Burmese Days by George Orwell

By George Orwell

Orwell attracts on his years of expertise in India to inform this tale of the waning days of British imperialism. A handful of Englishmen residing in a payment in Burma congregate within the eu membership, drink whiskey, and argue over an drawing close order to confess a token Asian.

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Two related poems, one unsettling (“The Eyes of the Poor”), the other quite horrible (“The Rope”), are firmly situated back in Baudelaire’s and Haussmann’s Paris. Like the preceding text, they focus on the eyes of the poor, and again foreground fundamental forms of speech encountered earlier—dialogue and Baudelaire on Urban Conflict and the Failure of Policy 39 recounting. On superficial reading they could be seen as misogynist—but only on superficial reading. Instead, both unmask an effort to displace guilt in the face of urban poverty.

Without pretending to answer the question, it is clear that Baudelaire experienced and wrote about these matters in a historically exemplary urban context, as part of a highly self-conscious literary tradition, but also from direct personal experience, and in penetrating fashion. Accordingly, there is an impressive group of studies of violence in Baudelaire (Thélot) and forms of resistance (Terdiman, 1985; Carpenter, 1996), of which the most illuminating is Ross Chambers’ beautiful Mélancolie et opposition (1987, trans.

The narrator admits that he is unable to explain why he is overcome with despotic hatred for the poor man, and illogically berates him for daring to sell ordinary glass, not colored “panes of paradise,” in the poor districts of the city. This is hardly the sublime capital celebrated in Baudelaire’s essays—rather the city as experienced by the poor, in which alienation from all that is satisfying and beautiful provokes a misdirected violence. The speaker rudely pushes the man toward the staircase, then commits an act that is immensely more destructive: I went to the balcony and I grabbed a little pot of flowers, and when the man reappeared at the door entrance, I let my engine of war drop down perpendicularly on the back edge of his pack.

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