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Kings and Tyrants in Burma

Posted on by Laurie Garrett

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Thant Myint-U is the grandson of Burma’s most famous diplomat, U Thant. When U Thant was Secretary-General of the United Nations his grandson thrived in a New York intellectual environment that was international, Ivy League educated, and rich with Burmese culture and history.  This book was long banned in Myanmar, but now that the country is opening up I saw venders hawking it all over the place. THE RIVER OF LOST FOOTSTEPS is a tour de force, providing a political history that is riveting, and often left me staring off into space, trying to imagine 10th Century palaces filled with gold. Thant’s opener is motion-picture gripping, as a 20-something Burmese emperor in his teak, tropical palace begs for his life before wool-clad British soldiers and bag-pipers.  This book, more than anything else I’ve read, has helped me to understand the Burma I visited in January 2013, its long dark decades of military domination, and the precarious future it now faces.  I highly recommend Thant’s book for readers interested in Asian history, modern SE Asian politics or just great nonfiction writing.

[Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006]