THE RIVER OF LOST FOOTSTEPS
Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Faber & Faber 2006
What do we really know about Burma and its history? And what can Burma's past tell us about its present and even its future? For nearly two decades Western governments and a growing activist community have been frustrated in their attempts to bring about a freer and more democratic Burma―through sanctions and tourist boycotts―only to see an apparent slide toward even harsher dictatorship.
Now Thant Myint-U tells the story of modern Burma, and the story of his own family, in an interwoven narrative that is by turns lyrical, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Through his prominent family's stories and those of others, he portrays Burma's rise and decline in the modern world, from the time of Portuguese pirates and renegade Mughal princes through a sixty-year civil war that continues today―the longest-running war anywhere in the world.
The River of Lost Footsteps is a work at once personal and global, a "brisk, vivid history" (Philip Delves Broughton, The Wall Street Journal) that makes Burma accessible and enthralling.
[B]rilliant . . . The River of Lost Footsteps is a balanced, thorough, and serious history, but it is also a polemic, firm in its view that the current international campaign--pursuing 'this policy of isolating one of the most isolated countries in the world'--is moving in the wrong direction.
Mr. Thant eloquently and mournfully recites the dismal history of the last half century and, in analyzing the country's nascent democracy movement, holds out only the slimmest of hopes for a better future. It will not come through economic and diplomatic sanctions, of that he is convinced. Trade and more engagement, especially more tourism, might let in badly needed light and air. But trying to topple the regime by isolating it would, he argues, be disastrous.
William Grimes, The New York Times
Thant Myint-U's narrative is full of rich details and colorful characters like Bayinnaung, a 16th-century king who led a mighty elephant corps into battle, defeating neighboring Siam . . . If it could somehow be set on a different course, Thant Myint-U suggests, Burma could once again become an important player in Asia
Joshua Kurlantzick, The Washington Monthly
Fascinating . . . [Thant] gives us both the savory details and the cruelties of colonialism, as well as a rare for feel for palace intrigue. In the process, he suggests that isolation is in fact just what the military regime feeds on. It's in its blood.
Pico Iyer, Time
Vivid and well-told history.... With wide interest in Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and others opposing the ruling generals, this warrants attention.
Profiling 20th-century Burmese leaders such as Aung San, U Nu and Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Aung San Suu Kyi, Thant Myint-U beautifully captures the complex identity of a little-understood country, concluding with a trenchant analysis of Burma's current predicament under an oppressive regime.
The best introduction yet available to the modern history of Burma. Sad and poignant, intelligent and thought-provoking.
A balanced, fascinating, sometimes humorous account of nation-building.
Rory Stewart, author of The Places in Between and The Prince of the Marshes