Burmese Days is a novel by George Orwell published in 1934 about the decline of British imperialism before the outbreak of World War II.
The story opens with the intrigue-filled scenario of U Po Kyin, a cunning and spoiled magistrate whose ultimate goal in life is to increase his power by joining the circle of the British. The only way to succeed is to discredit the only other possible candidate, Dr Veraswami, who is a friend of a British man called Flory, who works in Burma as a timber merchant.
Flory is a character who could be described as atypical: with a strange birthmark on his face that he tries to hide in every way and which is the source of his insecurity, he is fascinated by the oriental world. Instead of despising the natives, he talks to them and tries to understand their customs and traditions. His one great sorrow, knowing that in the small village where he lives there is no girl to marry, is to be left alone, with no one to share his life with.
The protagonist’s monotonous routine is disrupted when Elizabeth, niece of one of the Englishmen from the European circle, moves to Burma after the death of her mother. The girl hates the natives, prefers to spend her days away from the bazaar and has no intention of changing her view of the natives. Flory, who is in love with the girl, does his best to win her over, sometimes succeeding in surprising her, but his Bolshevik ideas make her give up the idea of a possible marriage. Shortly after her arrival, she falls in love with a military policeman stationed in the city, an Englishman called Verrall, who despises everyone and whose only passions are polo and horses. Although the two seem to get along well, the young soldier leaves town, abandoning Elizabeth for good.
U Po Kyin’s evil plan is to foment an uprising in the village prison and put down immediately afterwards, blaming the doctor, who is responsible for running the building, and appearing honourable for running for the club. In the process, an Englishman kills a farmer and the relatives, seeking justice, cut up the murderer and send the remains to the club. Ellis, a racist Briton, took advantage of the incident to attack some young Burmese returning home from lessons. The event causes a scandal, and the whole village rallies around the club to get justice. Flory manages to escape from the building, call the police and come to the rescue of his companions.
Victory clothes the protagonist with honour and Elizabeth, now ready to give in to his flattery, goes with him to church for the monthly meeting with a priest from England. During the service, Ma Hla May, Flory’s former concubine, incited by U Po Kyin, enters the church and causes a scandal, accusing Flory of raping her.
Flory, red in the face with shame, stops Elizabeth after the service to ask her to forgive him, but the girl, more annoyed by the man’s pitiful scene than by her past love affair with the Burmese woman, decides to end her relationship with the timber merchant for good.
Flory, not accepting his unhappy fate of loneliness in the Burmese jungle, commits suicide by shooting himself in the heart. The death of the Englishman causes an irreparable end to the prestige of Dr Veraswami, who is transferred to another town, demoted to assistant surgeon, and the proclamation of U Po Kyin as an honorary member of the circle.
The events narrated, although fictional, describe important aspects of the last phase of British imperialism. George Orwell spent five years in Burma as a policeman in the Imperial Indian Police and decided to write about his experience and publish it.
Many publishers were reluctant to publish the work, for fear of being accused of defamation because the characters in the book really existed. For this reason, the names were changed, but the book was not published in India and Burma.