On This Day

Orwell Urges British Publishers to Issue Historical Book on Japanese Rule in Myanmar

By Wei Yan Aung 25 August 2019

YANGON—On this day 75 years ago, George Orwell—one of England’s greatest writers—published an article in the Tribune Journal urging British publishers to print a book about Japanese rule in Myanmar.

The book, What Happened in Burma, was written in English by Burmese politician and writer U Thein Pein Myint, a colleague of Myanmar’s independence hero Gen. Aung San, and was published in India.

The book details the oppressiveness of Japanese rule in Myanmar, beginning with the formation of the Burma Independence Army (BIA) with Japan’s assistance, the cruelty of Japanese fascism, and how tensions rose between the BIA and the Japanese Army.

U Thein Pe Myint wrote the book while in India as an envoy sent by Gen. Aung San to seek help from the Allies for the fight against the Japanese.

Having read the book, Orwell realized its historical value and urged publishers in England to issue it there, but every publisher rejected the idea as a probable financial loss.

As a last resort, he wrote an article in the Tribune Journal urging the British Museum to publish at least a few dozen copies if they agreed that it had historic value.

From 1922 to 1927, George Orwell served as an officer with the British Imperial Police, an experience on which he based his first novel, Burmese Days. Published in 1934, it expressed his sympathies as a British officer with the Burmese people and anticolonial sentiments.