Burmese Lessons

Publisher: Vintage Canada
Burmese Lessons is a love story. Unlike conventional love stories, this one takes the reader into a world as dangerous and heartbreaking as it is enchanting.

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 illuminated by the sensual language and flashes of humour that have won her fans around the world.

From the Hardcover edition.


The Dinner Party

I said that I would find the place myself. I wanted to walk through the city, into Chinatown. “No, thank you. I do not want a ride, it’s all right.”

The pause at the other end of the phone was so long that I thought the line had gone dead.

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“Passionate and poetic.” —The New York Times Book Review
“[Burmese Lessons] boldly examines Burma’s tumultuous climate and nuanced cultural ethos with colorful prose and gritty self-reflection.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Karen Connelly has given her heart to Asia. I bow in gratitude to this writer whose love story is personal and political—and true.” —Maxine Hong Kingston, author of I Love a Broad Margin to My Life and The Woman Warrior
A tour de force. At once beautiful literature, an intimate account of a moving journey, a nuanced portrait of another country, a complex yet quietly honest reportage, this book is also a page-turner. It will, I believe, become a classic in the new genre that mixes personal memory with public events.” —Susan Griffin, author of A Chorus of Stones and Wrestling with the Angel of Democracy
“Sweeping in its historical research, devoid of personal commentary (or indeed experience), I highly recommend Burmese Lessons. In quietly beautiful, searching prose, Connelly shows us the small stories. . . . Burmese Lessons shows us more than a place, or a person in a place: it shows us a way to be in the world: open, seeing, breathing, awake.” —Jamie Zeppa, Literary Review of Canada
“Beautifully written. . . . The book is rich with a nostalgia for Connelly’s youth, and the passion of it, when she flung herself into unknown cultures and the arms of dangerous lovers.” —The Globe and Mail (interview)
“Extraordinary.” —More 
“A harrowing account of life under Burma’s military dictatorship—the terror, the treachery, the brutality, but also the astonishingly resilient serenity, camaraderie and fatalism of the Burmese people. . . . An insightful, riveting book.” —B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction jury citation
“A poetic love story with all the strengths of her previous works, a tale of a wounded country and a gifted political activist struggling to transform it.” —Maclean’s
“[Connelly] compels admiration for her brave intrusions into dangerous and awkward situations, and above all for her candour.” ––National Post (Open Book feature)
“Connelly has continued to astound. . . . [Her] fans will be enthralled.” —Quill & Quire
“With Burmese Lessons, [Connelly] explores a relationship that defined who she is today.” —National Post
“The enchanting story of a highly erotic love affair, one made wonky and dangerous by politics. . . . The book goes far beyond memoir. . . . Her personal loss has become her book’s gain.” —Winnipeg Free Press
“Connelly is a sensualist, as a writer; this memoir is redolent with the smells of food, the stink of bodies, the weight of stones carried on her head as she helps the women in a camp build a well, the sharp, deep pleasures of sex, the edgy frustrations of sex denied, for the sake of propriety. . . . Readers familiar with The Lizard Cage will experience several shocks of recognition of characters and images and ideas . . . especially the sweet wisdom of monks, and the fleeting encounter with a feral boy who becomes one of the most memorable characters in Canadian fiction.” —The Globe and Mail

Praise for Karen Connelly:

“[Karen Connelly] shows us what autobiography usually veils: the human spirit not at its most defiant and brave, but as it really is and can only be.”
The New York Times

From the Hardcover edition.