Before I left for Burma, I went to the George Orwell Archive in London to look at Orwell's final manuscript. When Orwell died, in 1950, he had only just begun the project. 'A Smoking Room Story' was planned as a novella of thirty to forty thousand words which told how a fresh-faced young British man was irrevocably changed after living in the humid tropical jungles of colonial Burma. In an inky scrawl on the first three pages of a notebook bound in marbled paper Orwell had written an outline for the tale and a short vignette. I flicked through the rest of the book and found the pages blank. The rest of the story, I realized, lay waiting in Burma.
From Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin, pages. Copyright Emma Larkin 2004. The complete text of the prologue, pages 1-6. Reproduced by permission of the publisher The Penguin Press.
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