Burmese Lessons

Karen Connelly's memoir is about her time travelling in Burma during an insurgency against the country's military regime.

Karen Connelly

When Karen Connelly finds herself in Burma in the late 1990s, she is immersed in a world of students staging mass demonstrations in opposition to Burma's dictators, revolutionaries fighting an armed insurgency against that same military regime and refugees living in hellish limbo in Thailand. Connelly first comes to love a wounded, remarkably beautiful country, then a gifted man who has given his life to its struggle for political change. Burmese Lessons is a love story, taking the reader into a world as dangerous and heartbreaking as it is enchanting. (From Vintage Canada)

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From the book

Thus I learn my destiny. I will never leave this city. I will return to this street and find a house here and adopt children as beautiful as these ones, or as beautiful as these spirits, it doesn't matter if they have cleft palates and missing limbs, I will love them, I will live here until I die. The small Buddha smiles and smiles out of his cowl of jasmine and marigold; his eyes are half-closed, like a newborn drunk with milk. As is the custom, I light more incense, a candle, and bow again. The room is small, the air close and cloying, filled with the sweetness of joss sticks and flowers and candle wax. I wipe trickles of sweat away from my nose, my chin, my neck.

What are their names? I do not know.

How do you say What is your name? in Burmese? I will learn that soon, maybe this afternoon, or tomorrow.

From Burmese Lessons by Karen Connelly ©2009. Published by Vintage Canada.

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