burmese triangle...

While bouncing my bodyparts around the heart of West Africa, a literary troika carries my mindparts on some excursions around Burma.

First in a coincidence of three books was Finding George Orwell in Burma by "Emma Larkin" (a pseudonym allowing the author to continue traveling within Myanmar as a tourist under her/his true identity). In this extended essay, "Larkin" traces George Orwell's footsteps as a young British police officer in colonial Burma. Of course her true mission is to use Orwell's classic fictional accounts of totalitarian societies (Animal Farm, 1984) as a springboard for commentary about modern Myanmar and its own totalitarian regime.

From there I visited Burmese Days by Orwell himself. The protagonist of this novel is a young British police officer in colonial Burma, who is not having a good time. I admit the ending was spoiled for me by the "Larkin" book, so I didn't hang for the whole sorry mess. Expats, overindulgence in alcohol, relentless whinging about the locals, bad blood all around. This story is already way too familiar to this sorry expat, your old Uncle Vitya.

Finally I did find some fun times with Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan. A dozen priveleged and oblivious Americans plan an exotic tour of China and Burma. Almost immediately their plans begin to go awry when, on the eve of their departure, their expert guide dies in mysterious circumstances. The brave group journeys onward anyway, and their collective naivete takes them to the edge of one disaster after another. Some great comedic sequences ensue, most involving untimely releases of gastro-intestinal distress. Less funny for many Burmese, though, the consequence of encountering these American visitors is everlasting death.

And, according to international news reports this month, not a lot of fun has been happening within Myanmar itself lately...

Life has taken me many places I never expected to go, and one day that may include Burma. But for now, books are the only transport to that particular destination, and I am happy to be reading them in Togo.

Lomé, Togo, November 2007.

Rolleiflex 2.8A, Fomapan 400.