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Reluctant servant of the Raj: Burma Sahib, by Paul Theroux, reviewed

Few personal details survive about Eric Blair’s life as a policeman in Burma, making his years in the East fertile ground for the novelist

17 February 2024

9:00 AM

17 February 2024

9:00 AM

Burma Sahib Paul Theroux

Hamish Hamilton, pp.392, 20

Eric Blair, to give George Orwell his baptismal name, arrived in Burma (present-day Myanmar) as a 19-year-old trainee police officer at the end of 1922 and left it in mid-1927 just before his 24th birthday. Not much of his time there had a direct impact on his work beyond a solitary novel, Burmese Days (1934), two luminous essays, ‘A Hanging’ (1931) and ‘Shooting an Elephant’ (1936), a poem or two and a scattering of autobiographical fragments, most of which turn up in the second half of The Road to Wigan Pier (1937).

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