by Marshall, Andrew
In The Trouser People, Andrew Marshall recounts his ambitious crisscrossing of contemporary Burma, which emerges as isolated, heartbreaking, fitfully resilient, and, to Western eyes, certainly, often exotically unfathomable. Marshall's compass is the life of a now-obscure Victorian adventurer, Sir George Scott. He draws distinct parallels between British imperialism and Burma's crushing, present-day military dictatorship. But The Trouser People is less analysis than witty, candid travelogue, highlighted by excursions into the remote territory of some of the country's many ethnic minorities. Most fascinating among these are the Wa, former headhunters who now control much of Burma's drug trade. Through their territory Marshall tramps in search of a mysterious lake, whose waters, Wa myth has it, were their birthplace.
This muscular, anecdotal narrative, by centering on individuals and the quotidian complexities of Burmese life, washes a country too often capsulized in black and white into bright color. --H. O'Billovitch