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Golden Earth: Travels in Burma

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  119 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
Despite communist incursions and tribal insurrection, Norman Lewis describes a land of breath-taking natural beauty peopled by the gentle Burmese. This is a country where Buddhist beliefs spare even the rats, where the Director of Prisons quotes Chaucer and where three-day theatrical shows are staged to celebrate a monk taking orders. Hitching lifts with the army and with ...more
Published December 19th 2003 by Eland (first published 1952)
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Dave Reid
Oct 12, 2012 Dave Reid rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
An enjoyable read, written long before the country began to suffer under the military rule. While this is my first venture into the writings of Lewis, he has a more detatched style of observation than Theroux, particularly concerning those who he meets. The only real character in the book is Mr Pereira who he shares a railway carriage with and it is this close contact that probably gave more subject matter to play with. Others drift in and out of the book but seem to be confined to policeman, ...more
Peter Clark
Jan 25, 2014 Peter Clark rated it it was amazing
Casually picked up this book as I came across it after motorcycling around Thailand, Laos and Vietnam with plans to go back and continue explorations when Burma has opened up properly.
This is the best travel book I have ever read, and I like travel books.
His use of language is scintillating, stunning, gorgeous, expansive, precise and fabulous beyond almost anything I have ever read.
If Bill Bryson were Noel Coward with a splash of Oscar Wilde, he might have the temerity to dream of one day writin
Mark Walker
Jan 25, 2014 Mark Walker rated it really liked it
Lewis is determined to discover the parts of Burma off the main thoroughfares. Some interesting observations on Burmese life and Buddism. He has a good eye for a surreal story and draws out a number of amusing incidents, such as the Rangoon express which doesn't go to Rangoon. Given the potential for opening up of Burma and loosening of the junta, this is a timely explanation of some of the ethnic groups and discussion of the Burmese approach to politics.
Jeff Clay
Feb 20, 2016 Jeff Clay rated it really liked it
Never mind that this book was written over 60 years ago. Nor, that it was written about a very different Burma (now, Myanmar) than now exists. Golden Earth still reigns as a superlative travel book, filled with dry humor, trenchant observations, clear writing, a patient and patent willingness to subordinate comfort and expectations to achieve his goals, and a love for the places and people that are the Burma of the '50's.

Good travel writing is unique in that with a modicum passage of time, it b
There are so many very good reviews of this book I'll just second the statements that this is an extremely well-written book by someone who could write (he passed away in 2003), with a sense of dry humour that found just the right phrase to describe the scarey mongrel dogs that are still as common as gnats in Burma, and nights fighting off cockroaches encroaching on his turf. I read a library copy so couldn't tick my favourite expressions, but one was described the unappealing, gaudy local ...more
Tom Bentley
Nov 16, 2015 Tom Bentley rated it it was amazing
Richly eccentric and fascinating work. Lewis insinuates himself into a 1950s Burma that is elusive, overrun with combative tribal and foreign forces, bureaucratic in the most head-scratching of ways, culturally distinct, layered, at times hysterically amusing and at other times incoherent and threatening. His language is as intrepid as his willingness to toss himself into a boiling pot of oddity. I just spent a week in Myanmar in much more refined circumstances—I wish I had Lewis's impulses to ...more
Aug 05, 2011 Ryan rated it it was ok
Liked the parts where he went upcountry through the wilder, less populated minorities areas, and also the slow river boat journey back down the Irrawady, reminiscient of Heart of Darkness, complete with mock attacks from indigenous natives (in this case rebels). Descriptions of cultural life and festivals of endless variety as well, though of less personal interest. Last 2 pages summarizes his positive view of the country's prospects, sadly things went badly in the decades after as the military ...more
Charles Yee
Dec 17, 2015 Charles Yee rated it really liked it
The vividly descriptive book filled my mind with the scenic pictures and interesting characteristics of the Burmese people. Every inch a page turner, it gives us an insight into the history of Burma, its state of affairs and the relationships among its government, people and nature during the time before it was ruled by the military junta.
Apr 22, 2012 Flora rated it it was amazing
Terrific. If you read this before you go to Burma. it might not make sense--the scenes are so strange. But I read it after returning and it was exactly right in feeling, atmosphere and observations. Lewis is my favorite travel writer.
Apr 22, 2015 Sarah rated it liked it
Gentle travels in Burma.
Ex colonial world - so different. Lovely to get a perspective from those days.
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Norman Lewis was a prolific British writer best known for his travel writing. Though not widely known, "Norman Lewis is one of the best writers, not of any particular decade, but of our century", according to Graham Greene.

Lewis served in World War II and wrote an account of his experiences during the Allied occupation of Italy, titled Naples '44. Shortly after the war he produced volumes about Bu
More about Norman Lewis...

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