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  • Published: 27 February 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241998946
  • Imprint: Hamish Hamilton
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $34.99

Burma Sahib

From renowned author Paul Theroux comes a fascinating, atmospheric novel inspired by George Orwell's years in Burma

'There is a short period in everyone's life when his character is fixed forever . . . ' George Orwell

Eric Blair stood out amongst his fellow police trainees in 1920s Burma. Nineteen years old, unusually tall, a diffident loner fresh from Eton, after five years spent in the narrow colonial world of the Raj – a decaying system steeped in overt racism and petty class-conflict – he would emerge as the George Orwell we know.

Drawing on all his powers of observation and imagination, Paul Theroux brings Orwell's Burma years to radiant life, tracing the development of the young man's consciousness as he confronts the social, racial and class politics and the reality of Burma beyond. Through one writer, we come to understand another - and see how what Orwell called 'five boring years within the sound of bugles' were in fact the years that made him.

  • Published: 27 February 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241998946
  • Imprint: Hamish Hamilton
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $34.99

About the author

Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux was born in Medford, Massachusetts, in 1941, and published his first novel, Waldo, in 1967. He wrote his next three novels, Fong and the Indians, Girls at Play and Jungle Lovers, after a five-year stay in Africa. He subsequently taught at the University of Singapore, and during his three years there produced a collection of short stories, Sinning with Annie, and highly praised novel Saint Jack. His other publications include The Black House (1974), a novel; The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia (1975), an account of his journey by train from London to Tokyo and back; The Family Arsenal (1976); The Consul's File (1977); Picture Palace (1978; winnner of the Whitread Literary Award); A Christmans Card (1978; The Old Patagonian Express (1979); World's End and Other Stories (1980); London Snow (1980); The Mosquito Coats, which was the Yorkshire Post Novel of the Year for 1981 and the joint winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; The London Embassy (1982); The Kingdom by the Sea (1983); Doctor Slaughter (1985); Sunrise with Seamonsters (1985); The Imperial Way (1985); O-Zone (1986); Riding the Iron Rooster (1988); My Secret History (1989) and Chicago Loop (1990).

Paul Theroux is married with two children and divides his time between London and Cape Cod.

Also by Paul Theroux

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Praise for Burma Sahib

Compelling. Theroux is always great with setting; here it’s not just Burma but the mind of Orwell that he persuasively inhabits


Theroux’s engrossing, suspenseful novel incisively maps the start of Blair’s metamorphosis into George Orwell, resounding critic of malevolent power


[An] ambitious dramatization . . . With piercing prose, Theroux lays bare the fraudulent and fiercely despotic nature of the British Empire. This brims with intelligence and vigor

Publishers Weekly

A vibrantly descriptive narrative

Washington Post

Remarkable . . . Theroux, of course, has a parallel reputation as one of our greatest travel writers, and the Burma that he conjures in these pages is wonderfully present in lush and dense prose

William Boyd, New York Times

Captivating . . . An engrossing story . . . Theroux, the accomplished travel writer, skillfully maps the lay of the land and transports his reader to one vividly depicted Burmese location after another . . . At the same time, Theroux, the adept novelist, ensures his reader is invested in his protagonist’s journey — both his professional arc and his emotional trajectory

Washington Examiner

Theroux gives us something that Orwell couldn’t: a sense of how current and relevant his concerns about imperialism remain from the viewpoint of the present . . . Theroux has woven a much bigger narrative around what we do know [about Orwell's time in Burma] and improvised imaginatively around the things we don’t

Financial Times

A thoughtful, fully rounded portrait of a young man coming of age in a baroque, baffling and completely fascinating place and time. At aged 82, Theroux is still a curious, thrawn, uncompromising traveller and writer. Young Eric Blair would have admired that

Sydney Morning Herald

Thoroughly engaging . . . Theroux is now in his eighties, and has written more than fifty books, but his writing is as potent as ever. A renowned travel writer, he recreates colonial Burma with loving accuracy, showing both its great beauty and the effects of its otherness on a homesick nineteen-year-old . . . meticulous and laudably authentic . . . [Theroux’s] approach is like that of a skilful, subtle barrister who patiently lays out his evidence, gradually ensnaring the reader in the apprehension of how this might all have appeared to be necessary and acceptable . . . Burma Sahib is a work of profound relevance to the present day for the way in which it demonstrates how human beings become enslaved to systems, institutions and social codes

Times Literary Supplement