Burmese Days


Orwell biographer D.J. Taylor notes that, "the most striking thing about the novel is the extravagance of its language: a riot of rococo imagery that gets dangerously out of hand"[13]

Another of Orwell's biographers, Michael Shelden, notes that Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham and E. M. Forster have been suggested as possible influences, but believes also that "the ghost of Housman hangs heavily over the book."[14] The writers Stansky and Abrahams, while noting that the character Flory probably had his roots in Captain Robinson, a cashiered ex-officer whom Orwell had met in Mandalay, 'with his opium-smoking and native women', affirmed that Flory's "deepest roots are traceable to fiction, from Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim through all those Englishmen gone to seed in the East which are one of Maugham's better-known specialities."[15]

Jeffrey Meyers, in a 1975 guide to Orwell's work, wrote of the E. M. Forster connection that, " Burmese Days was strongly influenced by A Passage to India, which was published in 1924 when Orwell was serving in Burma. Both novels concern an Englishman's friendship with an Indian doctor, and a girl who goes out to the colonies, gets engaged and then breaks it off. Both use the Club scenes to reveal a cross-section of colonial society, and both measure the personality and value of the characters by their racial attitudes. [-] But Burmese Days is a far more pessimistic book than A Passage to India, because official failures are not redeemed by successful personal relations."[16]

Orwell himself was to note in Why I Write (1946) that "I wanted to write enormous naturalistic novels with unhappy endings, full of detailed descriptions and arresting similes, and also full of purple passages in which my words were used partly for the sake of their sound. And in fact my first complete novel, Burmese Days.... is rather that kind of book."

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