Retracing the Footsteps of George Orwell in Katha, Myanmar

The setting of legendary author George Orwell’s famous novel, Burmese Days, is the fictional town of Kyauktada, which lies on Myanmar’s greatest river, the Ayeyarwady. In his story, Orwell portrays life in a remote 1920s town ruled over by the British Colonial authorities as well as the local Burmese military officials.

In truth, Kyauktada was not entirely fictional. Orwell served five years in Myanmar (then called Burma) as an officer in the Indian Imperial Police force. Two of these years (1926-1927) were spent in a district named Katha, and like the Burmese Days town of Kyauktada, was only reachable by river or a day’s train ride away.

The similarities did not end there – both towns were at the heart of the teak wood logging industry (the story’s main character, Flory, is a logger) and even featured buildings with the same name. Today, locations mentioned in the novel, including the police station, town jail, and the famed British Club, are still standing in Katha.

Orwell had started writing about Katha’s fictional counterpart just a year following his departure in 1928, and the novel was later published in 1934 to critical acclaim. And nearly 80 years after its release, the novel was chosen for the 2012 Burma National Literature Award’s “informative literature” (translation), the highest literary award in Burma.

Discover Katha with Heritage Line

Passengers on our 8-day/7-night Upper Ayeyarwady cruise have the opportunity to visit George Orwell’s residence as well as other British Colonial structures from this historical setting, with interesting insights from a local Katha guide.