Orwell and Empire

Oxford Univ. Oct. 2022. 240p. ISBN 9780192864093. $34.95. POL SCI
Kerr (Univ. of Hong Kong, Univ. of London; Conan Doyle) is a scholar of British literature pertaining to the East. He focuses this book on George Orwell’s relationship to India and Burma and conveys how those experiences influenced his work. Orwell’s father worked in the Indian Civil Service, and Orwell himself served in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma in the 1920s. Kerr asserts that the five years Orwell spent in Burma greatly influenced him and became a paradigm for his idea of political injustice. He addresses these influences in 10 chapters, each devoted to a specific topic (class, empire, women, race, the law, etc.) Orwell wrote in his novels, essays, nonfiction, and scholarship. The author gives much attention to Orwell’s underrated first novel, Burmese Days, and his work with the Indian Section of the Eastern Service of the BBC during World War II. The book concludes with a comparison of Orwell and Rudyard Kipling. Kerr considers both writers “lifelong immigrants” who viewed British life and culture as outsiders.
VERDICT Readers seeking a different perspective on Orwell will appreciate this study. Kerr links Orwell’s writings to current discussions of Britain’s imperial past and matters of race, justice, and identity.
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