Burmese Days

Reactions

Harpers brought out Burmese Days in America on 25 October 1934, in an edition of 2,000 copies; – but in February 1935, just four months after publication, the type was distributed and 976 copies were remaindered. The only American review that Orwell himself saw, in the New York Herald Tribune Books, by Margaret Carson Hubbard, was unfavourable: "The ghastly vulgarity of the third-rate characters who endure the heat and talk ad nausea of the glorious days of the British Raj, when fifteen lashes settled any native insolence, is such that they kill all interest in their doings." A positive review however came from an anonymous writer in the Boston Evening Transcript, for whom the central figure was, "analyzed with rare insight and unprejudiced if inexorable justice", and the book itself praised as full of "realities faithfully and unflinchingly realised."[17]

On its publication in Britain, Burmese Days earned a review in the New Statesman from Cyril Connolly as follows:[18]

Burmese Days is an admirable novel. It is a crisp, fierce, and almost boisterous attack on the Anglo-Indian. The author loves Burma, he goes to great length to describe the vices of the Burmese and the horror of the climate, but he loves it, and nothing can palliate for him, the presence of a handful of inefficient complacent public school types who make their living there....I liked it and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a spate of efficient indignation, graphic description, excellent narrative, excitement, and irony tempered with vitriol.

Orwell received a letter from the anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer as follows[19]

Will you allow me to tell you how very much indeed I admire your novel Burmese Days: it seems to me an absolutely admirable statement of fact told as vividly and with as little bitterness as possible.

It was as a result of these responses that Orwell renewed his friendship with Connolly, which was to give him useful literary connections, a positive evaluation in Enemies of Promise and an outlet on Horizon. He also became a close friend of Gorer.

In 2013, the Burmese Ministry of Information named the new translation of Burmese Days (by Maung Myint Kywe) the winner of the 2012 Burma National Literature Award's "informative literature" (translation) category.[20] The National Literary Awards are the highest literary awards in Burma given in 16 categories.


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