Burmese Days is a novel by British writer George Orwell. It was first published in the USA in 1934. It is a tale from the waning days of British colonialism, when Burma was ruled as part of the Indian empire - "a portrait of the dark side of the British Raj." At its centre is John Flory, "the lone and lacking individual trapped within a bigger system that is undermining the better side of human nature." Orwell's first novel, it describes "corruption and imperial bigotry in a society where, "after all, natives were natives - interesting, no doubt, but finally...an inferior people."
Because of concerns that the novel might be potentially libellous, that Katha was described too realistically, and that some of the characters might be based on real people, it was first published "further afield", in the United States. A British edition, with altered names, appeared a year later. When it was published in the 1930s Orwell's harsh portrayal of colonial society was felt by "some old Burma hands" to have "rather let the side down." In a letter of 1946, Orwell said "I dare say it's unfair in some ways and inaccurate in some details, but much of it is simply reporting what I have seen."
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 theBritish 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."
On its publication in Britain, Burmese Days earned a review in the New Statesman from Cyril Connolly as follows:
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
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.