Anthony's Reviews > From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey

From the Land of Green Ghosts by Pascal Khoo Thwe
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Jan 02, 2011

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Read in January, 2011

Pascal Khoo Thwe is a Padaung villager from Burma's (Myanmar's) highlands who offers his memoirs in FtLoGG. I was reading this in preparation for a trip to Myanmar, which clarified some of the country's history between the demise of the Aung San, revered as the founder of modern Burma and assassinated in 1947, to the flagging days of Ne Win's military dictatorship, succeeded by General Saw Maung in 1988. While a university student in the late 1980s, he meets a Cambridge don who successfully rescues him from the country's civil war and the Thai refugee camps and supports his admission to an English literature course. Khoo Thwe becomes the first Padaung to attend Cambridge and one of the few Burmese to have studied in the UK.

If you are scantly aware of the history of Burma's dictatorial regimes, I would suggest this on the grounds of its literary merit and personal reflections about how individual citizens and movements were affected. My major criticism against the book is that he spent significant effort in recounting his childhood and pre-college days, but less than 30 pages on his time during and after Cambridge. One of the concerns raised by a fellow rebel fighter while Khoo Thwe was in the bush and contemplating an education abroad regarded whether he would forget his homeland and the struggles his people would endure while he lived in British luxury. Supposedly he grappled with this, but offers no evidence about the outcome. It seems as if he exhausted himself in his focus on adolescence and sloppily ran through the final 50 pages without sufficient closure to appease the reader. What has he done now? Is he still in touch with his siblings? How has life changed? Aside from references to some friends and the passing of his father, answers to these are in short supply.
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