He was so unsuited to the job. more


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I loved this book. Not only do I have great admiration for Paul Theroux, but I was completely captivated by how well he recreated the settings and brought the reader into life in Burma during the time of the great British empire. The storylines follow one main character, Eric Blair, who after leaving Eton heads to Burma to make his way as a policeman. He is a not a joiner, a bit of a loner and very bookish. He arrival in Burma lands him in Mandalay, where he studies, trains and preps for his duties as a policeman. more


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